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Tools To Address Oklahoma’s Opioid Crisis

The Nation’s drug-related overdose and death epidemic are at an all-time high and Oklahoma is no exception. The CDC, and Oklahoma State Department of Health, show drug overdose deaths increased 23 percent in Oklahoma from March 2020 to March 2021, with each remaining month showing a continued increase. “A prevention specialist with the Tulsa Health Department, said they’re seeing fentanyl increasing in most drugs from meth and cocaine to marijuana.” Congressional leaders, law enforcement, and medical specialists say the pandemic (COVID-19) is playing a role in the increase of overdose deaths. However, the rate of drug-induced deaths in Oklahoma has exceeded the national average since 2009, and “despite publicity surrounding an opioid crisis in Oklahoma, one out of three people seeking drug treatment in Tulsa are hooked on meth, making it the city’s most abused illicit drug.”

We know finances, health care, under-employment, job loss, food deserts, the second-highest divorce rate in the country, the third-highest imprisonment rate per 100K, and the fifth-worst public education system in the country contribute to stress, anxiety, and depression. From 2000 to 2021, divisiveness on social issues, religious rights, politics, and now the pandemic have been added to the list. Children, adolescents, adults, and seniors can be challenged by any one of the items on this list. They can also be challenged by an undiagnosed mental disorder, a substance use disorder, a traumatic experience, thoughts of suicide, or a major depressive episode.

The desire to feel good is normal. A release of neurotransmitters in the pleasure systems of the brain, and the brain chemical dopamine, sends signals or rewards for activities being taken. A recent study found circuits in the brain are also responsible for habitual behaviors. Gambling, overeating, shopping, even exercising can produce dopamine – as can alcohol, illicit drugs, and certain medications. Drugs provide an outlet for people who want to feel better, who want to stop the pain, who want to cut off the voices in their head, stop the self-talk, be accepted socially, or induce flight from a dysfunctional environment. A line from a recent episode of “The Wheel of Time” says, “A leaf doesn’t fight the wind. Sometimes the wind blows away from the tree.” Addicts don’t fight the thing which brings them pleasure, they allow it to carry them on the wind – to control every aspect of their life.

Drug abuse can be treated – as well as suicide-related behavior. The therapists and counselors of Improving Lives Counseling Services are trained in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) – effective in reducing suicide-related behavior, and behavioral/cognitive therapy for addiction, drug, and substance abuse. There is no one size fits all treatment plan in mental health. Specific types or groupings of treatments are worked into a contingency management plan designed to meet the specific needs of each individual client. Based upon a client’s need, the clinician may suggest medication coupled with individual, couples, family, or group sessions, using in-person and/or virtual (online) sessions.

Emergency rooms report patients addicted to drugs (medications/opioids) say they failed to seek treatment for anxiety and depression due to the fear of COVID-19. Reach out to Improving Lives Counseling Services before hitting the bottom, or ending up in an emergency room. We support Oklahoma with 14 clinics, a diverse range of licensed, trained specialists and we accept SoonerCare, Medicare, and most private insurances. “The life you save could be your own.” Call us.