• November 29, 2020

CATES: It’s addiction recovery month - Odessa American: Health

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CATES: It’s addiction recovery month

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Posted: Monday, September 28, 2020 5:30 am

I have the great privilege of interacting with heroes every day. I work with doctors, nurses, first responders, and healthcare workers of every flavor in my job, and then I go home to my husband, a teacher. It’s hard for me to explain how rewarding it is to get up in the morning when every single day you get to see someone making a positive difference in the world. I’m not saying there aren’t negative things and bad days, but I can say, the positives I get to see far outweigh the negatives.

There are other heroes I get to see frequently. Those are people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. While I wouldn’t wish the battles they wage daily on anyone, I keep hoping to meet more of those people. I want to meet more of these heroes because I hope that every addict can find their way to recovery rather than the alternative—which is generally death.

I firmly believe these people are heroes because every day they get out of bed keep waging a war to stay sober, and it’s not a war against an external force, like on a battlefield, or for us in healthcare with a disease or trauma, it’s a war against their own bodies and minds—which means the war never really ends.

Yet those people keep fighting, day after day, year after year. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t get much more heroic than that.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute on Drug Abuse, the statistics on drug and alcohol abuse are nothing short of grim. Substance abuse costs about $740 billion dollars annually related to crime, lost work productivity, and health care. In 2018, 67,367 people in the US died from drug over-doses, and another 88,000 people die annually related to alcohol. Another 36,000 people annually die not because of alcohol abuse, but from trauma related to alcohol and drug abuse—mainly car accidents caused by people driving while drunk or high. An estimated 65% of the prison population in the US have an active substance use disorder.

Another 20% of the prison population, while they don’t meet the criteria for having a substance use disorder, were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they committed the crime that resulted in their imprisonment. People who recover from alcohol and drug abuse save their own life and they make a big difference for others in terms of cost and safety.

Recovery is incredibly difficult. Addiction quite literally changes the brain and how chemicals in the brain function, making it a chronic condition that has no cure. That is why so many people relapse when they try to quit—especially when they try to quit on their own. That is why it is so important for people fighting addition to get help—just like regular visits to a physician helps a diabetic (another chronic condition without a cure) stay on track with their diet and medications, regular contact with an addiction recovery program, medical and/or behavioral based, helps with addiction recovery.

In fact, the rates of relapse for chronic medical conditions and addiction recovery are quite similar without the help of a physician or other person specialized in dealing with those problems.

The other reason it’s a good idea to seek help when trying to stop an addiction is that many drugs and alcohol can cause life threatening problems if they are stopped abruptly. That process of weaning someone from drugs and alcohol is called detoxification, also known as detox. It is usually done under the supervision of a physician and with specialized medications to help control severe symptoms. But detox alone is not recovery. The addictive substance may be out of a person’s body after detox, but the addiction is still there. Detox without treatment for the addiction itself is rarely successful in achieving recovery.

If you or a loved one has a problem with drug and/or alcohol addiction and wants to start down the road to recovery, there are many options for help. The US Department of Health and Human Services has a division called the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Their website FindTreatment.gov has listings of local agencies and treatment facilities to help you start on the road to recovery. In addition, you can call their helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) for assistance 24/7.

If you are recovering, you are a hero. Even if you relapse, keep going down the recovery road. It doesn’t change your hero status. Just like Superman in the comics—kryptonite doesn’t make him not a hero, it just makes the work of being a hero tougher that day. You, like Superman, are always a hero when you are working on recovery.

Odessa, TX

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