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Special Report: Overcoming Addictions

Alcohol, drugs, gambling -- addiction has no boundaries or limitations. "Before I knew it, it turned on me and became a full fledged habit."
KTVE/KARD -- "Before I knew it, it turned on me and became a full fledged habit." 

Alcohol, drugs, gambling -- addiction has no boundaries or limitations.

"Black green white, purple, yellow orange, addiction knows no prejudice and you'd be surprised that some of the smaller communities have the larger drug problems," said Doug Pollock, director of New Day Recovery in West Monroe.

But that's where addiction centers come in.

"The first step is to realize that you need help, and there are plenty of people out there willing to do it," said Pollock.

Pollock says they see a variety of addictions from alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and meth.

"What we're really beginning to see a lot of is the synthetic marijuana use," said Pollock. "The effects of that are so damaging to the person's brain. People who were high functioning are coming in, and acting like they have signs and symptoms from mental health issues."

Pollock says people who struggle with substance addiction, may turn to crime to feed their addiction. He says families and those close to the addict are also pulled into the pain and struggle of that person's addiction.

"When the money is gone, the addiction is still there," he said. "They're doing what they need to do to get the drugs and crime plays a big part in it."

And when it comes to substance abuse, it can be expensive. Estimates of the total overall costs of substance abuse in the United States, including productivity and health- and crime-related costs, exceed $600 billion annually, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

There also continues to be a large "treatment gap" in the country, according to NIDA. In 2012, an estimated 23.1 million Americans needed treatment for a problem related to drugs or alcohol, but only about 2.5 million people received treatment at a specialty facility.

Dr. David Hammond, a physician with Palmetto Addiction Recovery Center in Rayville says alcohol and opiates are the leading addictions in Louisiana. Heroin is also a growing problem in the state.

"With the rise in the pain treatment centers, and the general population of doctors using opiates more often and for longer periods of time," Hammond said.

Addictions begin with the brain, but doctors say it can also be hereditary.

"It causes a change in the way you experience joy in the dopamine system," Hammond said.

Jail-time and family intervention brought Trey Roth to Palmetto. He's in recovery and has been out for a month.

"Had a bad drinking problem, did other drugs, also gambled a lot," said Trey, who says he stayed in denial even after the intervention. "I was in a fog of denial, I didn't think i had any of those problems."

He says Palmetto saved his life.

"I have a loving family, they all really cared about me a lot," he said.

One man who wants to stay anonymous -- we'll call him John -- graduated the New Day Recovery program a few months ago. He says a neck injury led him to drinking.

"I never really had a problem with drinking until later on in life," he said. "I was in a jail cell for DUI, that was kind of an eye opener there."

He says group therapy at the center helped him the most.

"It was very helpful seeing other people going through the same struggle as I was," he said.

John says it's not so hard to lead a simple life anymore. He says he's focusing on education and is now working to get his Masters in Business Administration.

"Maybe taking a step back and just realizing that you have a problem," he said. "The first step is picking up that phone and asking for help."

When a patient first enters rehab, Dr. Hammond says they using a set of medicines for a period of days to weeks to help the person get over their first obstacle coming off their addiction.

"Everyones a little bit different, but it's going to take up to 30 days to get your brain functioning to the way it was before the damage from the chemical dependency," he said. "Whatever their drug of choice might be we have a detox protocol for that drug of choice."

Withdrawals are dangerous and deadly.

"You get hallucinations, severe shaking, muscle breakdown, and seizures, and it's the seizures that are dangerous," said Hammond.

After that, recovery centers have a set of programs, group therapy sessions and other activities to help the patient find the root of their addiction, such as a difficult childhood or current relationship problems. At most centers, patients enroll in programs that last for an extended period of time and the patient must live at the center during that time - free from distractions and temptations.

"Our focus just isn't on the drug or alcohol, it's also on  problems within family, work, relationship problems," said Pollock. "And with the substance abuse or other addictions, come mental health problems like depression and schizophrenia, which is also treated."

At Palmetto, there's also a few resident dogs living on site, serving as companions for patients recovering from their addictions. Many of the staff there are also in recovery - a unique facet in the recovery process for the patients treated there.

"I was treated here, so I came in 2011, for alcohol addiction," said Dr. Hammond. "I think it helps us to understand what they're going through."

"It definitely gave me people to relate to..the people who had been through here. I wasn't afraid of being judged," said Roth.

A few years ago, Jeanne Turner was a patient -- she's now worked her way up to her own office i business development at Palmetto.

"It was pretty broken," she said. "I didn't think there was any help for me. I didn't think there was anyone in the world who could help me. One of the key things that I did is start taking suggestions. They started telling me some things to do, and as I started listening, things started getting better, and all I knew is that in the past, I had made everything worse."

She said she wants others to realize that there is no point to suffering anymore -- there is a solution.

"I don't know that I was ever really willing to hear that, at any point, in my addiction," she said. "I wanted it to stop, I just didn't know how."

For Roth, he's happy to be on the other side.

"It feels great - physically, mentally, spiritually," he said, noting the spiritual part of the program impacted him the most.

His advice to others: It's not the end of the world.

"The one thing I could never do was ask for help. I was too prideful," said Roth. "Coming here I had no control over any of that stuff, on the outside, there was nothing I could do. Once I got here, and once I let go and focused on being here, everything got easier."

"There's a solution out there and there's always hope," said Turner. "There's always hope."

For help or more information on overcoming addictions, click here, here and here.
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