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Individuals struggling with mental health oftentimes face substance abuse

By Christian Torres | Wichita Kansas


According to a data set published by the Substance Abuse Treatment, 19,122 people entered rehab for both alcohol and drug abuse in Kansas. From this alarming number, 67.3% were males and 32.7% were females.

In the last 14 years, less people are being admitted into rehab center for alcohol substance abuse and there’s been an increase in individuals struggling with cocaine and marijuana.

Some of the most commonly abuse drugs in Kansas include marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, and prescription drugs.

Substance abuse is a struggle many people experience. Such was the case of Joe Gonzalez.

Picture By Maria Eduarda Loura Magalhães

“I started struggling with substance abuse since my teen years,” said Gonzalez. “I think I was about 14 or 15-years-old when I first tried weed at a high school party.”

Individuals like Gonzalez, oftentimes experiment with substances like alcohol, weed, cocaine and others, at an early age because of situations like family, school, lack of confidence etc., and quickly get hooked on them, which leads to being dependent on these substances.

“Looking back, I definitely feel that I would smoke weed in my teens because I was struggling with my mental health,” said Gonzalez. “I felt so stressed with school and family drama at that time, that smoking weed became my getaway.”

A few years after Gonzalez first experimented with weed, he then transitioned to using cocaine on the weekends with his friends. He would struggle with drugs until his early 20s.

“At first, I liked the high I got from smoking weed, I felt relaxed from school and family problems, which made me really liked it – but after a few months I needed to smoke more to feel high, which is when I tried cocaine for the first time,” said Gonzalez.

It is common for individuals like Gonzalez to start with a gateway drug and transition into other substances. Unfortunately, the more drugs a person experiments with, the more they’ll consume to find that high they much desire.

“I would do cocaine on the weekends with my friends and would usually smoke a blunt each day throughout the week,” said Gonzalez. “If it wasn’t because cocaine is so expensive, I probably would have done it more often.”

In his early 20s, Gonzalez found himself in deep credit card debt and struggling to make ends meets. He would spend much of his money on drugs like weed and cocaine that he would avoid certain financial responsibilities.

Money is huge factor when it comes to substance abuse. Many individuals who struggle with drug use, oftentimes find themselves with money problems. Like Gonzalez, numerous people will go in debt to sustain their addictions.

“I was 22-years-old when I decided to turn my life around and seek help,” said Gonzalez. “I became tired of depending on drugs for happiness and relaxation because I knew if I kept this up, I was not going to make it very far.”

When Gonzalez was 22 years old, he moved to Jalisco, Mexico, for six months to spend time with his family and attend classes at a local rehab center.

Gonzales, now 25, is a recovered addict who is optimistic of the future and urges people who are battling with substance abuse to seek help and remember that things do get better.

One of the places offering support on mental health including substance abuse is COMCARE of Sedgwick County.

This facility focuses on helping individuals with mental health and substance abuse needs and improving their lives. COMCARE has been in the Wichita, Ks area since January 1962 and has helped many individuals positively change their lives.

COMCARE is the largest of the 27 Community Mental Health Center in Kansas and provides Sedgwick County residents a wide range of mental health and substance abuse services.

Since being founded in 1962, COMCARE has become a safety net for individuals in need of mental health services and serves over 19,000 individuals in the community with the help of various community partners.

Rena Cole is the Program Manager of Addiction Treatment Services for COMCARE of Sedgwick County and has been with the facility for 26 years.

“As part of my undergraduate program, I was required to complete a practicum which I completed at St. John’s Substance Abuse Inpatient Facility in Salina,” said Cole. “It was during that practicum that I knew I wanted to spend my career working with individuals with Substance Use Disorders.”

Some of the programs offered by COMCARE include adult medical services, community support services, community crisis center, additional treatment services among others. Programs are also available in Spanish for individuals in the Hispanic community.

Cole wants to remind people struggling with substance abuse that help is available, and recovery is possible.

“There are many roads to recovery, and you just need to reach out and start the journey,” said Cole. “There might be potholes and forks in the road along the way, but the destination of recovery is attainable.

Here are several organizations in the Wichita area available to help individuals with mental health and substance abuse.

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