September is National Recovery Month, an event brought about to raise public awareness about mental health and substance abuse recovery. As a part of this observance, there are several things you could do to raise awareness and help those in your community who are suffering from substance use disorder.
Educate Yourself About Substance Use Disorder
Substance use disorder (SUD) is considered a chronic, relapsing disease in the medical community, as it is characterized by an emotional or physical dependance on an addictive substance. It’s important to classify this condition as a medical condition to eliminate the stigma present about addiction, which is detrimental to those suffering from it. SUD is also caused by factors such as environmental, biological, behavioral, and psychological conditions, so one individual may be more predisposed to it than others.
SUD can be psychological, physical, or both. Psychological substance abuse could present in habits of heavy use in an individual who makes excuses to use on frequent occasions. When a person progresses to physical addiction, their brain has been changed by the addictive disorder to impair impulse control and will power, as well as decision making in general.
Know the Signs: When to Get Help
Part of raising awareness is learning the signs of SUD so you can identify it in yourself or someone else. One indicator that it’s time to get help is if a person uses the substance more and for longer than intended.
Other signs would be having the inability to cut down on use; craving the substance; passing up family or social activities because of substance use; and continuing use even after it causes physical, psychological, or social problems in one’s life.
Some signs can be prominent in your life, like developing withdrawal symptoms, and others can be more subtle, such as developing a higher tolerance, causing you to need more and more of a substance over time.
This Recovery Month, Fight the Stigma
The public opinion about substance abuse has been negative since the 1970s, when drug use was referred to as “America’s Public Enemy,” contributing to a widespread campaign called the “War on Drugs.” According to the National Center for Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, policies from this era increased penalties for the possession and sale of drugs, which disproportionately affected low-income communities of color.
Other factors play into the stigma about SUD, including the idea that since a person initially chooses to consume drugs or alcohol, they are to blame for the addictive problems that can arise. According to the NCSACW: “Research shows that complex interactions of the body and mind—particularly when introduced and exacerbated by stress and trauma, inherited traits, adverse childhood experiences, and social environments—all combine to increase the likelihood of developing a chronic health condition—whether a SUD, obesity, or high blood pressure.”
To help mitigate this stigma, it’s important to avoid dehumanizing words like “addicts” or “alcoholics” when referring to people suffering from substance use disorder. It’s also helpful to refer to the condition with empathetic terms—instead of “addiction,” try to use the proper term “substance use disorder.” This reframes the condition to sound like what it is:a public health crisis rather than a moral deficiency.
Learn About Resources In Your Community
It’s important to know the resources available to you to spread awareness and help people in your community who may be suffering from SUD. The California Department of Health Services website lists a directory of resources for getting help for SUD victims, and the Narcotic Treatment Programs page here features a number of other resources for those dealing with narcotics abuse.
Get Involved in Local Programs
There are a number of organizations fighting SUD that need volunteers and donations. One of these is a national organization called ShatterProof.org, a non-profit on a mission to educate, raise awareness, and provide resources for people affected by SUD. Another organization you can check out is the Partnership to End Addiction, which lists ways to get involved by volunteering in your community as well as links to donate.
Happy Recovery Month! Hope is Here
No matter how you spread awareness this National Recovery Month, remember you are not alone in fighting addiction. If you need help for yourself or a loved one, place your confidential call to Hope By The Sea today to speak to our knowledgeable admissions team 24/7. Contact us today.