The United States' war on drugs is a topic of frequent conversation and debate. Contrary to popular opinion, the biggest battle in this war is not waged against illegal exchanges in dark alleys. In fact, many Americans are facing addiction to drugs that are prescribed by a doctor and purchased from their local pharmacy; prescription painkillers.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers up startling statistics on the painkiller epidemic throughout the nation. Each day in the United States, 46 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers. In fact, overdose death has risen to become the top cause of accidental death in the country, with 47,055 drug overdoses in 2014. Of those deaths, 18,893 were linked to prescription pain relievers.
In this nationwide epidemic, the southeast is an epicenter of addiction and overdose. The CDC reports that in 2012, southern states had the most painkiller prescriptions per person, with Alabama, Tennessee, and West Virginia topping the charts. Alabama and Tennessee saw a shocking 143 prescriptions per 100 people. 12 states are reported to have more painkiller prescriptions than people. Eight of the 12 states are located in the Southeast.
While states can and should fight to reduce painkiller prescriptions, many addicts turn to heroin, a cheaper and more accessible alternative, when it becomes too difficult or expensive to fill prescriptions. As a result, addiction recovery programs find themselves in the trenches of this battle, aiming to stem the demand as politicians seek to decrease the supply. The Owl's Nest, a recovery program in Florence, South Carolina, has been on the front lines of the fight against addiction for 15 years.
The Owl's Nest offers an Intensive Program for addiction recovery, which lasts 28 days and provides residents with a safe and structured environment for the difficult first stages of recovery.
Bobbie Tharrington, Women's Director of The Owl's Nest explains, "Residents participate in 12-step workshops, book studies, and group discussions for most the day. This allows them to gain an in depth knowledge of the recovery program and a chance to work through the steps with their sponsor. Ultimately, residents learn to apply new life skills on a daily basis as they begin a new life in recovery."
Residents who seek additional support may enroll in the Extended Program. In this program, participants are responsible for securing employment where they learn accountability and responsibility as they build a solid foundation for long-term recovery. The Transitional Living Program takes this one step further, providing a stable environment and ongoing accountability as personal freedoms, including the use of a personal vehicle, a cellphone, and the ability to come and go independently are reintroduced.
Defining success for a treatment program is a complicated and continuous process, but The Owl's Nest boasts thousands of alumni across the country, and some internationally, that are in long-term sobriety. In the past year alone, alumni of the program have received over 1500 annual "chips". These chips are markers of time that are given out at 12-step meetings and at The Owl's Nest to recognize and celebrate an individual's time in sobriety.