For many heroin users, the journey to addiction begins with a simple painkiller prescription from their doctor. Narcotic opioid medications, including oxycodone, morphine, hydrocodone, and fentanyl, are prescribed for pain management. Individuals who become dependent on these drugs and develop a higher tolerance tend to seek out a stronger less-expensive alternative and turn to Heroin.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that painkiller prescriptions tripled across the United States between 1991 and 2011, jumping from 76 million to 219 million prescriptions. Shockingly, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) reported that 12 states had more opioid prescriptions than people in 2012. Eight of those 12 states were in the southeast: Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and South Carolina.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, individuals who become addicted to these prescription painkillers are 40 times more likely to develop an addiction to heroin. Similarly, four out of five heroin users previously abused prescription painkillers.
As addiction to painkillers became more widespread, the Southeastern US also saw an influx of white powder heroin from South American drug cartels, making heroin easier to acquire and cheaper than prescription medication. As a result, the CDC has reported a steady rise in heroin use across the US since 2000 with a sharp rise after 2010, and age-adjusted rates for drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin tripled between 2000 and 2013 in the South.
Due to the rising rates of heroin addiction and fatal overdoses throughout the Southeast, there is a great need for organizations that support addiction recovery before it is too late. The Owl's Nest, based in Florence, South Carolina, is one addiction recovery program that has been successfully responding to that need for 15 years.
Residents first enter the Intensive Program, a 28 day program that is designed to meet each resident's specific recovery needs. In this stage, residents are given the opportunity to recover from addiction in a safe and structured environment with as little distraction as possible. Book studies, group discussions, a sponsor relationship, and 12-step workshops guide residents as they learn basic skills for a life in recovery.
Daniel McAlister, Men's Director at The Owl's Nest explains, "Residents in the Intensive Program benefit greatly from the small group setting. The structure allows for more one-on-one time with our staff and alumni, and our teachers are able to answer questions and create discussion during the workshops."
Upon completing the Intensive Program, residents can choose to enter an Extended Program, where they are trained in basic vocational skills and encouraged to gain employment as they prepare to re-enter society. Finally, the Transitional Program provides residents with ongoing accountability as they navigate new freedoms which include being able to have a cell phone, a personal vehicle, and the ability to come and go more freely making it possible to attend local 12-step meetings.
Unlike many recovery centers, The Owl's Nest prides itself on the continued care and family-like relationship it maintains with those who come through the program. At The Owl's Nest, residents and alumni are more than just a number and are always welcome back to work with newcomers and prove just how much this program actually works. The organization has seen great success among its graduates and has ongoing relationships with thousands of alumni across the country who are living their lives in long term recovery.