October – National Substance Abuse Prevention Month
There’s a sense of change in the air whenever October rolls around. It’s time to turn the page on one season and look forward to the next. That’s why it’s so fitting that President Trump has declared October 2020 as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. The country is renewing its efforts to break the grip of substance abuse, save lives, and create a stronger and healthier country.
There is a renewed commitment to help those who struggle with substance use disorder (SUD). We lose more lives to SUD than any other preventable condition. A study by the National Institute of Health, and paid for by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), found that about 10 percent of U.S. adults have had a drug use disorder at some time in their lives.
According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), there have been 700,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States since 2000. By April of this year, poison centers in the U.S. handled a staggering 18,354 opioid exposure cases. Most of these cases came from California, Delaware, Texas, and Florida.
The Connection Between Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health
Many studies show that people with mental health problems will also experience SUD. Researchers have found that 43 percent of people in treatment for SUD are diagnosed with mental health disorders. It’s not just adults. Over 60 percent of adolescents treated for SUD have some form of mental illness. Co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis is not uncommon. Although one condition doesn’t cause the other, SUD and mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety tend to go hand in hand.
The Added Pressures of Covid-19
It’s tough enough to struggle with substance use during normal times, but this global pandemic has only exacerbated people’s daily obstacles. For people who smoke or vape, use opioids, or have SUD, the respiratory system is already compromised. Opioid use can cause slow and ineffective breathing, resulting in a drop in blood oxygen levels. That means those who contract coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are much more susceptible to infection and other serious complications.
As we navigate two concurrent epidemics, people with substance use disorder may experience an increase in stigmatization. Additionally, the social isolation so critical in preventing Covid-19 prevents people from reaching out to vital resources. The lack of social, emotional, and spiritual support may lead many people to relapse or fall deeper into addiction.
A Silver Lining
It’s times like these that positive opportunities arise: a restructuring of technology, a rethinking of healthcare and government programs, a rebuilding of lost friendships, a renewing appreciation of the outdoors, and other simple pleasures. It’s during dark times that positive changes occur.
Opioid Treatment Modalities
Although there are several treatment methods for those suffering from substance abuse, at Waismann Method®, we believe the best programs provide both medically-assisted detox in a hospital and recovery care. Specifically, treatment facilities that seamlessly transition from one to the next.
First, let’s get clear about what it means to struggle with substance use and understand the terminology:
- addiction is a behavioral phenomenon
- dependence is physical, meaning your body physically needs the drug to function and not feel sick
An individual will start taking opioids to lessen some physical or emotional pain or both. Many people may not know this, but a person can become physically dependent on opioids in as little as two to three weeks. That means, after using opioids in that short amount of time, if a person suddenly decides to stop taking the drug, they will likely go into withdrawal.
Opioid Use Disorder – Three Stages of Progression
The first stage is dependence. The body needs a specific amount of the drug in order to prevent the sickness of withdrawal symptoms.
The second stage is tolerance. After continued opioid use, the opioid receptors adapt and no longer react to the same amount of the drug. So, the individual needs to increase their drug usage to get the same effects as they originally did. The sad part of this progression is that they often experience guilt and shame for needing the drug, but they don’t know what else to do. For that reason, the cycle progresses.
The third stage is addiction. Addiction is a behavioral condition often caused by pre-existing untreated issues. It usually occurs when dependence is left untreated. In this stage, a person will do just about anything to get and use the drug, regardless of the negative consequences.
One of the most significant roadblocks patients face when seeking substance abuse treatment is the fear of suffering through withdrawal symptoms. The concern is valid because depending on the level, length, and type of substance used, withdrawal symptoms can be excruciating and lead to serious medical complications. Another valid fear is to manage the intense cravings once sober. Cravings can last for a very long time due to the brain’s specific changes that occurred during substance abuse. The good news is that medical science evolved so that medical detox can help both these issues.
Medically Assisted Detox
Medically assisted detox allows physicians to treat individuals in a hospital, see them safely through the withdrawal, and complete the detoxification while managing their symptoms. Because human beings are complex and have different health needs. It is wise to undergo a comprehensive medical evaluation to determine their health condition and which treatment plan provides the safest and most comfortable detoxification. Medical detoxification aims to create a fresh start by clearing the brain and body of any substances.
When detoxification occurs in a hospital setting, medical specialists are there to help individuals not only with their detox but with any other unexpected event that may come up. Hopefully, they will not need that high level of support, but in case they do, it is nice to know it is readily available.
The most effective treatment centers provide both medically-assisted detox programs and recovery treatment with a seamless transition from one to the next. They provide this treatment without judgment or any pre-set protocols. Having expert professional medical and mental health support through such a fragile period is crucial to achieving a safe and complete recovery.
Education Is Key
It is important to educate the public to fight the stigma those who struggle with substance use may feel. In the last decade, substance use disorder has affected every corner of society, either directly or indirectly. Although medical students in the U.S. received exposure to substance abuse education topics, training in the field was rare.
All that is changing. According to Kelly Thibert, the American Medical Student Association president, medical students understand the importance of SUD education. For that reason, they started to conduct their own training rather than wait for their curriculum to change.
Help From the White House
President Trump promised to win the critical battle against opioid misuse. “It has been my priority and promises to win the critical battle against opioid misuse.” A law enacted, Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, expands access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services. This SUPPORT Act is the single largest commitment to combating the drug crisis in our nation’s history.
“There is no miracle, single, overnight treatment, drug, or solution for all. But there are complex human beings that need to be seen and viewed beyond their condition.”
~ Clare Waismann – Waismann Method®
This October, we remember all those who lost their lives to SUD and their loved ones. We are grateful that the president and his Cabinet recognize those who struggle with substance use and the need, not just for more, but better SUD education, prevention, and treatment. We also understand that mental health care needs to be an integral part of this effort.
By recognizing the importance of treating SUD and mental health disorders’ co-occurring conditions, we can offer better treatment and an end to stigmatization.
Through continued education, proven treatments, and the support of the government’s efforts at combating substance misuse, we can save tens of thousands of lives each year. We renew our commitment to create a healthier nation and break the cycle of substance abuse once and for all.