Quiet No More: Substance Abuse Awareness and Reversing the Silence

 In Ocean Mental Health Services

Did you know that the largest number of drug overdoses were recorded in 2020? More than 93,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses. Given this staggering number, it is crucial that we raise substance abuse awareness.

What is Substance Use Disorder?

Substance Use Disorder is a complex condition where a person has an uncontrolled use of substances despite experiencing harmful consequences.  When a person is addicted, their ability to perform day-to-day functions becomes impaired.  Individuals struggling with a substance use disorder may have distorted thinking and behaviors.  

Additionally, changes in the brain’s structure and function are what cause people to have intense cravings, changes in personality, abnormal movements, and other behaviors. Brain imaging studies reveal that repeated substance use can cause changes in how the brain functions.  When someone has a substance use disorder, they usually build up a tolerance to the substance, meaning they need larger amounts to feel the effects.

substance abuse and anxiety disorders

What Are The Symptoms?

Symptoms of substance use disorder are grouped into four categories:

  • Impaired Control: a craving or strong urge to use the substance; desire or failed attempts to cut down or control substance use
  • Social Problems: substance use causes failure to complete major tasks at work, school, or home; social, work, or leisure activities are given up or cut back because of substance use
  • Risky Use: substance is used in risky settings; continued use despite known problems
  • Drug Effects: tolerance (need for larger amounts to get the same effect); withdrawal symptoms (different for each substance)

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, there is hope.  Breaking the silence is the first step to recovery and raising substance abuse awareness. 

How Do You Treat Substance Abuse?

There are several different options when treating a substance abuse disorder.  Depending on the level of need an individual is presenting, a medical professional can help determine which treatment would be most beneficial.  Treatment options include:

  • Medical withdrawal management (detoxification)
  • Therapeutic communities (highly controlled, drug-free environments) or sober houses
  • Outpatient medication management and psychotherapy
  • Intensive outpatient programs
  • Residential treatment (“rehab”)
  • Mutual-aid groups (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, SMART Recovery)
  • Self-help groups that include family members (Al-Anon or Nar-Anon Family Groups)

One effective, evidence-based model of treating substance abuse and anxiety disorders is Medication-assisted treatment (MAT).  MAT is the use of medications, in combination with therapeutic services, to provide a treatment that approaches the person as a whole. 

 Research shows that a combination of medication and therapy can successfully treat substance abuse disorders, and for some people struggling with addiction, MAT can help sustain recovery. MAT is also used to prevent or reduce opioid overdose. 

MAT is primarily used for the treatment of addiction to opioids such as heroin and prescription pain relievers that contain opiates. The prescribed medication operates in several ways to normalize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids, relieve physiological cravings, and normalize body functions without the negative and euphoric effects of the substance used.

Reverse The Silence

Many organizations around the country are joining the fight to raise substance abuse awareness. One such organization is the NFL, who are celebrating their 102nd season this year. 

Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller has created the Reverse the Silence campaign to raise awareness of opioid overdoses.

Waller, 28, was drafted in 2015.  Soon after, he began failing drug tests.  Waller explained in an interview with ESPN that he began to use drugs and alcohol in Middle School to “soothe anxiety and depression”. In August 2017, Waller overdosed in his Jeep while his team was having their first preseason game without him.  Waller was on yearlong suspension due to his second violation of the substance abuse policy. 

The next steps in Waller’s journey were taken towards recovery. Waller entered treatment to address substance abuse and anxiety disorders in addition to depression. He is now sober and dedicating his time off the football field to raising awareness of the disease of addiction.  Waller explained:

 “Reverse the Silence means no longer remaining quiet and allowing others to dictate the narrative for those of us who are living with addiction or are on the journey to recovery”. 

substance abuse awareness month

Are You Ready to Raise Substance Abuse Awareness?

Opioid abuse and overdoses are on the rise throughout the US even in our own towns.  In 2020, Ocean County had 245 suspected overdose deaths, 891 Narcan administrations, and 324,530 opioid prescriptions dispensed.  That places Ocean County in the top 3 of New Jersey overdose deaths. 

However, there is hope. Join Bright Harbor Healthcare in breaking the silence. If you or a loved one is struggling, our team of compassionate professionals is here to bring you relief. Whether you need detox services as a result of substance abuse or primary care services, our staff strives to build a better tomorrow for you and your family. Start building your bright future by contacting our team today. Don’t forget to do your part in reversing the silence too! Hop on social media and use the hashtags #ReverseTheSilence and #HelpStopOverdoses.

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