Battling an epidemic

Derrick’s Story: “Drugs took me from my family. Royal Pines brought me back. Now I live without addiction, and I can look forward to walking my daughter down the aisle.” -Royal Pines Recovery Center | Facebook

Derrick’s Story: “Drugs took me from my family. Royal Pines brought me back. Now I live without addiction, and I can look forward to walking my daughter down the aisle.” -Royal Pines Recovery Center | Facebook

Continuing with our series on the drug epidemic, today’s article will focus on common reasons people turn to drugs and highlight two agencies that offer substance abuse assistance in Blount County. Remember, no one sets out to become a drug addict, but because of loose regulations, easy access, self-medication, lack of appropriate coping skills, and other reasons, many people find themselves addicted and unable to escape the hold it has on them.

In talking frankly with addicts over the years, most of them started out using drugs recreationally. This also included the use of alcohol and nicotine. Peer pressure and fitting in also played an important role in their early drug use. Some simply wanted to feel good and escape the effects of stress, anxiety, reoccurring pain, trauma, undiagnosed mental illness, and depression. That is where self-medicating by using illegal drugs or the misuse of prescription drugs comes into play.

The recreational use soon turns into becoming more and more dependent on drugs, and they are unable to stop using. They find their pleasurable activities becoming less pleasurable and continue using just to feel normal.Often the recreational use leads them to using mind-altering substances such as cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, and methamphetamine. These drugs are very addictive, and the use quickly causes a pattern of abuse that eventually leads to addiction.

Because of the initial decision to take drugs voluntarily, it has been a highly controversial subject among society as to whether substance abuse is a disorder or not. However, addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive seeking and use despite adverse consequences. It is considered a brain disorder because it involves functional changes to the brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control. These effects can last a lifetime (even after a person has stopped using) and could lead to death.

The good news is there is help. When a loved one becomes addicted to drugs, not only is help available in surrounding counties, there is help right here in Blount County. Local services include court referral, drug court, weekly educational classes, and residential facilities. Many of these services not only address the immediate drug usage, but they also take a look at the underlying issue that caused a person to turn to drug use, offer additional services to address how to deal with the underlying causes, and also help combat the addiction. The Hope House

The Hope House Substance Abuse Program offers individualized assessments to determine what level of care is needed, group counseling, individual counseling, family counseling, and what length of treatment is necessary based upon a person’s progress. Referral services are available for adults and adolescents in Blount County.

Partnering with court referral officers, law enforcement, drug court, Department of Human Resources, juvenile probation officers, and individuals seeking help independently, The Hope House program wants to assist those in need. In addition to offering individual, group, and family counseling, they have an outpatient program for adults 18 years and above and adolescents ages 12 to 17.

The Hope House outpatient program is offered on Mondays at 4 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 p.m., and Wednesdays at 9 a.m. for a dedicated women’s group. Fees are based on a sliding scale and are often times covered by Medicaid. In addition, the program has a follow-up alumni/aftercare group that meets weekly. The outpatient program provides an educational component for both clients and families.

Admission priority is given in the following order: pregnant IV users, pregnant substance users, IV substance users, women with dependent children, HIV positive substance users, and all other substance abuse disorders. If you or someone you know has a substance abuse problem and would like help, contact The Hope House at 205-625-4673. They are located at 1000 Lincoln Avenue, Suite B, Oneonta. Royal Pines Center

Royal Pines Center, located on 75 acres of tranquil countryside in Hayden, is a no-cost recovery center for men. The residential recovery program is ideally a 16-week program that teaches a Christ-based approach that helps men overcome life’s struggles. Throughout the program, the men are taught how to break free from their addiction and “rise and live again in Christ.”

As part of the treatment program, patients are provided various therapies through which they work on their problem to achieve recovery. Considered equally important, Royal Pines uses both individual counseling and group sessions in the treatment process. The therapists also use cognitive behavior therapy, motivational interviewing, teach coping skills, and utilize work therapy as part of the recovery process.

Each client works independently with a certified drug counselor throughout the program. Clients also participate in an educational curriculum that includes adult basic education, GED preparation, and workplace skill sets. They also have the opportunity to train for accredited short-term certificates, industry-based certifications, and college enrollment if desired.

As a ministry of the downtown Jimmie Hale Mission, Royal Pines Center’s mission is to transform adults directly affected by homelessness, poverty-thinking, and/or addiction into those who lead healthy, self-sufficient, and productive lives for the glory of God. Because Royal Pines understands that addition affects the addict and their loved ones, the center also focuses on the client’s family members by helping them through such a trying time.

The facility itself, which can house up to 40 men, is a large, one-story brick building. Its rural setting allows patients to work on their recovery in a peaceful and stress-free environment. Each room has two twin beds, and each patient has their own nightstand and dresser. Common spaces include the living room/TV area, a large kitchen, and a dining room with long tables.

For those interested in improving their health, a recreation room with activities such as ping pong and basketball is available. Jogging and other “outdoorsy” type activities can take place among the beautiful nature and landscape on the grounds.

During the first 30 days of recovery, patients are not allowed to have visitors or participate in recreational activities, as the goal during that time is to acclimate patients to the facility’s schedule and focus on their recovery efforts. After 30 days, clients get phone privileges, weekly visits, as well as participate in recreational activities.

As mentioned earlier, there is no fee charged for this program. Royal Pines does not accept government funding or United Way funding. Their monies are strictly from contributions of individuals, churches, businesses, fundraising, and civic and professional groups.

Royal Pines hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Call 256-352-9444 for more information or visit to schedule an appointment.

As the series continues, The Blount Countian will highlight more local facilities whose goal is to offer help to those who want freedom from addiction; however, if you or someone you know needs immediate help, call Jodi Cone at 205-274-0624 and she can assist you.