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Alaska: An Illicit Drug Use and Alcoholism Epidemic

Alaska isn’t just isolated from the rest of the United States, the Alaskan population is mostly isolated from each other. Alaska only has a couple of centralized areas that are home to a majority of the Alaskan population, like Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. The rest of Alaska is extremely rural, making access to anything— let alone health care or addiction treatment. Alaska has many rural communities, which means that medical help can only be reached through an airplane ride or snowmobile—when the weather allows for it. Because medical care is scarcely available, treatment for alcohol and substance use disorder is often not an option.

The most commonly abused substances in Alaska are alcohol, heroin, methamphetamine, prescription drugs, cocaine, and marijuana. In violent crimes and sexual assault cases, alcohol and drug abuse is the greatest contributing factor according to the Annual Drug Report in 2014, issued by Alaska State Troopers’ Alaska Bureau of Investigation.

Illicit drug use and alcoholism are a massive problem in Alaska. Alaska is one of the top ten states nationwide that have the highest rates of illicit drug use. Alaska is also a national leader in the per capita alcohol consumption statistics, with rates of alcoholism that greatly exceed the national average. In fact, the percentage of binge drinkers in Alaska is 38% of Alaskan men and 13% of Alaskan women. These numbers are insanely high, as they represent over half of the Alaskan population has been binge drinking just over the past month. Almost 9% of Alaskans require intense substance abuse rehabilitation treatment for addiction, however they did not receive it. The need for addiction treatment among Alaskans show among the state’s overdose rate.

Alaska is home to many Alaskan natives and tribal communities. Within these tribal communities, alcohol and substance use disorder is staggeringly high. Many Native Alaskans avoid addiction treatment because of the lack of integrating tribal customs and values into treatment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that deaths suffered by Native Americans and Alaskan Natives was at a rate of three times as much as the general American population. Substance abuse issues represented about 75% of suicides among Alaskan Natives. The lack of accessibility is a major barrier that keeps Native Alaskans and rurally-located Alaskans from receiving addiction treatment.

The sheer lack of availability of healthcare or treatment increases the risk of untreated alcohol and substance use disorder. Treatment programs remain scarce in Alaska, and those with untreated and undiagnosed alcohol or substance use disorder will continue their problem drinking and using. This is a sad fact of a state with a large population of illicit drug users and alcoholics. Those who have a problem with alcohol and are engaging in heavy drinking are much more likely to develop health problems, like liver disease.

Alcohol addiction is unfortunately extremely common among people living in Alaska. Efforts to cut down alcohol availability in Alaskan communities have actually sparked illegal bootlegging— often encouraging Alaskans to resell a $10 bottle of liquor for around $300 in dry communities. Efforts like these are only short term solutions for a long term problem. Treatment options in Alaska are limited, which is why Alaskans with an alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder should seek treatment outside the state of Alaska.

Royal Life Centers Detox provides medical detoxification services to safely remove substances from the body. We focus on our guests’ safety and comfort during the detox process. Upon entering our facility, each guest will undergo a clinical evaluation, where their symptoms of withdrawal will be assessed along with the presence of any co-occuring disorders. Royal Life Centers Detox addresses withdrawal symptoms with medication and behavioral therapies. Our medical detox center is the first step in the recovery process. We offer support groups and various therapies to address addiction. Our intensive therapy delves into the root cause of why our guests abused alcohol or substances to begin with.

Following our detox, we recommend our 2-week residential inpatient program. Royal Life Centers also offers other treatment options, including: a partial hospitalization program (PHP), an intensive outpatient program (IOP), an outpatient program (OP), sober living and graduate housing. Our treatment centers admit people from all over the United States, including Alaska. For a list of our locations, please follow this link. If you would like to know more about our services and the admission process, please call us at (877)-RECOVERY or (888) 559-5109.

If you are struggling with an addiction and you need help to stop drinking or using drugs, please reach out to our addiction specialists at (877)-RECOVERY or (888) 559-5109.

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health. Healthy Alaskans 2010: Targets and Strategies for Improved Health. Volume I: Targets for Improved Health. Nov. 2005. Available at:

Chomicz, Dorothy. “Alaska Among Top States in Illicit Drug Use.” Daily News-Miner, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 3 Mar. 2015,

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