Drug Abuse Trends in Birmingham, Alabama
In central northern Alabama, Birmingham is the state’s most populous city with 210,710 residents. In 2017, the industrial Birmingham-Hoover metro area was home to over 1.1 million Alabamans. The city is also part of a megaregion of southern cities along highways I-85/I-20, nicknamed the Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion – including the Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, and Raleigh-Durham metro areas.
In 2010, a majority of drug and alcohol rehabs in the area reported a majority of patients were admitted for marijuana abuse. Yet, despite the state’s 24 dry counties, the most common substance of abuse in the region is alcohol. Research shows that alcohol is involved in an alarming number of violent crimes, and Birmingham has one of the highest violent crime rates (427.4 violent crimes per 100,000 residents) in the country. Almost half of all adults report past month consumption and alcohol-related arrests outnumber drug-related arrests nearly 2-to-1.
It’s a crime issue, a public health issue. It’s a plague on society in general. It’s so extremely frustrating to see so many people overdose and so many people die, yet others are willing to experiment with a substance that will in all likelihood, at the very least, destroy lives and, in many cases, kill them.
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Heroin Addiction in Birmingham
Similar to other Appalachian cities, prescription opioid abuse has had a substantial impact on the city. With the onset of the national opioid epidemic, Alabama had the highest rate of prescription narcotics use in the US in 2010. That same year, 585 people died as a result of drug abuse. By 2015, 859 people alone were admitted for primary heroin addictions in the state.
Due to the crackdown on prescription painkillers, large numbers of Birmingham-area residents turned to heroin. Heroin’s effect on the body results in a complex physiological and psychological addiction that is incredibly hard to overcome. As such, of 248 overdose deaths in Birmingham’s Jefferson County in 2016, 205 involved heroin or fentanyl (or both). The following year, though heroin and fentanyl deaths fell by one or two deaths, cocaine and methamphetamine-related deaths jumped (by 7% and 60%, respectively).
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Rising Stimulant Abuse in Birmingham
Authorities believe the rising rates of stimulant abuse can be attributed to poly-drug use and the growing availability of purer forms of meth and coke. Additionally, these stimulants are being “cut” with cheap, synthetic opioids like fentanyl, contributing to overdose deaths with multiple drugs present in the body at the time of death.
Substance Abuse Statistics for Birmingham
In 2016, 22 overdose deaths involved meth; the year before, only 5 deaths involved meth in the county.
Between 2015 and 2016, there was a 116.3% increase in fentanyl-related deaths in Jefferson County.
Substance Abuse Treatment in Birmingham
For the many residents of Birmingham suffering from an opioid (or heroin) addiction, successfully completing treatment can be extremely challenging. Doctors have likened the complexity of treating opioid addiction to treating a traumatic brain injury. Furthermore, securing transportation to and from support group meetings and doctors’ appointments can be difficult for those without the financial means or family support.
The Alabama Department of Mental Health maintains a record of rehab centers that accept Medicaid and are funded by the CURES block grant. These treatment centers offer a range of addiction treatment services, including:
- Adolescent services – outpatient and residential
- Withdrawal management (detox)
- Residential treatment
- Intensive outpatient rehab
- Outpatient drug rehab
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Co-occurring disorders for teens
- Women’s services (for pregnant women)