Now more than ever, it's important to get the facts about drugs & alcohol
By Matt Cimino
While it’s difficult to focus on anything else, it’s really important that we take care of our health in other ways, including our mental health.
This year, National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, which began on Monday and runs through Sunday, celebrates its 10th anniversary. It is all about addressing misperceptions and presenting reliable information.
Here at Monongalia County Health Department, we have been involved in the fight to help community members with substance use disorder with through the Monongalia County Quick Response Team, or QRT. Once a week, we gather (virtually now) with our partners, who include first responders, EMS, law enforcement, a pharmacist and, of course peer recovery coaches (PRCs) from West Virginia PEERS, who respond to overdose reports by seeking those individuals and connecting them to treatment and other services.
National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week is the perfect time to highlight information that can help those who struggle with substance use disorder, especially during a time that is challenging for all of us.
As Dan McCawley, program manager for WV PEERS, stated: "It's more important now than ever for those in recovery to stay connected. There are a lot of great online resources for mutual aid support groups. Texts, phone calls, emails, whatever it takes to stay in touch.
“Just knowing that this is hopefully just a temporary situation and that they are not alone in their goal to remain sober can really help. Stress can definitely play a huge role in relapse and recurrence of old behaviors. Getting out for a walk or engaging in exercise can go a long way toward supporting mental health. Structured daily activities, keeping a schedule and treating the day as 'business as usual' can be hugely beneficial."
Also helpful is that there is a lot of information out there now. It is important to know that many substances have the potential to become addicting and pose serious dangers. Misused drugs can alter how you think and make judgements. Some immediate health risks include the spread of infectious disease and overdose.
Prescription opioids have become a massive issue in recent years. In 2017 alone, more than 70,000 people died from opioid overdose. Part of the sharp increase in its prevalence is attributed to its highly addictive properties.
Drinking too much can be very harmful to your health. From 2006 and 2010, it is estimated that excessive drinking has led to about 88,000 deaths each year. Of those who died, their average life expectancy was reduced by 30 years.
Excessive, binge and heavy drinking may all sound like the same thing, but there are important differences to know for each of them. Excessive drinking is a consumption level that includes bingeing and heavy drinking by anybody who is younger than 21 years of age. Bingeing is defined as consuming four or more alcoholic beverages in a single occasion for women, and five for men. Heavy drinking is where more than eight drinks for women, 15 for men, are consumed over the course of a week.
Most people who engage in these practices are not alcoholics or alcohol dependent, but there are many possible risks that come as a result.
These harmful health conditions include injuries, violence, alcohol poisoning and risky sex. Injuries can involve car crashes, falls, accidental drownings and burns. Violence instances can range from sexual assault to homicide. Alcohol poisoning is a serious medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels. High alcohol consumption also negatively affects judgement, which can lead to unprotected sex and unintended pregnancies.
While the best solution is to refrain from drinking entirely, limiting yourself to one or two can greatly reduce your and others health risks.
Knowing the risks associated with drug and alcohol use is an important step towards staying safe and healthy. Keeping these things out of your life can not only boost your well-being, but also the relational health of your friends and family.
If you or anybody you know is suffering from alcohol or substance abuse, do not hesitate to reach out for help. For information and assistance, you can reach the National Institute on Drug Abuse at 301-443-1124. You can also contact West Virginia Sober Living for recovery at 304-413-4300.
And click here to learn more about the risks of drug and alcohol use.