Breaking down the Opioid Crisis: SOAR explains where the Wiregrass stands

Southeast Outpatient Addiction Recovery is on a mission to help those struggling with addiction.
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 1:04 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - News 4 continues our series: Breaking Down the Opioid Crisis. Last week we explained where Alabama stands in this evolving, deadly crisis. Now, we take a closer look at what the Wiregrass is facing.

Southeast Outpatient Addiction Recovery (SOAR) tells News 4 that 10 to 15 percent of people in the community is affected by addiction.

“There’s probably neighbors or friends that they don’t even realize that are facing the same troubles they’re facing,” Kim Hart, Clinical Coordinator, said.

SOAR is on a mission to help lower that percentage.

“We feel like everyone has the right to ethical sound treatment for addiction,” Hart said. “Medical assisted treatment is proven to really be effective when it’s combined with counseling.”

The center offers medical assisted treatment for opioid use disorder or alcohol use disorder. It usually serves patients who are in their 20′s to 50′s. However recently, Hart said they are seeing more older patients.

“We’re seeing a lot more older patients who have addiction and chronic pain, and that’s been a little different,” Hart said. “Seeing more elderly people getting addicted, and I think that coming out of this pandemic the isolation has taken a big toll on people with addiction because we know that people need people and when they’re not around people their addiction and all mental health disorders get worse.”

SOAR offers general counseling for any addictions, including methamphetamine, cocaine and alcohol throughout the entirety of the patient’s program.

“We’ve started offering Sublocade injection that allows patients to stop the addiction to Suboxone, which is the medical assisted treatment medicine that we choose for them, but it’s hard to come off of,” Hart said. “So, we can follow that up with the Sublocade. Patients aren’t going to be on it forever. It slowly tappers them off with minimal side effects. We love it, it’s a game changer.”

Hart said here in the Wiregrass, along with the entire state of Alabama, they have also seen an uptick in Fentanyl abuse.

“It’s not the Fentanyl that’s manufactured in an FDA approved facility,” Hart said. “It’s being produced in China and so there’s no standard dosing.”

Hart said people here in the Southeast are mixing Fentanyl with dyes, disguising it as Xanax, Lortab or Oxycontin.

“So, you’re taking this drug that looks like something else that could kill you and there’s no standard dosing because it’s being manufactured in some lab or even an uncontrolled facility,” Hart said.

This is making it easier to overdose.

“The majority of deaths that came from opiates in the last 10 years was because people were mixing opiates with alcohol or benzodiazepines,” Hart said. “Now it’s so much easier to overdose when you add Fentanyl to the mixture.”

The issue is access, according to Hart.

“We ask patients to stop seeing the people that are giving them the drugs,” Hart said. “Stop going to the places where they do drugs, completely change their environment so they don’t have access to drugs and alcohol, and then we’re going to ask the government really to do the same thing: Stop allowing these drugs to come in across the border.”

These drugs are leading to thousands of deaths a year and causing addicts to struggle with other issues.

“Buying this off the streets is very expensive and so it will lead them to just financial ruin,” Hart said. “It destroys relationships. It numbs people so that they can’t feel. They’re not emotionally available to their friends and their family members. It hurts them spiritually, and it just effects every part of their life, causes them great anxiety, and so for folks that already had an anxiety disorder or depressive disorder, it makes it worse, and so there are so many things that’s happening in their life that has to be straightened out.”

Hart encourages those struggling to ask for help.

“Every day that you put getting help off, puts your health at risk, and there’s no since in putting it off because there is hope that you’re going to get better,” Hart said.

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