The United States is facing a drug crisis, and prescription opioids are now responsible for more deaths than any other drug. Although heroin, methamphetamine, alcohol, and cocaine all present very troublesome issues, prescription opioid abuse has reached epidemic levels in the country. Although South Dakota has displayed addiction and overdose rates lower than national averages, there are still unique concerns facing South Dakota residents that should be understood.

South Dakota’s Challenges With Drugs and Alcohol Abuse

Between 2009 and 2013, South Dakota’s percentage of illicit drug dependence was marginally lower than the national averages for those years by almost a full percentage point. Considering South Dakota’s relatively low population of just over 850,000, the consistency of this trend seems promising. However, it’s important to note that South Dakota has one of the highest Native American populations of any state in the U.S., and obtaining accurate addiction and substance abuse treatment data from Native American communities often proves difficult.

South Dakota Prescription Drug Issues

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the most fatal drugs in the country are completely legal to own and use with a prescription. Opioid painkillers are some of the most effective medications available for treating chronic and acute pains, and these medicines are commonly prescribed to patients recovering from traumatic injuries or surgical procedures. Since 1999, prescription opioid sales have quadrupled, and the number of prescriptions written for opioid painkillers is more than the number of residents in some states.

While South Dakota typically falls under the national averages for substance abuse and overdose deaths, South Dakota residents still face serious consequences from various forms of substance abuse. Alcohol, although legal for consumption by adults over 21, is easily habit-forming and one of the most widely abused drugs in the country. Additionally, many doctors are quite liberal with their prescribing practices, and some may prescribe opioid painkillers with too strong of a dosage or without adequate warning to the patient about the inherent risks of these drugs.

South Dakota Opioid and Heroin Abuse

Despite widespread and long-standing public knowledge about the dangers of heroin use, new heroin users are appearing at an alarming rate. Although South Dakota’s heroin use is on par with or below the rates of other states, it is vital for South Dakota residents to understand the strong relationship between prescription opioids and heroin use. Often, an individual with a legitimate medical reason to use prescription opioid painkillers will become addicted for one or several reasons.

The link between substance abuse and behavioral health has been well-known for decades, and opioids are particularly habit-forming to individuals who suffer from depression, anxiety, or other behavioral health disorders. When people treat psychological stress and the symptoms of behavioral health issues with painkillers meant to mitigate physical pain, they begin to associate the physical relief of the drugs with relief from their mental health issues.

Many patients who take prescription opioids also tend to assume that since a doctor prescribed the medication, it must be safe. This is not true, and doctors who prescribe opioid painkillers must be certain to thoroughly explain the risks of addiction and abuse inherent to opioids. After taking these painkillers for an extended period of time, the individual will develop a tolerance and require increasingly stronger doses to achieve the desired effects. Eventually, prescription refills may not be available any longer, or the dosage wouldn’t have enough of an effect. In these situations, heroin is, unfortunately, a commonly chosen alternative.

Heroin is a powerful opioid, and, since it is illegal, it is not regulated. Heroin shipments may be tainted by pathogens or other toxic substances during shipment, and dealers may adulterate their wares however they wish. Some mix in relatively harmless substances like baby formula or baking powder to increase sales volume, while others add dangerous substances that produce enhanced effects. For example, many recent overdose deaths have been linked to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid mixed into heroin doses that is capable of producing exponentially more powerful effects than heroin in a much smaller dose.

Drug & Alcohol Withdrawal And Recovery

As heroin or other substance abuse issues worsen, the toll it takes on the addict and his or her family increases. This can include financial problems and devastating emotional effects on the family. People have lost their jobs, their homes, and have seen their children placed in foster care due to drug abuse. Encouraging addicts to seek treatment can be extremely difficult. Addiction is powerful, and addicts become masters of rationalization and manipulation. Additionally, an addict’s family members may feel guilty or assume they are to blame for the addict’s problem. These feelings can impede the recovery process.

Drug & Alcohol Intervention in South Dakota

The first step in recovery is admitting there’s a problem. When people you love suffer from substance abuse, it’s important to let them know they can turn to you for help. It’s also vital to explain the effects of their substance abuse, and this is often accomplished by having an intervention. During an intervention, family members, friends, and even coworkers will gather to confront the addict about his or her substance abuse issues and explain the effects it has had for them. This is typically when the addict’s support system will encourage him or her to seek treatment.

Emotions can flare and resentments may boil over in some interventions. Every addiction case is different, and many families have benefited from hiring a professional interventionist to help guide discussion and act as a mediator. At Family First Interventions, we have extensive firsthand knowledge of the cycle of addiction, and North Dakota families dealing with substance abuse can turn to one of our professional interventionists for help.

Substance abuse withdrawal, particularly for opioids, is excruciating in some cases, and overcoming addiction may seem impossible. However, a constructive intervention and the guidance of a professional interventionist can offer addicts a stronger start down the road to recovery.