Alcohol, drug abuse is happening in county

Editor’s Note: September was designated as National Alcohol and Addiction Month. Over the next two weeks, the Algona Upper Des Moines will provide insight on what is happening in Kossuth County. This week the newspaper will discuss drug and alcohol use in the county. Next week’s piece will feature a 40-year-old woman who has battled cocaine and marijuana use to get her life back together.

ALGONA – The attitude is that it doesn’t happen here. However, drug and alcohol addiction is prevalent in Kossuth County communities and addiction can be fatal for some people.
“That’s the part that really hurts,” Prairie Ridge Integrated Behavioral Healthcare Lead Clinician Phil Heath said. “The real thing that bothers me is the human suffering.”
September was designated as National Alcohol and Drug Addiction month. Along with Prairie Ridge there are other groups and individuals within Kossuth County that spend time working with those who face drug and alcohol addiction. It includes Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, both located at the Finn House in Algona, pastors, counselors, doctors and emergency responders.
“There are a lot of people that could be here or maybe want to be here but just don’t have the courage to come,” said Joni Haugland, substance abuse counselor at Prairie Ridge Integrated Behavioral Healthcare. “I think people also don’t realize that there is something here for people in the area.”
Heath said awareness is important. “This is significant not only in our community, but in the world,” he said. “Lives are devastated because of this. You don’t have to be alone. There are people out there who want to help.”
In the Algona office alone, Prairie Ridge has a caseload of 32 people. It has been consistently 30-35 people. A survey conducted at Prairie Ridge shows that 45 percent of the patients that are seen in their programs report that their primary drug of choice is alcohol, 24 percent are on methamphetamines, 21 percent use marijuana and 7 percent are involved in opioids, including narcotics and pain medication.
What’s also happening is that those abusing drugs or alcohol are frequently using more than one drug at any given time. In addition, people are coming in with co-occurring issues, meaning they are battling mental health, as well as substance abuse issues.
Just in the last year, about 55 percent have had dual diagnosis.
“You have to address both. Otherwise, the patient is at an increased risk of returning to the lifestyle the patient is trying to get away from,” Heath said. He has been working with drug and alcohol issues for 30 years. “We are more consciously and deliberately assessing mental health issues now.”
People use alcohol or drug for two reasons. “They use it to feel better. They are trying to get away from emotional, mental or physical pain,” Heath said. “They use it to feel good. They just use it to get high. They just like the enjoyment of the high.”
Alcohol and drug treatment is changing.
In the past, those helping battle drugs and alcohol were deliberate in how they handle treatment. It used to be that heavy confrontation played a role in substance abuse treatment.
Prairie Ridge focuses on mutually agreed treatment versus counselor-driven treatment. “We’re really feedback oriented. We use best practices and research-based tools to get feedback from our patient’s every time we see them,” Heath said. “We always solicit feedback from them. That is a big change in the last 10 years.”
Also, opioids or pharmaceutical narcotics are becoming more prevalent. “Frequently it starts innocently. A person has legitimate medical needs to address some acute pain issue,” Heath said. “You can develop tolerance very quickly. As tolerance increases, that increases the risk of triggering a dependency or substance use disorder. When that occurs, then patients will seek out those substances on the street because they can’t get them through their doctors.”
There are bright spots to battling drug and alcohol addiction. Most of it deals with professionals seeing a personal life transformation and how quickly it occurs.
“You can always believe and hope for someone,” Haugland said. “I feel like that when they come in, you learn about them. You know what they have inside of them if you listen. You get to see what their qualities are and what they can strengthen.”

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