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50th Anniversary

A birthday cupcake

Addiction can take people to some pretty dark and hopeless places, but for 50 years, The Palm Beach Institute (PBI) has served as a beacon of light and hope to those who want to leave substance abuse behind. The South Florida facility was among the first to welcome people who needed rehabilitation at a time when substance use and addiction were not fully understood or treated as the health issues that they are.

PBI was founded in 1970 in West Palm Beach, Florida, establishing itself as the first private drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in the state. It has helped more than 12,000 adults recover from drug and alcohol addiction since opening its doors.

The institute saw a need to treat substance use disorders long before there were thousands of facilities to do so. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that more than 14,500 treatment centers in the U.S. offer specialized services for addiction recovery. 

Today, people can get the counseling, behavioral therapy, medication, and case management they need to help them overcome this disease. But this wasn’t always the case.

A Look Back

In the decade before PBI’s inception, the turbulent 1960s, the use of illicit substances was in full swing. However, observers have said that data indicates substance use was not as widespread as believed.

Still, drug use in that decade signaled that attitudes toward illicit substances were shifting, and it appeared that people were more open to trying substances and more open about their willingness or decision to do so. Young people were urged to “turn on, tune in, drop out,” and use of marijuana and the mind-bending substance LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) became popular recreational drugs. 

Heroin also was a drug of choice for some users. According to one source, heroin addiction among youths was a problem by the end of the 1960s. It reports that more than 900 fatalities happened as a result of drug use, primarily heroin in New York City in 1969.

Drug use was pervasive enough to have people’s attention. Also, in 1969, a year before PBI opened its doors, Gallup surveyed Americans’ views on illegal drug use and learned that 48 percent saw drug use as a serious problem in their communities.

By the 1970s, the allure of drugs was hard to ignore; many flocked to them and indulged. According to Gallup, the number of people who tried illegal drugs increased in the ʼ70s. A 1973 poll revealed that 12 percent of respondents reported trying marijuana; that figure doubled by 1977. 

More than a few people knew marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and alcohol, among other substances, could get them high. But many more were not aware of how those highs would eventually trap them into a life of addiction.

Powerful drugs were not only being used at home but abroad as well. Heroin addiction had a pull on so many U.S. soldiers serving in the Vietnam War that a 1971 New York Times article described use of the drug as reaching epidemic proportions. There also were concerns about how addicted soldiers would affect the nation and society at large once they returned home.

Even then, however, there was support for using rehabilitation to address substance addiction.

“A key reason that many think the military should concentrate on rehabilitation is the view that it is easier to get a soldier off the habit here [Vietnam] than after he returns home as an addict, even though the strength of the heroin here is far greater,” the article says.

The War on Drugs of the 1970s

While PBI started a place for people to recover from addiction, the outside world was moving in another direction. President Nixon declared illicit drugs to be “Public Enemy No. 1,” and his administration launched the War on Drugs in June 1971, a year after PBI opened. 

The effort ushered in stiffer penalties, law enforcement measures, and jail or prison time for offenses. The War on Drugs only grew under President Reagan, who took office in 1981, leading to more incarcerations for nonviolent drug offenses. 

The hard-line, zero-tolerance stance on illicit drug use likely furthered stigma against people who were grappling with substance abuse and needed a place to turn to for help. At the time, addiction wasn’t viewed as a brain disease. Instead, it was viewed as a moral failing or a sign of weakness or lack of willpower. 

Despite the negative perceptions of substance addiction, PBI worked tirelessly over the years to raise the standard of addiction treatment. The goal was to help people from all walks of life, no matter where they were in their journey of battling substance abuse. 

The approach to treating addiction has changed and improved. Modern-day treatments are based on scientific research and evidence-based practices, and clinicians are knowledgeable about the medical condition that addiction is and approach it from that perspective.

There has been more emphasis on treating the individual with therapies that meet their specific needs, even as they evolve, and PBI practices this as well. Throughout the decades, PBI has focused on treating the whole person, not just the symptoms of addiction. Each client is treated as an individual with unique challenges and specific needs. 

With years of experience in this industry, we know what evidence-based approaches are needed to help the person in the best way possible that works for them.

PBI Today 

PBI is still serving clients and remains fully committed to helping people overcome their struggles with substance abuse and addiction, just as it aimed to do back in 1971.

Our clients can access a full continuum of care, which means they can expect a seamless experience between levels of care, such as moving from medical detoxification to inpatient care. Even after our clients graduate from treatment, we’re still here to help. Our alumni program provides a network of resources and support.

The facility’s multidisciplinary team works together to deliver quality programming that addresses each person’s needs. Patients receive a high standard of care across treatment modalities, including medical treatment, psychiatric care, experiential therapy, psychotherapy, nutritional guidance, and aftercare. 

Our goal is to make a difference in people’s lives every day. Our distinguished service sets PBI apart, and we pride ourselves on the compassion and solid qualifications that our clinical staff and management teams have. 

The toll of substance abuse on society and humanity has increasingly come into view. The situation is dire and has become impossible to ignore. Opioid-related overdose deaths continue to claim lives, with many of those involving the deadly drug fentanyl. Other addictive substances, such as methamphetamine, are on the radar, too, as seizures of that illicit drug have increased.

We are here waiting to help people heal from addiction. We’ve done it for 50 years, and we’re looking forward to doing it for 50 more and beyond. 

Author

Elysia Richardson

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