Short and Long-Term Costs of Binge-Drinking Related to Heavy Alcohol Use
Social Drinking: Moderation Vs. Being At-Risk for an Alcohol Use Disorder
Being Mindful and Compassionate in Tough Conversations
CARE-ing for a Friend/ Family Member who is Misusing Drugs or Alcohol
Post-Treatment… What life looks like now
Connect with the Celebration of Recovery!
PLEASE MASTER : Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
It’s no surprise that people are feeling anxious right now.
Workers are worrying about how they’ll pay the rent as hours are cut back. Young parents are trying to do their jobs remotely while watching their children who are home from school. Older people are weighing the health risks of making a quick run to the grocery store.
Most people’s lives have been turned upside down by the coronavirus.
As Congress takes action to keep our economy strong and our people healthy, we can’t forget those who far too often have been left behind – people who are living with mental illness and those struggling with addiction.
It’s estimated that 1 in 5 people in our country are living with mental illness or substance use disorders. Sadly, people with mental illness and people with substance use disorders may fail to get the treatment they need in a typical year. And as we know, this year is anything but typical.
We know that people who misuse opioids are at high risk for coronavirus. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and other health experts, opioids impact the respiratory and pulmonary health of users and make them more susceptible to respiratory infections, including coronavirus.
People who are living with a mental illness or addiction often have other health conditions that make them more likely to suffer severe complications from the coronavirus.
Responding to the coronavirus pandemic requires a comprehensive health care strategy, including increasing access to community mental health and addiction treatment services. And the best way we can do that is to include the expansion of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics in the next emergency package passed by Congress.
Six years ago, we worked together to pass our Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act. It created quality standards of care and funding to open community clinics that are transforming mental health and addiction treatment.
After only two years of operations, communities that have CCBHCs are providing life-saving services. They work closely with law enforcement and our schools and coordinate with hospitals to dramatically reduce emergency room visits.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, they’ve led to a 60% decrease in time spent in jails, a 41% decrease in homelessness and a 63% decrease in emergency department visits for behavioral health. That’s a big deal when every hospital bed matters right now.
CCBHCs also are well-positioned to support those struggling to cope with the stress of coronavirus, whether it’s anxiety, depression, loneliness brought on by social isolation or even trauma faced by front-line health care workers. And many CCBHCs provide telemedicine services, allowing people to access help without increasing their potential exposure to the virus.
As our nation confronts COVID-19, we must not leave those with mental illness and addiction disorders behind. And the good news is, by working together, we can make sure that doesn’t happen.
Opioids and other substances that alter how we feel, think and act have overtaken our culture, and have been declared a public health epidemic. We are losing our loved ones, friends, co-workers and neighbors to these substances. But we have yet to implement the solutions that will beat back this epidemic, as we have so many others, like HIV/AIDS, polio, smallpox and tobacco.
Substance use and abuse—of opioids, heroin, cannabis, stimulants, alcohol, etc.—is universal and the casualties of drug addiction affect all classes, races and regions of the U.S. These substances are too frequently used as an answer to pain, mental and physical, and have become a cure-all for people who’ve fallen on hard times. That’s why so many people use them and that’s why so many people become addicted.
Substance use disorders commonly co-occur with mental health conditions, especially serious mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, PTSD and other forms of trauma. People with mental illnesses often turn to drugs and alcohol to quiet their symptoms, and drugs and alcohol can adversely affect our nervous system and increase risk for mental illness.
We are failing with this epidemic because of this country’s dogged attachment to policies and programs that have never worked for addiction. Vast sums of money continue to be wasted on campaigns of drug control and on public messages, especially for youth, that rely on scare tactics. We can and must do better. We can beat this epidemic with three public health approaches.
- Prevention. This includes school-based programs that provide youth with decision-making skills and methods of controlling their moods and impulses. One proven program is called the Life Skills Training. Prevention also extends to the family, such as “positive parenting,” or actively modeling and teaching children about positive behaviors. Big Brother/Big Sister programs—where an older youth of the same background takes on a younger, high-risk child—is also highly protective. These prevention programs work, and we have hardly started to apply them.
- Screening. Early identification of a problem means early intervention, before the substance use disorder becomes more firmly rooted. We have good screening instruments, (such as the Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test), and need to make them standard practice in schools, pediatric and family medicine offices.
- Treatment. Families and people affected by addiction should advocate for the strong, comprehensive treatment approach they need. Effective treatment means first detecting the presence of a co-occurring mental (or physical) condition and assuring it’s also treated. Treatment for a substance use disorder should then combine:
- Cognitive therapy that focuses on reducing the triggers of relapse
- 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous
- Family education and support
This public health epidemic that is seizing our country can be beaten. And by following these steps, we save lives, help families and restore communities.
Dr. Sederer is a psychiatrist, public health doctor and medical journalist. His new book is The Addiction Solution: Treating Our Dependence on Opioids and Other Drugs(Scribner, 2018). www.askdrlloyd.com.