September is National Recovery Month. It’s important to place the spotlight on those who have struggled with addiction and continue to flourish in recovery from this disease.
National Recovery Month is a nationwide observance and public awareness campaign to educate Americans about substance abuse and mental health treatment that happens every September, since 1989.
The theme of National Recovery Month 2020 is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Celebrating Connections.”
While celebrating the victories of people who now live free from drug or alcohol addiction, National Recovery Month aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental health disorders and substance abuse issues.
This effort is key because shame and guilt are two of the biggest barriers to treatment for those who need it the most. Unfortunately, too many of our friends, and neighbors continue to struggle with addiction.
Who is Most At Risk for Addiction?
In truth, anyone can fall prey to the stages of addiction. Though experts believe genetics, family history and environment are factors, that doesn’t mean that a healthy person can’t develop a substance use disorder at any point in their life.
Alcohol and drugs, including some prescription medications like opioid painkillers, benzodiazepines and others, alter the brain’s chemistry in a way that can make quitting hard.
“In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will,” reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
An estimated 20 million people suffered from a substance use disorder, according to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Sadly, less than 20 percent of those people received the treatment they deserve.
Some of the warning signs that a person might be struggling with addiction can include:
- Loss of interest in friends or activities once enjoyed
- A change in lifestyle centered around friends or activities that involve alcohol or drug use
- Becoming more isolated or being secretive about social activities
- Continued use of alcohol and drugs even after suffering negative consequences like run-ins with law enforcement, or missing work or school
- Having relationship issues
- Changes in eating habits or sudden weight loss
- Mood swings from defensiveness or irritability to depression or anxiety
- Bloodshot or dilated eyes, uneven gait or other obvious signs of drug or alcohol use
National Recovery Month – Mental Health and Addiction
The presence of a substance use disorder and a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or others, is referred to as a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis.
It’s often difficult to know which issue came first because addiction can lead to poor mental health. Likewise, mental health disorders can drive people to self-medicate their symptoms with drugs and alcohol.
Around 8 million people deal with co-occurring disorders, though that number is likely underreported. That’s because either health condition may go undiagnosed or the person living with it is unaware of it.
One of the key takeaways with co-occurring disorders is that each condition will only worsen the symptoms of the other. This is why it’s so important that both issues be treated at the same time or a full recovery from addiction will be even more difficult.
Benefits of Addiction Treatment
Depending on how advanced a person’s addiction is, withdrawal and detox in a safe, medically supervised environment may be necessary.
After drugs and alcohol are out of the system, a stay in a residential treatment facility, for anywhere from 30 to 90 days can be incredibly beneficial because a person is out of their normal environment and can focus on recovery.
There are also other options, such as intensive outpatient treatment or partial hospitalization for those who are unable to temporarily leave their responsibilities.
Whether it’s residential, partial hospitalization or outpatient treatment, a combination of one-on-one counseling, group and or family therapy helps explore the underlying causes that drive addictive tendencies.
This is also an opportunity to address and treat any co-occurring disorders that may exist, and explore how to manage these symptoms while maintaining a productive recovery.
National Recovery Month
As part of this month long observance, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is sponsoring a number of webinars aimed at educating both professionals and the community-at-large about available resources and methods for addiction treatment.
Countless people are now living better, healthier lives thanks to recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.
This also includes their loved ones who may have once felt that their family member, brother, husband, wife or friend was lost forever to substance abuse.
If you or someone you know is battling addiction, take this opportunity in September during National Recovery Month to explore all of the available ways get help and recover. It’s never too late or too early to begin a life of sobriety.
Use the hashtag #RecoveryMonth when sharing social media posts related to recovery and National Recovery Month to make it easy for others to follow along.
You can also wear purple to recognize National Recovery Month and show support to those who have struggled with addiction.