Addictions counselor cites substance abuse among youth

Debbie GraySubstance abuse is a multi-layered problem and growing concern in the state of Kansas, including Marion County.

?The problem of substance use isn?t compartmentalized,? said social worker Debbie Gray, a licensed addictions counselor at Prairie View in Newton.

?It affects so many areas of life, and in our state this problem is much more serious than most people realize.?

A new University of Michigan Ann Arbor-Penn State study, reported by JAMA Pediatrics and published last month, states that 20 percent of U.S. high school seniors reported participating in binge drinking?traditionally defined as five or more drinks at a time?in the two weeks before responding to the survey.

A total of 10.5 percent reported extreme binge drinking (10 or more drinks), and 5.6 percent reported extreme binge drinking (15 or more drinks) in the previous two weeks.

Rural Midwestern boys were identified as some of the heaviest drinkers.

?Teenagers often don?t realize the very dangerous and toxic effects of binge drinking,? Gray said. ?Prairie View clinicians try to work with referral sources and patients to address substance use early before it can cause severe problems in all areas.?

Many Kansans recognize the need for treatment, especially for teens and young adults. They sense some of the problems of those addicted to prescription, over-the-counter drugs, methamphetamines and other illegal substances.

But state funding for prevention has dwindled and statewide services are few and far between.

?There?s a lack of accessible services, which is very discouraging,? Gray said. ?And there is especially a lack of services for teens who need to be treated for drug and substance abuse.

?Funding and programs for teenagers are decreasing especially in rural counties that do not have a lot of resources,? she added. ?Often it is these areas that need the most services to prevent widespread problems.?

Gray cited a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administra?tion that states for every dollar invested in prevention and early treatment programs, two to 10 dollars could be saved in health costs, criminal and juvenile justice costs, educational costs and lost productivity.

Prairie View has outpatient treatment that consists of individual and group therapy to offer persons needing to recover from addiction. It also has an inpatient Addictions Treatment Center not funded by state funds.

Gray works mainly with court-ordered outpatients who attend group therapy sessions twice a week and meet her or other addictions counselors for individual therapy on a regular basis.

?In addition to the therapy sessions, the mental health treatment we provide our clients sets Prairie View apart,? Gray said.

?Our treatment is holistic,? she added. ?It is a clinical approach that is based on research. This allows us to get to the root of the problem rather than just dealing with a single addiction. Understanding the individual?s background, their family, their environment, and current condition plays a big role in how we help people be successful in recovery.?

The chemical dependency treatment team uses motivational interviewing.

?This perspective is about meeting people where they are in their thinking and asking them, ?What are you willing to do to work with your substance use issues??

?The goal is to get patients to own their treatment.?

Substance-use treatment can be a long process for the patient and his or her family. Prevention and resilience are keys in getting effective results for all affected by the problem.

?Michael? (not his real name), a young man Gray has counseled, had been living on the street, selling meth. By court order he began treatment. He started treatment twice with no results.

His third time, in court-mandated treatment, he starting having hope he could change. Through a slow process Michael got himself out of his ?drug fog,? into a respectable job and back with his family.

Michael?s family had a harder time accepting him than he had relating to them. He had been through far more treatment than they had.

?People like Michael are used to the quick fixes they have gotten from using,? Gray said. ?But that isn?t the case in recovery. To him and others, my counsel is ?Hang in there. You can do it. Keep going. There is hope.??

?June A. Krehbiel,, Prairie View

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