As rates of alcoholism and drug addiction in rural areas are on the rise, rural adults who are in need of help face unique challenges due to their location and environment. Between small-town gossip and distance to and from the nearest treatment center, many rural adults who are suffering from a substance use disorder may neglect to seek the treatment that they so desperately need.
Fortunately, we are living in the digital age where science, counseling, and technology are frequently coming together to provide unique services to people who would not normally have access to them. When it comes to addiction treatment, online counseling can help rural adults overcome the obstacles that may be stopping them from receiving treatment.
Facing Addiction in a Rural Town
Before I made the decision to get help, I worked immensely hard to keep my addiction and progressing alcoholism a secret. I was afraid of the gossip that ran rampant in the town, I was afraid that I would lose my job, and I was afraid of having to relocate and start my life over because there wasn’t a treatment center that specialized in addiction anywhere near me. For me, when I’m in active addiction, I am propelled by fear and fear alone. It didn’t matter how badly I wanted the help, I was afraid of what would come if I got it.
I was an honor roll student who was known for sports and extracurricular activities. I did these things to hide behind the mask of my true self – a girl who was depressed and tightly bound by the chains of drug and alcohol addiction. I became a slave to my own mind because fear stopped me from reaching out for help. This fear led me to wait four more agonizing years until I finally burned all my bridges and could no longer keep my habit a secret. In the end, everybody found out about my deadly habit. I lost several jobs and even caught some legal charges. It took all of these things, that I continue to deal with today, in order for me to seek treatment. In the end, I did have to relocate, and when I did, the first bed that came available was over 1,500 miles away in south Florida.
Lack of Resources
Since alcoholism is continuing to rise among rural adults, I know I was not alone in this struggle. With socioeconomic disadvantages, lack of public transportation, and lack of treatment resources being available in rural areas, it is no wonder that many who suffer from alcoholism and addiction are being left untreated.
In states where populations are primarily rural, treatment and detox for substance use disorders are vastly limited. Nearly 82% of rural residents live in areas that do not have detox facilities in the county, forcing them to drive considerable distances to undergo detox. In addition, the farther a person has to commute to seek treatment, the less likely they are to complete such treatment and maintain their sobriety in the long run. Lastly, there is a lack of physicians who are certified to prescribe anti-addiction medications, like buprenorphine, in rural areas as opposed to the inner city.
The Rural Health Information Hub explains that common factors preventing people from seeking treatment include having to travel far distances to get substance abuse treatment, the sparsity of behavioral health resources, and the fear of privacy issues that frequently arise as a result of word of mouth in small towns. Due to the lack of resources and fear of privacy that people in rural areas are exposed to, many people with alcoholism or addiction are left to suffer in silence.
How Online Counseling Can Help
Online counseling provides a way for people who live in an area that is lacking in treatment resources to work one on one with a counselor to get the help that they need. Addiction is formally classified as a disease, however, treatment for addiction is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Some suffer from co-occurring mental health conditions, like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Some are trauma survivors who have specific needs. Every case is different and unique, so it must be treated appropriately.
When a person seeks help for their addiction, it is important that they work one on one with a counselor to devise an individualized treatment plan. Since these needs may be so specific, there is likely a lack of resources available in small towns to meet certain individuals needs. For this reason, online counseling can be a way for individuals who are suffering to match with a counselor qualified to help them and receive the specialized care that they need without having to uproot their lives or travel thousands of miles away from home.
In the age of digital progress, people use the internet for everything, including when searching for drug and alcohol treatment resources. Neither the internet or addiction treatment are going anywhere any time soon, so it only makes sense to integrate these services to help those in need. By extending online counseling to those who are facing a lack of treatment resources, lives can be saved and people can begin to recover.