Addiction recovery is September focus for psychiatry department

Visit Dr. Debbie Dukes department any afternoon, and you’ll see a cross-section of Augusta’s population. And that, she said, is the real face of drug use.

“Substance abuse really does affect the population across the board,” said Dukes, who is the manager of inpatient clinical services for the department of psychiatry.

At MCGHealth, the psychiatric units are joining the voices for recovery during National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. In 9 North, the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry unit,, each morning a substance use presentation and intervention group is provided for teenagers. In 3 South Adult Psychiatry unit, afternoons include alcohol and other drug awareness groups and an introduction to Narcotics Anonymous group.

“Group process is one of the central pieces of recovery programs. The first step is to admit the problem and then talk to other people, so we try to get people comfortable with talking to other people,” Dukes said.

Dukes and her staff are on the forefront of the fight against drug use – a battle that has seen ups and downs over the past few years. Binge drinking has seen a drop, according to the Georgia Department of Human Resources Public Health Division. But the most commonly abused drug in the nation, marijuana, has seen an increase in use in Georgia over the last decade, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Estimates range as high as 25 percent of Georgia’s adults between the ages of 18 and 25 have smoked marijuana in the last year, according to figures from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“That’s important to note because we have so much more information available to us now about marijuana’s long-term effects,” Dukes said.

But it’s not just young adults who are affected. The number of older adults admitted to publicly funded substance abuse treatment programs has more than doubled since 1992, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research. In fact, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, approximately 45 percent of Americans know someone with a substance abuse problem.

“Join the Voices for Recovery” bulletin boards have been strategically placed. Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist Nikki Morris, has created a bulletin board for inpatient adults and visiting family members with specific substance abuse information and resources.  For parents, older siblings and other family members who visit on the child/adolescent unit, Certified Special Education Teacher Nicole Baker has highlighted services for children, teens, and families.

“We try every month to provide information that will give specific information. This month we targeted how parents can recognize the signs of substance abuse. It’s just a variety of information to try to get the process of recovery started,” Dukes said. But there are steps a person can take on his or her own to reduce stress and the accompanying reliance on substances to assist in dealing with that stress:

  • Simplify your life – figure out which activities are really important to your life and mange the time you have allotted to them wisely.
  • Learn to say ‘no” to activities that are not necessary.
  • Be prepared – anticipate challenges that may arise at work or with your immediate family, learn to delegate, and, if necessary, allot extra time for projects so they are manageable and not overwhelming.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle – exercise regularly to reduce tension and eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to increase energy and keep stress under control.
  • Keep open communication – let others know when you have trouble and ask for assistance.

Find more assistance through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 24-hour free confidential national help line at 800-662-HELP, or visit


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