National Substance Abuse Prevention Month

In 2011, former President Obama issued the first-ever Presidential Proclamation designating October as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. This is meant to be a month to raise awareness of the various health effects substance abuse causes the individual, families, and communities. It is also a time to remember those who lost their lives to substance abuse, recognize those in recovery, and those who are continuing to support them. When someone battles with any type of addiction, it can wreak havoc on their lives and everyone around them. We need to try to understand the struggles and help get anyone not already in recovery, to find their way to the road to recovery.

Studies have indicated individuals who start smoking, drinking, or using other drugs have a greater likelihood of addiction. Unfortunately, those who began using addictive substances before they were 15 years old are about seven times more likely to develop a substance abuse problem than those that delay their first use until at least 21 years old or older. Each year substance abuse is delayed during their adolescent brain development, and their risk of addiction and substance abuse decreases.

The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics suggests slightly more than 60% of Americans have abused a type of drug during the past month. This includes illegal and pharmaceutical drugs but also includes tobacco and alcohol. Pew Research Center, which is an indirect viewpoint has reported that 46% of American adults have a close relationship with someone who is or has suffered from addiction, some may not even know someone they are close to is dealing with an addiction. It is sad and unfortunate, but this is a common and VERY real problem in the United States.

As I have already mentioned, substance abuse tends to start with the youth and younger adults. Over 12.5% of our adolescent population has used illegal substances during the past year. It is crucial to help the youth understand the importance of avoiding drugs, as this can prevent them from further issues when they are adults.

Substance abuse is a known issue in the world, but in the United States statistics show that you or someone you care about has fallen victim to the addiction epidemic. Addiction can be a dark and lonely place for the person suffering from the addiction and in turn be painful for their family. This can cause many to feel powerless to discover a resolution and treatment.

Sadly, there have been countless celebrities and musicians the youth view as role models that fell into the addiction trap and lost their lives because of their addiction. Highly successful individuals such as Chester Bennington from Linkin Park and Chris Cornell from SouthGarden and Audioslave are just a couple of examples. So many become addicted to various types of drugs because they are self-medicating due to mental health issues, previous traumas they want to forget, negative home environments, or various other stressors.

The number of overdose deaths continues to increase each year. The CDC estimated in 2021, more than 107,000 died from a drug overdose, with 75% of these deaths involving opioids. Sadly, the number of overdose deaths increased to 109,000 as of March 2022. The vast majority of these deaths were due to synthetic opioids, which include fentanyl and stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine.

It is important to keep yourself educated on the signs of addiction. Understanding signs can help you to identify the behaviors and help the person suffering from addiction sooner rather than later when it may be too late.

Behavioral Symptoms:

*Increased aggression or irritability

*Changes in attitude or personality

*Lethargy

*Depression

*Abnormal messages on social media

*Drastic changes in habits and or priorities

*Criminal activity

Physical Symptoms:

*Bloodshot or glazed eyes

*Dilated or constricted pupils

*Abrupt weight changes

*Sleeping too much or too little

*Poor physical coordination

*Unusual body odor

*Appearing untidy

Communicating with someone that is battling addiction can be complicated. Of course, each person is unique and may need different strategies than those that I am sharing with you. Regardless of the way you discuss the issue, all people need love, support, and compassion. The following are some strategies that you may find helpful. 

Always Be Kind:

Be advised there is already a negative stigma engulfing our society regarding addiction. This causes people to be criticized, insulted, belittled and rejected. Although you may have accepted the person’s addiction struggles and disapprove of their behavior, you can slowly begin building a bridge to forgiveness and the person’s recovery. 

Carefully choose your words:

Understanding language matters and we cannot erase words that are spoken. Remember to communicate as respectfully as possible. It is crucial to evade using language that encourages harmful cliches. Refrain from words such as addict or junkie because the person’s addiction does not define who they are as a whole. These names are dehumanizing and not helpful!

Educate yourself:

Society tends to blame people for their addiction like it is a moral failure. Be sure to understand before speaking to your loved one that addiction is a disorder and not a failure. The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes addiction as an inability to stop using drugs, failing to work, or failing family obligations. Currently, people working in the medical community refer to addiction as a substance abuse disorder. Even if you disagree with this, it is important you do not let the person you are trying to help know because it will not help the person recover. 

Talk Less, Listen More:

An important part of communicating is listening to what the person is saying to you. When someone struggling with addiction confides in you, try to simply listen without interrupting or criticizing. You may disagree with what the person is saying, but it is VERY important to withhold your judgments. Remember to continue speaking to them as if they do not have an addiction. The person suffering from addiction is still the same person they were before the addiction took hold of them and they have the same likes, dislikes, and hobbies. 

Set Boundaries: 

Communicate through actions and words. Keep your message consistent so your loved one does not misunderstand. Communicating with someone with an addiction is NOT easy, especially if you have a history of supporting their behaviors. Letting the person know how they hurt you may help to motivate their recovery. 

Believe the person:

If your friend or loved one decides to talk to you about their addiction, do not disagree with what they are saying. Your perspective about addiction is NOT the reality of their experience. Trust, they know what is happening because it is their body going through the addiction. Respect how they are feeling and what it has been like for them. Do not make excuses and enable their behavior, because they are responsible for their addiction. Even with this say, you can still support their recovery.

You cannot control the recovery:

Naturally, you want to help the person you care about with their addiction, but you cannot control how they do it. As long as they are not a harm to themselves or anyone else, all you can do is respect their ways to make positive changes. Instead of dictating how they get help, ask them how you can help them!

This post ended up being a little longer than I expected, so I am going to do another post that describes the negative effects drugs can do to a person’s body. Too many people around the world have fallen victim to addiction and others lost their lives due to their addiction. I might be wrong, but I think there is something more the government can do about this problem, but most are in the pocket for the pharmaceutical companies.

Thank you for visiting my site today. If you or someone you care about are struggling with an addiction, I hope the information in this post will help. Please understand, I am not a medical professional and the information provided was all based on my research on the subject. If you have any other suggestions, please let us know as I am sure it will be helpful. I look forward to reading your comments and will respond as quickly as possible. Please never forget that I am always sending y’all LOTS of love, comfort, support, and MANY positive vibes!

Always, Alyssa

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