Photo: J. Tesla / CC BY-SA 4.0
The Heroin Epidemic in Georgia’s Triangle
By Michael Rass
In January, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal referred to the drug overdose crisis in his state as “an ongoing epidemic that ravages the hearts and minds of not only individuals but also the communities that they touch.”
The focal point of Georgia’s heroin epidemic is the so-called “Triangle” north of Atlanta. An investigation by WXIA-TV Atlanta found that the number of heroin-related deaths in four counties between interstate highways 75 and 85—Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, and Gwinnett—has gone up by 3,844 percent in the past six years.
Atlanta’s affluent northern suburbs don’t register the highest numbers of heroin overdoses in Georgia, but they show an alarming rate of growth. “We see a lot of high school kids overdosing on opiates in the Triangle area,” says Andrea Rayburn, who represents Lakeview Health in Georgia. “People in that area are very competitive and hard working. There is a lot of pressure to keep up appearances and a lot of pressure on school kids to get good grades so they qualify for certain scholarships.”
Stress is a known risk factor for addiction. Many people turn to drugs and alcohol during times of excessive stress. And when Georgia’s stressed-out kids and overworked parents start to self-medicate, they don’t necessarily want their neighbors to know about it.
“Southern families tend to sweep problems under the rug,” says Rayburn. “They like to deny that addiction can happen to their own family. If it does, they try not to talk about it.” Denial is not helpful, of course. The stigma and feelings of shame about addiction prevent many people with substance use disorders from seeking treatment before it is too late.
“It’s a mistake for patients or their family members not to be honest with doctors because that way it takes medical professionals longer to uncover the real problem,” says Rayburn. Too many people wait until the addiction has turned into a crisis situation, and then they end up in psychiatric units instead of addiction treatment facilities.
“They are not getting the right treatment in those clinics,” says Rayburn. “Most of them are circling in and out of detox units and psychiatric hospitals instead of getting effective addiction treatment.”
People with addiction should not wait until all the worst negative consequences unfold. “If you’re not sure about the severity of your condition or whether your loved one needs help, call and talk to us,” says Robert Walters, vice president of Intake Services at Lakeview Health. “It’s most important not to wait for all the negative consequences of drug or alcohol abuse to happen. Seek help now before it is too late.”
“There is also a general lack of understanding of how addiction works. That is another reason why many people in Georgia do not seek the appropriate treatment early on,” says Rayburn. “Instead of seeking high-quality addiction treatment, they go to the nearest provider.”
Despite being in a different state, Lakeview Health in Jacksonville, Florida, could be the ideal choice for patients in the Atlanta area. It’s only about 350 miles away—far enough to get away from negative influences but close enough for family members to visit and get involved in Lakeview’s family therapy program.
Addiction treatment at Lakeview addresses all aspects of a patient’s health in a safe, gender-responsive environment. Treating the body, mind, and spirit of the whole person, Lakeview’s multidisciplinary medical model combines physiological, psychological, and psychosocial care to ensure the best possible start into lasting recovery.