(BPT) - Each September, we observe National Recovery Month to bring attention to the possibilities and pathways available to “Every Person. Every Family. Every Community.” CDC’s campaigns to Stop Overdose provide critical information about addiction and recovery, including the dangers associated with illegal fentanyl, the risks and consequences of mixing drugs, the lifesaving effects of naloxone, and how stigma is an ongoing challenge for those seeking help in recovery. With 300 Americans dying every day from drug use, we must use every opportunity to engage in open conversations about how to promote healing, prevent overdose and raise awareness of this public health crisis across communities. This is why National Recovery Month is so important.
Support communities to address stigma
About one in seven Americans reports having a substance use disorder. There may not be a family in this country that hasn’t been touched by the realities of addiction: the individual cost, community impact, lost time and resources, personal connections and, most importantly, the lives.
Addiction (or substance use disorder) is a treatable medical condition. But treatment can only start when someone recognizes that their addiction is a problem and knows that help is available, and recovery is possible. Recognizing one’s addiction and asking for help is a true act of courage, and those of us who work every day to prevent death and injury related to addiction have a responsibility to help eliminate the stigma associated with it.
Despite addiction impacting so many in this country, stigma toward these individuals remains extremely problematic. People experience feelings of stigma when another person mistreats them or thinks badly about them because of a behavior, characteristic or trait. Stigma, whether caused by bias, purposeful exclusion or a lack of understanding about the causes for a personal struggle, is harmful. There are certain groups who are more affected by addiction than others, and recovery for them can be even more complicated due to stigma since they may be afraid to ask for help. However, everyone deserves to get the support they need to recover from addiction free of stigma or judgment.
We can decrease stigma and increase compassion for those experiencing addiction when we put forth the effort to understand that drug use can be a result of many different experiences or factors beyond an individual’s control, including stress, trauma, or physical illness and injury. When we make assumptions about someone's addiction, we fail to create a safe, welcoming space for them to seek help. But there’s reason for optimism: support can begin with you. Meaningful recovery can start with safe spaces created by open, accepting, loving, kind and caring families, friends, co-workers, congregation leaders and members, teammates and peers. When you understand the realities of addiction and the various kinds of treatment available, you can save a life.
Treatment leads to recovery
Medication, inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient counseling and long-term support group participation are all different kinds of treatments for substance use disorders. Importantly, FDA-approved medications exist for opioid use disorder (MOUD), including methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. Someone beginning addiction treatment may be prescribed one of these medications while also receiving in-person counseling or therapy. MOUD have been found effective in helping people overcome addiction, stay in recovery longer and prevent reoccurrence of use.
It’s important to realize that a person in recovery — even years into their recovery — may experience a reoccurrence of drug use. Because of this, you can support someone you know or love throughout their life and at all points during their treatment and recovery.
Recovery starts in the community
Recovery Month brings together people from all over to better understand and reduce the harms caused by substance use disorders (SUD) in the United States. If you’re interested in learning more about SUDs, how they function as a medical disease, and treatment and recovery options, visit CDC’s Stop Overdose website.