The Community Summit brought together more than 300 community members to talk about what we can do to meet the challenge of substance abuse. Organizers were stunned: “We hoped to get a hundred people, maybe. But it all came together. So many people talking about how our community can be more recovery-friendly- it was energizing!”
The 17-page Summit report, including an Executive Summary highlighting the events and outcomes of the Summit, and several detailed appendices with notes and transcripts from the event can be downloaded by clicking here.
The big question at the end of the day was: What next? Now that so many people have been drawn into the discussion, and expressed their commitment to making Taos a recovery-friendly community, where does it go from here?
What do you think about the report, and what are your ideas about where to go from here?
Facts About Substance Abuse
(Sources: State of NM Epidemiology Report; NM State Senate Memorial 56)
- Among New Mexico Counties, Taos County ranks:
- Second in unintended overdose deaths from prescription medication, and third in all unintended overdose deaths
- Fourth in deaths from alcohol-related injuries, and fifth in alcohol-related vehicle crash fatalities
- First in reported drinking and driving by adults
- The Taos County average of DUI/DWI “repeat offenders” is 43.6% – the average for the state is 41.8%
- New Mexico youth are more likely to try heroin than the national average, and use drugs at younger ages – as young as 12 years old
- New Mexico High Schoolers are almost twice as likely to use heroin as High School youth in other states
Facts About Addiction
(Sources: U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; World Health Organization)
- Addiction is a chronic disease, like asthma, hypertension, or diabetes.
- Like asthma, hypertension, or diabetes, there is no known cure.
- Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be treated and controlled, and those who have the disease can live healthy, happy lives.
- About one in every eight Americans suffers from some form of addiction: About thirty million people.
- The “cause” of addiction is a complex mix of hereditary and non-hereditary factors. Prevention can reduce the likelihood that a vulnerable individual will develop the disease.
Facts About Recovery
(Sources: National Institute on Drug Abuse, University of New Mexico CASAA, Rutgers University)
- Treatment can help addicted individuals stop using, avoid relapse, and successfully recover their lives.
- As with other chronic diseases, more than one treatment episode may be needed to help an individual establish recovery.
- Treatment moderates the harmful effects of addiction even when individuals aren’t able to achieve complete abstinence in the following 12 months.
- There are many effective treatment options, including behavioral treatments, medication, and other therapies. What works for one individual may not be as effective for another.
- Participating in long term recovery support such as 12-step and other group programs significantly improves outcomes.
“Recovery Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC)” is a movement among health researchers, government agencies, and behavioral health professionals to improve treatment outcomes for people with substance abuse disorders.
The New Mexico ROSC Workgroup met in September to review how the ROSC model can transform “systems” – all the various health, education, legal, and social institutions that touch, or are touched by, the challenge of addiction. This is the Powerpoint presentation they saw, thoughtfully provided to Recovery Friendly Taos by Dr. Bob Phillips of Eastern New Mexico University. (click the image at left to download and view the entire Powerpoint.)
The ROSC model is partly a response to the nature of addictive disease recovery: It’s a chronic disease, meaning there is no ‘cure.’ Treatment can help people achieve “remission,” (also called “recovery”) that enables them to live well without active symptoms, but there’s no denying that relapse is common. And treatment can only do so much to prevent relapse.
So the answer to helping people with substance abuse disorders achieve stable, long-lasting remission/recovery has to go beyond treatment. It has to include many elements such as recovery support services (including fellowship groups,) knowledgeable health care providers, social services, legal, educational and other systems.
The good news is, when we do this, it works. People do better at achieving recovery with fewer relapses, and maintain better health and quality of life.
So where do recovery-friendly communities (like we hope Taos will become) fit in?
Communities are systems, too. Our community is intertwined with almost every aspect of our lives. We can create excellent health services and recovery support services, but if we put those services in a community that still sees addiction/alcoholism as a subject for shame and blame, and addicts/alcoholics as morally inferior undesirables, the effort to establish ROSC will run smack up against a wall.
One very important insight from the presentation is related to what researcher William White calls “recovery carriers”- people in recovery who feel free to share their experiences and help others.
Recovery carriers flourish in recovery-friendly communities.
Understanding Rural Addiction
Creating good resources for addicted people & families in Taos depends on understanding the problem in Taos.
This article from the online journal Psychiatric News uses data collected by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to highlight the differences between how addiction affects people in rural areas (like Taos) versus urban areas. In short, one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to building good recovery-oriented systems of care.
A few key findings:
- Methamphetamine rates were nearly equal (urban, 6.1 percent, and rural, 6.3 percent) despite the common assumption that meth is largely a rural problem.
- The higher usage rates of alcohol and nonheroin opiates among people admitted in rural areas may reflect accessibility issues… “Illegal drugs may be harder to conceal in the pipeline to rural areas, or legal substances may be less stigmatized.”
- Rural users were less likely to use substances on a daily basis, but they began using substances at an earlier age than their urban counterparts. About 67 percent started before age 18, while 53 percent of admitted urban users started using substances prior to that age.
- More admitted rural users were referred to treatment by the criminal-justice system than was the case in urban areas.
- Rates of admissions for prescription opiate abuse largely reflect diversion (from legitimate sources) of those drugs… In general, about 67 percent of them are obtained from friends or the family medicine cabinet.
These generalized findings probably do apply to us in Taos to some extent. But it’s important for us to understand any differences, and patterns unique to our community, too. What is your experience with addiction in Taos?
SAMHSA Celebrates National Recovery Month (September) With Great Free Resources
This video from a SAMHSA webcast describes how communities are organizing and networking to provide recovery support to people dealing with mental and substance use disorders, and highlights efforts to change the culture of communities to accept and embrace people in recovery.