I thought I knew a bit about Alaska. I’ve been there several times—twice for the ceremonial start to the Iditarod in Anchorage where a short, seated dogsled ride around a small block taught me one of the reasons why mushers stand. Ouch!
I’ve been to Fairbanks, took a tour of the Chena River where we visited Susan Butcher’s kennels, watched some of the dog training, saw Native Alaskans preparing salmon. Learned about Fairbank’s temperature extremes. And glad I was there in the summer.
I’ve been far north, trying to get to Nome for solstice. Heavy rains prevented our plane from landing, so we contented ourselves in Kotzebue, having lunch in a restaurant across the street from the Arctic Ocean and visiting the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center. My husband’s been to Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow) several times. Can you say polar bears?
So I thought I knew a little about Alaska. Until now. In 2017, nearly ten percent of patients at Schick Shadel Hospital came from Alaska. Most were referred by a friend or family member who came to Schick and was successful. Meeting a few current patients and listening to their stories made me curious about the extent of addiction there.
I found that Alaska has one of the highest rates of addiction of all the states; that alcohol continues to be the most abused substance in Alaska. Yet there’s a massive hole in the availability of detox facilities. There is only one in the entire state, and it’s in Anchorage. Wait… Are you kidding me? One—in the entire state of Alaska?
People who need to detox there have to depend on hospital Emergency Room systems, or they try to detox at home. Please don’t do this at home. Ever. Detoxing should only be done under the care of a medical professional—otherwise, consequences can be fatal. Let me put that another way: you could DIE trying to detox by yourself at home. I know this first hand because when I was about ten, I had to call 911 and accompany my father in an ambulance after he had seizures trying to detox at home. He lived, but I was terrified. And so, so devastated thinking I might lose him. Don’t put your family or yourself through this.
So what’s an Alaska resident to do? Schick Shadel Hospital is an option for patients from Alaska who need medical detox before undergoing aversion therapy treatment. We have many success stories from our Alaska patients. In future blogs I’ll introduce you to some of them.