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Helping reduce addiction stigma

Like many other folks, I cannot imagine what it is like to become addicted to a substance. But I have thought, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” And I am grateful for my problems that I can usually figure out for myself and not compound them with addiction. So far so good! I also think that persons like me should be compassionate toward those who do have such a difficult struggle to reach recovery.

At the website of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), www.cdc.gov/rxawareness/stories) you can see the stories of men and women in recovery talking about what happened to them, their stories summarized in 30-second increments. Here is a sampling.

Ann Marie’s son was addicted within five days, she said. She had to choose which pair of sneakers to bury him in. He had been injured in a minor car crash. In just two years he became addicted and died at the age of 22.

Brenda also was injured in a car crash. She doesn’t recall being warned about the risks of addiction to pain medications which opened the door to heroin use. “Addiction kills your soul and makes you feel worthless,” she said.

Tamera knew she caused her own addiction. She was medicated for chronic severe headaches. She lost everything to addiction: career, home, the way of life she shared with her young son. “Nothing mattered more than getting my fix … It just takes one.”

Tessa became addicted to prescription opioids after suffering a sports injury in high school. She continued to use the drugs through two pregnancies in which her babies went through withdrawal. Now she works with pregnant women with addictions. “Brokenness brings us to our healing,” she says.

Britton was in the military, and suffered a shoulder injury requiring pain medication. He lost everything. He says, “Addiction is hard. You have to reach out for help. The recovery side of it is amazing. You get to a place where you are proud of yourself again.”

“In addition to the serious risks of addiction, abuse and overdose, the use of prescription opioids can have a number of side effects, even when taken as directed,” the CDC advises, side effects such as tolerance (needing more to get relief), physical dependence (having withdrawal when the medication is stopped), increased sensitivity to pain, constipation, nausea, vomiting, confusion, depression, lower sex drive, energy and strength.

An “emerging trend” with alcohol is being called ‘high intensity drinking.’ That means “consuming alcohol at levels that are two or more times the gender-specific binge drinking thresholds.” These high intensity drinkers were 70 times more likely to have an alcohol-related emergency department (ED) visit and those who consumed alcohol at three times the gender-specific binge thresholds were 93 times more likely to have an alcohol-related ED visit,” according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).

This coming week, March 21-28, is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. When we can understand the related issues, perhaps we will reduce stigma associated with addiction and help those in their recovery journeys to get their lives back.

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Family Recovery Center doesn’t help only families with addiction issues. FRC can help families find ways to navigate through these challenging times. For more information about how FRC can assist you with the anxiety and stress of Covid-19, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the web site at www.familyrecovery.org. Family Recovery Center is funded, in part, by Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

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