Substance abuse continues in Wichita

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Millions of people battle drug and alcohol addiction — some call it an epidemic.

In Wichita, health professionals aren’t seeing the numbers decrease.

“It’s one of the more common problems in Wichita,” shared Eric Litwiller, from the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas (MHASCK).

Substance abuse affects one in seven people — that’s around 57,000 people every year in Wichita.

According to studies, the numbers remain the same overall.

“It is obviously going to increase with population growth, and certainly during difficult economic times,” said Litwiller. “Of course there’s seasonal variations as well.”

Health professionals are noticing more people turning to drugs and alcohol as a way to “self-medicate.” It’s a way to escape from stress or an existing mental health issue.

Unfortunately, young people in Wichita are also going down the same slippery slope.

Litwiller shared a recent conversation with a nurse practitioner, who said there was a time when people didn’t know how to get marijuana in the high schools.

“Now, anyone can list three or four of their friends who they can buy it from,” he said.

Addiction affects all ages in Wichita, but health professionals said it can lead to the same things.

“You lose families, you lose jobs, you lose your home,” said Litwiller. “You lose your life, eventually.”

September is National Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery Month.

Around 10-percent of people experiencing a drug or alcohol addiction reach out for help, according to studies.

The Mental Health Association in Wichita sees hundreds of people come in with a spouse, parent, or co-worker.

Litwiller explained the road to recovery includes help from a loved one.

Some in the community don’t know how to help someone with an addiction, but MHASCK staff recommended talking to the person to help he/she realize it is a serious problem and things can get better.

  • Have information about available resources
  • Avoid saying “You should talk to someone” or “You should find help.”
  • Show them a information or a brochure and say “Here is a place…this is who you should talk to…and here is the number to call.”
  • Drive them to the location

While it’s easy to get the public behind addiction treatment, health professionals said it’s harder to get the public behind prevention.

Litwiller explained addiction prevention is cheaper than addiction treatment.

“Right now estimates show every dollar spent on mental health prevention will save about $4 in health care and about $7 in criminal justice costs,” he said.

There are several addiction resources available in Wichita and Sedgwick County, including the following:

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