Drug And Alcohol Addiction In Missoula, Montana
Missoula is the second largest city in Montana. It is located in the western part of the state, at the convergence of five mountain ranges, giving it the nickname “hub of five valleys.” Missoula is also home to the state’s first university, The University of Montana. It is often considered the cultural center of Montana but has also been named one of the drunkest cities in America, with about 24% of the metro area adults reporting excessive drinking. The high volume of alcohol abuse in Missoula can be attributed to the fact that it is a college town, but the state of Montana itself ranked as the 4th drunkest state in America.
Unfortunately, alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in Missoula and the rest of the state. According to studies, 1 in 5 Montana adults reported binge drinking within the last month of being surveyed, 7 out of 10 high schoolers used alcohol, and 1 in 10 Montanans are dependent on or abusing alcohol or drugs. Aside from alcohol abuse, the trafficking and use of meth, heroin, and prescription opioids has become an epidemic. The state crime lab, located in Missoula, has seen a rise in samples coming in testing positive for meth and heroin, with a 143% increase since 2016. Overall, 9.4% of Montanans have a diagnosed substance use disorder (SUD).
Illicit Drug Addiction In Missoula
From 2011 to 2017, statistics show that meth related crimes in Montana increased by 690% and the number of people arrested increased by 881%. Methamphetamine is the most common illegal drug in Missoula and accounted for 86% of all drugs trafficked through Montana over the past 5 years. According to the State Attorney General Tim Fox, “much of the meth and heroin that arrives in Montana comes from Mexico, where it’s pure and cheap to produce”. Many of the illegal substances arrive through Washington state and get distributed through the interstate roads, where much of it ends up being consumed by Montanans.
Substance abuse harms thousands of families each year, and many women and children become victims of addiction. Possession of drugs is the #1 reason why women in Montana are in prison. Research also shows the number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome in the state has increased. The number of children in foster care has also increased, and 72% of child abuse in the state is drug related, with 81% of incidents involving meth. Often, women struggling with drug addiction or domestic violence will deter from seeking help for fear of being arrested or losing their children. To help with treatment and prevention, Montana passed the Safe Harbor bill which allows women to seek help for addiction treatment without fear of incarceration or having their children taken away.
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Addiction Treatment In Missoula
Jails in Montana are overcrowded, and possession of drugs is the most common felony conviction. A “Drug Task Force” operating across the state as well as many drug courts have opened in order to put people in treatment, rather than jail. A report from the Montana Healthcare Foundation and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services found that in order to combat alcohol and drug abuse, the state must:
- Integrate SUD treatment into primary care practices.
- Support and provide medication assisted treatment (MAT).
- Use savings from Medicaid expansion to strengthen prevention and peer support.
For many people in Missoula, their first entry point into SUD treatment or rehab is through the criminal justice system. In Montana, all individuals convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) or drug possession must receive a chemical dependence assessment and recommendation for treatment designed to change drinking and drug use behavior. The Montana Department of Corrections is increasingly offering SUD treatment inside their residential facilities, pre-release centers, and prisons through the assessment, course and treatment (ACT) program. Mandatory assessments are conducted by licensed addiction counselors at state approved programs and more than 800 people receive SUD treatments through the ACT program each year. The treatment phase is mandatory for 2nd and 3rd offenses, but research shows that the program has been effective in decreasing relapse and crime rates in people with a SUD.
According to a national survey on substance use treatment centers, Montana has the 2nd highest utilization rate for inpatient and residential beds, meaning they are at 100% capacity at almost all times. Approximately 10,000 Montanans seek treatment for alcohol or drug addiction each year, but state approved providers only have the capacity to serve 6,100 individuals. It is estimated that 90% of people with a SUD are not receiving treatment in Montana, and only 8.2% of those in treatment are in medicated assisted treatment (MAT). In 2017, the bill HB95 was signed into law to help expand treatment in the state by eliminating restrictions to the number of state approved SUD treatment providers in a local area. Fortunately, you can avoid waiting lists or delaying recovery by seeking out-of-state options.
If you or a loved one is battling with addiction or substance abuse, it is important to start recovery as soon as possible. Getting an individual into treatment as soon as they have agreed can increase their chances of success and may sometimes need to travel for rehab. Traveling out-of-state for rehab allows for many therapy and amenity options. For more information about rehabilitation options, contact a treatment provider today.
Ginni Correa is a Latinx writer and activist living in Orlando,FL. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and double majored in Psychology and Spanish with a minor in Latin American Studies. After graduation, Ginni worked as an educator in public schools and an art therapist in a behavioral health hospital where she found a passion working with at-risk populations and advocating for social justice and equality. She is also experienced in translating and interpreting with an emphasis in language justice and creating multilingual spaces. Ginni’s mission is to build awareness and promote resources that can help people transform their lives. She believes in the importance of ending stigma surrounding mental health and substance abuse while creating more accessible treatment in communities. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, crafting, and attending music festivals.
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- Big Sky Words. (2017). Montana's Meth Problem. Retrieved on January 31, 2020, from: http://www.bigskywords.com/montana-blog/montanas-meth-problem
- Kidston, M. (2019). "We're facing a crisis:" State's drug epidemic unites disparate forces under common cause. Retrieved on January 31, 2020, from: https://missoulacurrent.com/business/2019/01/montana-drug-epidemic/
- MONTANA.GOV. (2017). New report charts practical steps to tackle Montana’s substance abuse problems. Retrieved on January 31, 2020, from: https://dphhs.mt.gov/aboutus/news/2017/3-23-17substance-abuse
- Montana Department of Justice. (2017). Substance Use in Montana. Retrieved on January 31, 2020, from: https://dojmt.gov/wp-content/uploads/Substance-Use-in-Montana-DOJ-FINAL-September-19th.pdf
- Stebbins,S & Suneson,G. (2020). The Drunkest (and Driest) Cities in America. Retrieved on January 31, 2020, from: https://247wallst.com/special-report/2018/05/14/the-drunkest-and-driest-cities-in-america-3/4/