September marks the 19th annual "National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month".
Substance use disorders are surprisingly common compared with the number of people who suffer from other well-known diseases. One in four deaths each year is attributable to alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drug use. Compared with the 2006 estimate that 22.6 million people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder in the past year:
- 15.2 million adults in the United States had diabetes as of 2007.
- 1.44 million Americans were expected to be diagnosed with cancer and 560,000 were predicted to die from the disease in 2007.
- 15.8 million people today suffer from coronary heart disease.
- More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease.
There are more deaths, illnesses, and disabilities from substance use disorders than from any other preventable health condition. Heavy drinking contributes to illness in each of the top three causes of death: heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Cirrhosis (liver scarring), the tenth leading cause of death, is largely preventable--nearly half of all cirrhosis deaths are linked to alcohol. Drug-related deaths are typically underestimated, as many tolls do not take into account deaths from associated diseases, such as hepatitis, tuberculosis, homicides, falls, and motor vehicle crashes.
Stigma and discrimination, which detract from the character or reputation of a person, continue to be strong barriers for those with substance use disorders and their family members. Nearly 25 percent of people who needed treatment, but did not receive it, have cited reasons related to stigma, such as a negative effect on a job or concern that it might cause neighbors or the community to have a negative impression.
People in recovery and the general public recognize that stigma, shame, and discrimination against people with substance use disorders and in recovery are problems that must be solved. In fact:
- Nearly a quarter of people in recovery report that they personally have been denied a job and 12 percent have been denied a promotion.
- Two-thirds of the recovery community believe it is important to convey to the public how shame and discrimination hinder the recovery process.
- Two-thirds of the general public believe that a stigma exists toward people in recovery from a substance use disorder.
- 74 percent say that people are ashamed to talk to others about their own or a family member's addiction, this attitude must change.
- 64 percent of people believe that a policy banning students with drug convictions from receiving Federal financial aid to pay for college should be changed.
Millions of people who once suffered from a substance use disorder have reclaimed their lives through treatment and long-term recovery.
Substance misuse takes a gradual, yet powerful, toll on the human body, affecting a person's rain and motor functions--that is why early awareness and treatment is critical.
The National Alcohol & Drug Addiction Recovery Month outreach materials cite the impact on health of a variety of misused substances:
- Cocaine, MDMA (Ecstacy) and tobacco constrict blood vessels, which can increase blood pressure significantly
- Steroids, heroin, methamphetamines and alcohol are linked to liver damage and tumors.
- Opioids, LSD, hallucinogens, cocaine and marijuana can contribute to seizures, brain damage, memory loss, panic, paranoia, euphoria, aggression, narcolepsy and fatigue.
- MDMA, methamphetamines and tobacco products can contribute to kidney damage/failure or infection.
There are a myriad of treatment and recovery options from medical detoxification, impatient programs, therapeutic communities, outpatient programs (i.e. 12-step programs) and medical maintenance programs.
For information, contact your physician or the Association of Persons Affected by Addiction (APAA) at 214/634-2722 at www.apaarecovery.org; the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse at 805/963-1433 at www.cadash.org; The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at 301/443-1124 at www.drugabuse.gov.
(Edited by Karen L. Kenney, PhD on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services "National Alcohol & Drug Addiction Recovery Month, September 2008)