Healthy Living: September is National Recovery Month

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September is National Recovery Month dedicated to celebrating those in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. It's an issue that has become more prevalent during the pandemic.

Dr. Alyson Smith is Medical Director with Boulder Care, a digital clinic available to many Washington residents, that provides medical treatment and recovery services for substance use disorders.

Dr. Smith says alcohol abuse is up 13% and drug overdoses have increased 30%.

"Over 20 million people in the US struggling with substance use disorder and hundreds of lives lost a day to opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder," said Dr. Smith. "And then COVID-19 only intensified the crisis by exacerbating the existing challenges like lack of treatment options and a lot of the social isolation that all of us experienced during the pandemic has made things a lot harder."

She says there are a few red flags that can help determine whether our use of substances has gone too far.

If you seem to be preoccupied with drugs or alcohol, thinking about it constantly, that's a big red flag.

"And one of the real key signs that we look out for in order to define a substance use disorder is using that substance in spite of negative consequences," said Dr. Smith. "And these consequences may be physical complications of your use. For example, someone who is using alcohol and continues to drink despite a new diagnosis of liver disease. Some of these consequences are less obvious. They may be relationship problems that are stemming from your use or trouble at work. So those sorts of things come into play and we start to recognize that this is now a use disorder, and not just a habit or a problem.

Just as addiction can put a tremendous strain on relationships, Dr. Smith says people in recovery really need support.

Recovery is a lifelong process, so it's important for friends and family members to educate themselves about addiction and recovery, including potential triggers, health issues, and the psychological changes that happen during recovery.

Click here for more National Recovery Month resources.

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