April is Substance Abuse Awareness Month

By Jason Martin LCPC, CPRP, NCC, ACS

This April is Substance Abuse Awareness Month. The current COVID-19 crisis, with its anxiety-inducing headlines and fear of the unknown, is especially difficult for individuals using substances or recovering addicts. These situations can put recovering addicts at risk for relapse, or users at risk for an overdose. Now more than ever, we want to use this national awareness month as a rally point to educate the community about resources available for individuals struggling with substance use.

Seek Professional Services

There are a number of services available in your communities. If you, or someone you love, have a substance use problem and are ready to seek help, the first step is to partner with your healthcare provider to determine the appropriate level of care. For moderate users, outpatient community-based services may help you break free from addiction. For more dependent users, a more intensive, hospital-based treatment option may be more effective. Depending on what substances an addict is using, there are medications that can help alleviate the withdrawal symptoms and help with recovery. While medications are not for everyone, they are an option that may save someone’s life. Your doctor can refer you to the appropriate level of care that will help you break the cycle of addiction.

Lean On Me

You remember the song, “Lean on me, when you’re not strong…”? Its message is one that I encourage recovering addicts to take to heart: after you have done the hard work of becoming substance-free, find a stable, trustworthy person (or peer support groups!) to lean on. Peer support will be very helpful in your recovery process. Peers have been through similar situations and can often speak directly to the heart of the matter since they have their own lived experience. Groups like Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, or Smart Recovery can be a lifeline for people throughout their recovery journey. An important aspect of recovery to remember is that this is a journey, not a destination. For some who struggle with addiction, relapse is part of the journey. It is important for someone working out their recovery to have people support them even when they relapse in their addiction.

COVID-19 Crisis

The world has changed significantly since COVID-19 became a global crisis. This level of increased anxiety and uncertainty can threaten the progress of even the most dedicated recovering addicts. Now more than ever, you need support. Reach out to your AA/NA groups and share your emotions with this trusted circle. Be open about your needs so that people know how to support you. Always remember that you are not alone. In light of social distancing, many support groups have started to use ZOOM or other web-based software to continue to meet. This format may be a bit different than the traditional 12 step group, however it may be helpful for those struggling or those who just need extra support during this difficult time.

At the same time, if your loved one is struggling with substance abuse, now more than ever, please reach out to them often and be as supportive as possible during this difficult time. Be open and honest about your concern for them. And remind them that your encouragement to seek treatment and support comes from a place of love and care. The more supportive you can be during this difficult time, the better the outcome may be for your loved one.

Jason Martin, LCPC, CPRP, NCC, ACS is the Director of Addiction Services for Sheppard Pratt.

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