Addiction in Fairbanks, Alaska
Located in the Alaskan interior, Fairbanks is home to 32,751 residents, with just over 100,000 people in the Fairbanks North Star Borough metro area. Fairbanks is the United States’ northernmost metro area, sitting just under 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Compared to communities of all sizes, Fairbanks has higher-than-average crime rates. Residents have a one in twenty chance of being the victim of a violent or property crime. According to Alaska’s state troopers, alcohol is a primary factor in the state’s violent crimes. It is also the area’s most commonly abused substance, followed by heroin, meth, and marijuana.
Between 2015 and 2017, the number of alcohol-related crimes (charges and arrests) increased by 60% in the state. Overall, alcohol accounted for more arrests and charges than any other substance by far–36% of crime was alcohol-related. Though 109 communities banned the sale, importation, and possession of alcohol in 2016, bootlegging undermined efforts to reduce rates of addiction and abuse.
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Poly-drug Abuse in Fairbanks
A growing addiction issue in Fairbanks is poly-drug abuse (abusing multiple substances to either augment or counteract the effects of each). For many, an opioid addiction begins with a legal prescription obtained following a sports injury or surgery. Nearly one in ten 18- to 27-year-olds in Fairbanks misused prescription opioids in 2016. Four in ten did not perceive a great risk from regularly misusing them once or twice per week. However, 75% of people with a heroin use disorder began by misusing prescription painkillers like oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®) and hydrocodone (Vicodin®). Those receiving addiction treatment for prescription opioids or a Heroin Use Disorder in the area are typically younger than those receiving treatment for other addictions.
Between 2015 and 2016, the amount of heroin seized by authorities more than doubled and meth seizures increased fivefold the following year. Although state authorities investigated no meth labs in 2014, its use has grown in recent years. Meth-related deaths increased 500% between 2008 and 2016, with the majority of deaths between residents aged 45 to 54. Additionally, of all meth-related deaths, three of four involved another drug. Chronic meth abuse can cause anxiety, insomnia, weight loss, paranoia, hallucinations, violent behavior, skin diseases, and “meth mouth.”
Substance Abuse Statistics for the Fairbanks North Star Borough
Of all naloxone doses administered statewide to reverse overdoses, 50.4% were dispensed in the Fairbanks region in 2015.
In 2016, the Interior AIDS Association provided 58,500 sterile needles through its exchange program.
Over 80% of residents interviewed responded that there are misconceptions in the Fairbanks community of who suffers from addiction.
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Drug and Alcohol Rehabs in Fairbanks
In a 2017 Fairbanks addiction survey, 40% of the residents interviewed believed there were misconceptions in the Alaskan interior about the nature of addiction. The stigma that a substance use disorder is a moral failure or weakness often prevents people who need detox and rehab from seeking these services. Subsequently, many people fatally overdose before they decide to get help.
In Fairbanks, there are residential treatment options available as well as methadone and buprenorphine treatment, detox services, therapy, and support groups. In 2016, 57 people had enrolled in the Interior AIDS Association’s methadone treatment program. The average age was 38.
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