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Substance Abuse in Utah and the Available Treatment Options

Many residents in Utah struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. An annual report from the Utah Drug Monitoring Initiative shows that the deaths resulting from drug overdose increased by about 7% in 2020 compared to 2019.

If you are struggling with substance use disorder, several drug rehab centers in Utah can help you fully recover. The sooner you seek help, the higher your chances of avoiding the dire consequences of drug or alcohol addiction. Let’s go into more details about drug and alcohol abuse and available treatment methods in Utah.

What Is Drug Addiction?

Substance use disorder, also referred to as drug addiction, is a person’s inability to control illegal or legal medication or drug use. Addiction negatively affects your behavior and brain function. And despite the harm caused by these drugs to your body, it’s difficult to resist the urge to continue using them due to the addiction.

What Causes Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction is a complex illness, and those who use drugs find it difficult to quit even if they have a strong will to stop. Many individuals start using drugs to mask or escape the pain. The rush of pleasure that results from using drugs provides temporary solace. Whatever reason you may have for using a specific drug or alcohol, once you get addicted to it, the disease can quickly get out of control.

There is no specific factor that can make a person become addicted to a drug or alcohol. However, several factors increase your chances of taking drugs and becoming addicted. Below are some of the reasons that might lead to drug use.


Your surroundings, including friends, family members, and economic status, play a vital role in your addiction vulnerability. Factors such as physical abuse, stress, early drug exposure, peer pressure, and family processes can significantly affect the likelihood of drug use and addiction, especially in adolescents. Easy accessibility to drugs in Utah is a high-risk factor for drug abuse.


In addition to environmental factors, biological contributions, such as genetics or hereditary factors, can also increase your predisposition toward addiction. Mental illness, ethnicity, and gender can increase the chances of progressing to addiction.


You can become addicted to taking drugs or alcohol at any age, but the earlier you start using a drug, the more likely it will escalate to addiction. Teens and adolescents who try drugs for fun or out of curiosity are particularly at a greater risk since the areas responsible for self-control, judgment, and decision-making in their brains are still developing.

Commonly Abused Drugs in Utah

Illicit drugs pose a serious threat to the state and the residents since Utah is situated between sources and destinations of drugs. Illicit drugs are frequently transported through Utah and into the northwest states from California and Mexico.

Some of the most abused drugs include the following.


Stimulants such as methamphetamine are some of the most commonly abused drugs in Utah, accounting for about 15% of treatment admissions resulting from substance use disorder. Using this drug can result in negative social, occupational, psychological, and legal consequences. A study of methamphetamine abuse or dependence also revealed that you might have to deal with long-term health consequences like Parkinson’s disease due to damage to dopamine neurons.


Cocaine is an addictive stimulant that poses a significant threat in Utah. It’s easily accessible in wholesale and retail quantities in powdered form throughout the state. You can become addicted to using cocaine due to the blissful euphoria it provides. However, the drug can quickly overtake your life, and you might realize you’ve lost contact with loved ones and friends.


Heroin dependence is high among teens and young adults. With the restriction of prescription drug supplies nationally, the popularity of this drug keeps growing, and it has also become more accessible and cheaper. In 2015 alone, about 127 deaths in Utah were caused by heroin, according to the Utah Department of Health. Notably, up to 80% of these heroin users began their experimentation by using prescription drugs.


Marijuana is a widely available drug in Utah, especially among adolescents and college students. Fortunately, there was a notable decrease in substance use, including marijuana, in 2021.

Prescription Drugs

Abuse of prescription drugs is also a major concern in Utah, especially in Salt Lake City, which has a significant rate of prescription drug abuse. Research shows that approximately 10 adults in Utah die each week due to drug overdose.

Common Warning Signs of Drug Addiction

Sometimes, you may not see a family member or a friend using a drug, but they can portray some warning signs of addiction. Also, these signs can vary depending on the type of drug and the person. Here are some of the common signs that show you or someone close to you is addicted to using drugs or alcohol:

• Not caring how you look in public
• Spending a lot of time alone
• You feel sick when you don’t use the drug for extended hours or a day
• The urge to use the drug many times in a day or daily
• Spending a considerable time using and recovering from the effects of a drug

Side Effects of Using Drugs and Alcohol

The rate of a drug overdose in Utah surpassed the national average as per the 2016 data, recording about 22 deaths per 100,000 individuals.

If you constantly consume excess amounts of alcohol or a certain drug in a day, week, or year, they can negatively affect your body. Some side effects are minor and will only last a few days. Others can last for extended periods, leading to permanent damages or even death. In fact, data from the CDC reveals that the drug overdose mortality rate records up to 622 deaths annually. The type of drug or the amount of alcohol you consume will influence the consequences.

Here are some common short-term side effects you may experience:

• Lack of concentration
• Short-term memory loss
• Decreased or increased heart rate
• Lowering inhibitions
• Respiratory problems
• Muscle control difficulties
• Heightened emotions of anxiety and fear

In other cases, you may experience long-lasting side effects of drug or alcohol use that can even put you at greater risk of developing other health issues.

Here are the common long-term effects that you may experience:

• Bone and muscle breakdown
• Problem coping in school or on the job
• Damage to internal body organs
• Lack of coordination skills
• Nasal perforation
• Memory impairment

Treating Substance Use Disorder in Utah

The initial step towards your recovery journey is acknowledging that you are struggling with dependence on a certain drug or alcohol. Several drug rehabs in Utah can help you regain a sober life. Rehab centers have programs tailored to each individual’s mental needs and the substance that you are abusing to ensure you recover successfully. Below are some of the common addiction treatment programs that clients go through.

Detoxification Rehab Programs

Drug or alcohol detoxification can be a standalone service or a treatment program offered by a drug rehab in Utah. Detoxification is a vital step in your recovery journey, especially if you are actively taking alcohol or drugs. Detox programs involve professionally monitoring a client within a certain period of cessation free of drug use until the chemical substances get eliminated from your body. The medical experts in these centers assist you in coping with withdrawal symptoms that are often painful or life-threatening.

Drug rehab centers also ensure you go through the withdrawal stage safely. Through professional detoxification, you experience less physical discomfort. Professionals use certain medications to lessen the withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, seizures, hallucinations, tremor, and delirium. This helps transition into the next phase of an ongoing treatment since some individuals may decide to revert to using drugs because of painful withdrawal symptoms.

After detoxification, clients go through rehabilitation or comprehensive treatment, with the former allowing you to have more emphasis on therapeutic services that support your recovery.

Medications Options

A professional might recommend some medication options, depending on your situation.

Outpatient Programs

When going through outpatient addiction treatment programs, you can either have repeated or one-time appointments with a professional. The treatment can begin with intensive sessions, where clients attend several weekly sessions. You will then transition to regular treatments with less regular weekly meetings for a few hours to sustain the recovery.

Many of these programs also involve some form of counseling or education while still supervising an individual’s medication use. A common type of outpatient program is the medication-assisted treatment used for opioid or heroin addiction using buprenorphine or methadone. These medications help to block and control the craving effects of opioids.

Inpatient Treatment Programs

If a client has severe issues with drug addiction, such as co-occurring disorders, residential treatment programs can help. These programs offer rehabilitative care in a residential facility with around-the-clock medical attention. Inpatient treatment programs focus on helping clients live a drug or alcohol-free life using different therapeutic approaches.

Clients can remain at the facility for about six to 12 months. The inpatient treatment facility staff helps clients change their behaviors, attitudes, and understanding of drug use. You also learn how to transition to independent life by connecting to support services and teaching how to manage finances.

Therapy and Counselling

Counseling and therapy sessions are also vital for people with substance use disorder. A client meets one-on-one with a therapist or counselor for at least three months. Below are some common types of therapy used in drug and alcohol addiction treatment.

Contingency Management

Through contingency management, clients learn to increase abstinence from drugs or alcohol. This treatment intervention seeks to replace the rewards you get from using drugs with other things. For instance, if a client submits negative drug screens, they are rewarded with points they can redeem for purchasing certain items or getting tickets to watch a movie.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

CBT is a common and effective treatment approach used in drug rehab centers for substance use disorders. Cognitive behavior therapy aims at changing your way of thinking and changing your previous behavioral patterns. It also focuses on problem-solving and adjusting faulty thinking patterns. You’ll also learn how to avoid using the substance you were addicted to.

Multidimensional Family Therapy

MDFT therapy sessions focus on teens and young clients with substance use disorder problems. It involves meeting a therapist with all your family members over a certain time period. These sessions help uncover existing family influences that lead to substance abuse and improve the family’s overall functioning.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational Enhancement Therapy involves short-term sessions where clients meet with a healthcare provider or therapist four times. The motivational talks positively affect people suffering from addiction, especially clients who have yet to decide on their personal goals.

Ongoing Care

After completing the formal treatment programs for drug or alcohol addiction, clients go through continuing care programs about recovery from SUD. Ongoing care is usually structured to suit the client’s needs and can include private therapy, sober living, self-help meetings, vocational-oriented services, and more. These programs focus on helping people cope with lifestyle changes.

Get Help Today

Drug or alcohol overdose is a complex disease with short-term and long-term consequences and can even lead to death in worse circumstances. Fortunately, you can seek assistance from drug rehab center in Utah, where they can administer the treatments and take you through therapy sessions to help you recover from drug and alcohol addiction. These rehab centers will also assist you in getting full recovery so that you can lead a productive life. If you or a friend has become addicted to using a certain drug or alcohol, seek help immediately to help kick start your recovery journey today.

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Reviewed By:

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis

Dr. John Elgin Wilkaitis completed medical school at The University of Mississippi Medical Center and residency in general psychiatry in 2003. He completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in 2005. Following this, he served as Chief Medical Officer for 10 years of Brentwood Behavioral Healthcare a private health system including a 105-bed hospital, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient services.

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