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Our community is not immune to drug addiction

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While much attention has focused on the nation’s opioid crisis, other drugs continue to be a problem. According to a 2018 assessment from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration, “the methamphetamine threat remains prevalent; the cocaine threat has rebounded; new psychoactive substances (NPS) are still challenging, and the domestic marijuana situation continues to evolve.”

Carbondale Fire Chief Rob Goodwin says drug overdoses are a problem in the Roaring Fork Valley. He explains there is no one socioeconomic class or demographic as drug addiction, “doesn’t know any boundaries.” Goodwin adds, “I think methamphetamines are becoming that way. I don’t think it’s quite that way here yet, but it’s all walks of life. I think it’s growing [in communities] west of here. I know it is; you read about it in the paper. They deal with it a lot more than we do, but we do deal with it.”

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Goodwin says he has seen a resurgence in heroin use in the last three to five years. He says, “I think it is due to the fact that it’s harder to get prescription opioids. It’s cheaper. To buy [opioid] pills outside on the street is way more expensive per milligram than it is [to buy] heroin.”

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid used to treat pain, is often laced into other drugs, to increase the quantity. The increased output translates into more substantial profits for the seller. A recent New York Times article stated: “fentanyl is quickly becoming America’s deadliest drug.”

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carfentanil is the most potent fentanyl analog in the United States. It is estimated to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

Close to home

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Stacy Eldredge works part-time in Carbondale, in private practice, as an addiction counselor. She also works part-time as a counselor for Momenta Recovery, a women-only residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Glenwood Springs.

Stacy explains the introduction of the drugs fentanyl and carfentanil are the single largest contributor to overdoses in the Valley. She says, “Many times, people don’t know what they’re getting; they don’t have any way of knowing, and they can instantly overdose.”

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Drug addiction, Stacy explains, is a problem throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, from Rifle to Aspen. As she says, “Addiction knows no limits. It can happen to anybody.”

Stacy says Momenta Recovery, an inpatient treatment option for women, specializes in trauma-specific care, with a focus on attachment disorders, with other co-occurring disorders.

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Attachment disorders form when parents or other caretakers are not responsive to a child’s emotional needs, and they do not learn emotional self-regulation. They may seek external forms of comfort, which, later in life, can manifest itself in addiction.

There are many recovery options in the Valley. Momenta offers extended care with outpatient and sober living. Aspire Recovery Services for Women in Carbondale provides outpatient and transitional services. Jaywalker Lodge in Carbondale has extended care, outpatient services, and a sober living facility for men. St. Paul Sober Living is a comprehensive sober living program with single-family homes in residential neighborhoods, one in Carbondale and the other in Glenwood Springs.

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Stacy says, “In my opinion, is a progressive brain disease, not a character flaw. It’s a disease of isolation, and I found the antidote to that resides in the community, like in a treatment center again to the collective. We need to do what more and more people are starting to do, I think, is to talk about it, understand it knows that stigma and shame. I found some of the most capable, creative, sensitive, and loving people struggle with addiction.”

Both Stacy and her husband, Dirk, are in recovery. They have first-hand experience of what it takes to get sober and to remain sober.

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Dirk, CEO of Momenta Recovery, explains a significant problem in the Roaring Fork Valley is the lack of detoxification, or detox, facilities. Clients often need to be sent to Denver or Steamboat Springs for detox treatment.

Detoxification is the medical process of reducing and eliminating drug or alcohol use and removing the addictive substance from the body. It is considered the first phase of the recovery process.

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Dirk describes the need for detox facilities is “profound.” He says a possible solution is “a true partnership between a hospital and a detox… with a for-profit and a not-for-profit detox. Say, for example, you could have five beds that were free and paid for through city dollars to care for our community and you could have five beds for private pay that would help supplement the bottom line.”

Jarid Rollins and Lisa Robbiano are heading the Community Opioid Treatment Strategy Coalition (COTS), which is tasked with finding viable solutions for opioid addiction in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Meet MAT

They recently facilitated a focus group of people in recovery to talk about medication-assisted treatment (MAT). 

MAT is a medical model response to addiction. It uses medications, such as suboxone/buprenorphine, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, for the treatment of opioid use disorders. MAT medication effects are milder than opioids, can diminish withdrawal symptoms, and curb drug cravings.

Rollins says the COTS team held the listening session as a way to get feedback from the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and recovery communities. Rollins explains that some abstinence-based treatments, like AA, believe “this method for dealing with addiction [by using drug treatments] is frowned upon.”

The COTS will continue to solicit feedback from those in recovery and family members, through community meetings, to find the best possible solutions.

Goodwin says the first step towards addressing drug addiction is to acknowledge the problem. He explains, “We’re not immune to this; that’s the truth. And if we believe we are, then we’re not paying attention, or we just don’t want to acknowledge that. And not acknowledging it is a huge problem. Because we will never address these issues until we first accept it and acknowledge it–that we are not immune. And some people refuse to do that until it happens to or near them.”

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