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Among the tree-lined streets of Atlanta, many residents are battling addiction behind the closed doors of their Georgia homes. Of the 319 million people living in the United States last year, around 10 million of them reside in Georgia.[1]

Finding treatment for substance abuse in Georgia is no longer the struggle it was in years gone by. Today, the Peach State is home to 262 addiction rehab facilities.[2] Among them, 82 provide residential treatment and 105 are partial day hospitalization facilities.[3] In addition, Georgia houses 183 sober living facilities for alcoholics.[4]

Substance Abuse Demographics

What type of people do drugs? Is it the homeless man on the corner you pass while going to work every day? Perhaps it’s a coworker, or maybe it’s your boss, doctor, spouse, parent, or child. The truth is that addiction doesn’t just target certain people. Under the right circumstances, anyone can fall prey to drug or alcohol dependency.

drug addict

That being said, there are people who are more predisposed to substance abuse. Risk factors for substance abuse and addiction include living in poverty, associating with peer drug users, age of onset, and behavioral issues. The following paints a pretty clear picture of the major substance abusers in this state as well as across the country:

  • Georgians paid around $1.2 billion in 2013 due to issues stemming from underage drinking.[5] Alcohol treatment for youths was $30.8 million of that number.[6]
  • Among Georgia high school students in 2011, 49 percent had tried cigarettes, 35 percent drank one or more alcoholic beverages in the month preceding being surveyed, 38 percent reported lifetime marijuana use, 13 percent attested to lifetime inhalant use, three percent admitted to past-month cocaine use, and six percent reported past-year misuse of prescription opioid pain relievers.[7]
  • Prescription misuse and abuse remain a big problem among the elderly population, with 83 percent of adults aged 60 and up taking prescription drugs, despite the elderly only accounting for 13 percent of the American population.[8]
  • Children of alcoholics are three to four times more likely to develop a dependency on drugs or alcohol themselves.[9]
  • From 2002-2008, the baby boomer demographic — aged 55-59 — has increased their use of illicit drugs, from a rate of 1.9 percent to 4.1 percent.[10]

The American Comparison

  • Data from 2007-2008 shows that only 7.27 percent of Georgians reported past-month use of illicit drugs, in comparison to the national rate of 8.02 percent.[15]
  • The use of illicit drugs other than marijuana was also lower in Georgia at 3.07 percent, compared to 3.58 percent across the nation.[16]
  • Deaths due to substance abuse were also lower in Georgia than the national average, with only 10.2 per 100,000 people having died in the state in 2007; the national median was 12.7 per 100,000.[17]
  • The tally of seizures from meth labs in Georgia between 2007 and 2009 was fairly consistent with the national average. During this timeframe, national seizures rose by 76 percent while seizures in Georgia increased by 91 percent.[18]

Addicts residing in Georgia may favor cocaine, but other substances are abused, including heroin, prescription opioid pain relievers, marijuana and alcohol.

Criminal Behavior and Prison Data

Hospital Visits, Emergency Room Visits, and Deaths

Of course, the biggest risk of substance abuse that remains constant is overdose. It is estimated that over five million people sought care in an emergency room in America in 2011 for reasons related to drug abuse.[26] Of the 21 metro areas that reported data in 2001, Atlanta was in third place for the most emergency department visits due to substance abuse at a rate of 244 per 100,000 people.[27]

  • Since 1999, drug overdose deaths in Georgia have tripled while national rates have doubled in 29 states, quadrupled in four states, and tripled in 10 additional states.[28]
  • Across all substance abuse-related trips to the emergency room in 2011, 51 percent involved drugs and alcohol combined.[29]
  • Between 2006 and 2010, an average of 2,555 people died in the state of Georgia every year from alcohol-related causes.[30]
  • Georgia ranks 36th in the nation for the highest drug overdose mortality rate.[31]

The Extra Mile

The difference between a mediocre treatment center and an excellent one may very well be the ability of to recognize and treat co-occurring disorders. Many addicts are led astray by substance abuse as a means of self-medicating the uneasy symptoms of an underlying mental health disorder they aren’t aware of. Unfortunately, too many of them end up homeless or in jail before they can be properly diagnosed and get help. A reported “64 percent of jail inmates, 54 percent of state prisoners and 45 percent of federal prisoners” have issues of mental health.[32] Among the homeless population, around 30 percent are mentally ill.[33]

Around 50 percent of all people diagnosed with a serious mental health disorder engage in substance abuse.[34] Screening for mental health problems generally takes place during the intake interview prior to starting detox. Rehabilitation professionals need to be aware of what they’re dealing with in order to plan an effective treatment plan.

Severe mental illness appeared to be slightly less common in Georgia — at 3.7 percent — than the national average of four percent between 2011 and 2012.[35] Only 37.8 percent of Georgians suffering from mental illness got treatment between 2008 and 2012.[36] The figures aren’t much better for substance abusers. Only 2.5 percent of alcoholics received treatment in the Peach State during the same timeframe, along with a mere 14.8 percent of illicit drug abusers.[37]

Industry Standards

Georgia takes pride in the quality of their addiction treatment services. You’ll find industry standards in Georgia are well aligned with the rest of the nation. Your information will not be released to anyone without your written consent. Georgia facilities respect your right to privacy.

In recent years, access to substance abuse treatment has expanded, primarily due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. This law opened doors to affordable health insurance for some 15 million people who had insurance by the close of the 2014 enrollment period after having been uninsured prior to the ACA.[38]

One of the most controversial forms of substance abuse rehab is methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), used in the treatment of opioid addictions. In May of 2001, the U.S. Department of Health and

Human Services (DHHS) shifted the federal government’s role in managing MMT.[39] In the Peach State, these programs are exempt from traditional licensure requirements and operate under the governing of the Georgia State Methadone Authority.

Currently, most patients of substance abuse treatment facilities are leaning toward demands for treatment that is based on evidence rather than theory alone. The use of therapies that aren’t effective may very well be the reason that 70-80 percent of substance abusers who seek treatment end up dropping out of it after three to six months’ time.[40] Without any professional governing of American rehab units, the standards by which they operate, services they render, rates they charge, and results they produce can vary considerably without any recourse or implementation for improvement.


Regardless, facilities are overseen by state-based governing agencies. Control over industry standards, quality assurance, and licensure lies with the Secretary of State. The SOS of Georgia oversees the following for drug and alcohol treatment centers within the state:

  • Legal authority
  • Titles and purposes
  • Inspections
  • Agency accreditations
  • Employees
  • Applications
  • Treatment planning protocols
  • Food service
  • Safety measures
  • Discharge and aftercare protocols
  • Client rights and responsibilities

The SOS also mandates that no treatment program may operate in the state without the appropriate licensure to do so, which requires that administrators and employees be qualified to render such treatment.[41] Governing bodies like the SOS of Georgia have a lot on their plate when it comes to substance abuse treatment standards. Facilities within the state are required to abide by specific intake, assessment, and admission procedures. They must also adhere to state-set guidelines on treatment protocols, discharge plans, aftercare help, and emergency preparedness. Staffing guidelines mandate the credentials and licenses required to be an employee of a treatment center in the state.

Georgia doesn’t skimp on treatment. Treatment plans, progress notes, and randomized drug screenings during rehab are all noted, as well as treatment medications. Yet another factor in the grand scheme of industry standards — or a lack thereof — is the price of getting clean. The cost of rehab for some clients can reach $2,000 a day.[42]

A Helping Hand

Citations

[1]State & County QuickFacts.” (n.d.). United States Census Bureau. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[2]Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.” (n.d.). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[3] Ibid.

[4]Intervention America.” (n.d.). Intervention America. Accessed April 4, 2014.

[5] “Underage Drinking in Georgia.” (n.d.). Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[6] Ibid.

[7]Georgia Adolescent Substance Abuse Facts.” (n.d.). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[8] Basca, B. (n.d.). “The Elderly and Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse.” Center for Applied Research Solutions. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[9] “Effects of Parental Substance Abuse on Children and Families.” (n.d.). American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[10] Colihan, K. (2008 September 4). “Who Uses and Abuses Drugs and Alcohol?” WebMD. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[11]DrugFacts: Nationwide Trends.” (2014 January). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[12]Georgia Drug Control Update.” (n.d.). The White House. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[13]National Drug Intelligence Center.” (2003 April). United States Department of Justice. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[14]What is the scope of cocaine use in the United States?” (n.d.). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[15]Georgia Drug Control Update.” (n.d.). The White House. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19]Drug and Crime Facts.” (n.d.). Bureau of Justice Statistics. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[20]Offenses.” (2015 February 21). Federal Bureau of Prisons. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[21]Overview.” (2003 April). National Drug Intelligence Center. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[22] Robinson, C.E. (2013 August 13). “Preventing Post-Treatment Relapse among African American Adolescents and Young Adult Marijuana Users through Effective Treatment Interventions: A Proposed Intervention for Metro-Atlanta.” Georgia State University. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[23] Ibid.

[24]Overview.” (2003 April). National Drug Intelligence Center. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[25] Ibid.

[26]Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2011: National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits.” (2011). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[27]Cocaine.” (2006 April). National Drug Intelligence Center. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[28]Reports.” (n.d.). Trust for America’s Health. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[29]Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2011: National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits.” (2011). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[30]Alcohol-related deaths: How does your state rank?” (2014 June 27). CBS News. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[31] Ibid.

[32]Incarceration nation.” (2014 October). American Psychological Association. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[33]Current Statistics on the Prevalence and Characteristics of People Experiencing Homelessness in the United States.” (2011 July). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[34]Substance Abuse and Co-occurring Disorders.” (n.d.). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[35]Behavioral Health Barometer: Georgia, 2013.” (2013). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38]Obamacare Enrollment Numbers.” (n.d.). Obamacare Facts. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[39]Policy Issues and Challenges in Substance Abuse Treatment.” (2002 February). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[40] Sheff, D. (2013 April 3). “Viewpoint: We Need to Rethink Rehab.” TIME Magazine. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[41]Licenses.” (n.d.). Georgia Secretary of State. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[42] New, C. (2011 June 3). “The Real Tab for Rehab: Inside the Addiction Treatment Biz.” Daily Finance. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[43]National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services.” (2012). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[44]Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.” (n.d.). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[45]Methadone Treatment Issues.” (n.d.). California Society of Addiction Medicine. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[46] Matesa, J. (2011 April 13). “The Great Suboxone Debate.” The Fix. Accessed April 4, 2015.

[47] Roan, S. (2008 November 10). “The 30-day Myth.” Los Angeles Times. Accessed April 4, 2015.