LISBON - For the past 23 years, the month of September has been set aside by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) to observe National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month (www.recoverymonth.gov).
The month is designed to promote awareness of the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for mental illness and substance use disorders. The month celebrates individuals in recovery, as well as the treatment and service providers who make recovery possible.
Each year a new theme is selected for the observance. This year's theme, "Join the Voices for Recovery: It's Worth It," emphasizes that while the road to recovery may be difficult, the benefits of preventing and overcoming mental and/or substance use disorders are significant and valuable to individuals, families, and communities.
People in recovery achieve healthy lifestyles, both physically and emotionally, and contribute in positive ways to their communities.
Research shows that substance use disorders are medical conditions that can be effectively treated. Yet, studies have consistently found that successful recovery for many suffering from substance use disorders is impeded by the general public's misconceptions about the disease and treatment.
By offering a forum where people can learn about the myths surrounding substance use disorders, treatment, and recovery, we can encourage, educate, and help improve the lives of family, friends, and the community as a whole.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the following are some common misconceptions regarding people with drug and alcohol addictions:
Addiction is a voluntary behavior and a character flaw: Since most people can use alcohol or drugs without becoming addicted, many may believe that it is simply a matter of choice. Unfortunately, for some people, drug and alcohol use is biologically destined to spiral into addiction. For those predisposed to addiction, continued use of addictive substances over time alters the brain in ways that result in uncontrolled drug use.
Alcoholics and drug addicts are morally deficient and lack willpower: Addiction to alcohol and other drugs has nothing to do with morals or willpower. It is a brain disease. Changes in the brain range from changes in the molecules and cells that make up the brain, to mood changes, to changes in memory processes, and in such motor skills as walking and talking.
Addiction is shameful and embarrassing: Although addicts may exhibit behavior that is at times inappropriate, the very fact that they do so in spite of what others think serves as evidence that they are not in control of their lives. The problem is often ignored like the "elephant in the living room." No one wants to talk about it.
If addiction is a disease, then there must be a cure: Addiction is a complex disease with a number of physical and psychological effects. It requires some form of treatment or intervention in order to halt the disorder's progression. Addiction causes lasting changes in brain chemistry and processes, but research has shown that treatment can produce long-term benefits.
It is estimated that every dollar spent on treatment returns $4 to $7 in savings to society. Studies have shown that treatment for addiction reduces drug use by more than 50 percent and arrests for crimes by 40 percent or more.
Only those who want drug treatment will benefit from it: A very small percentage of people voluntarily seek treatment. People usually go into treatment because they are ordered to do so by the court or because they have been persuaded to do so by family members. Studies have shown that those who face pressure to confront their addiction usually do better in treatment.
There is only one form of treatment for alcoholism and other drug addictions, and if it didn't work for one person, it won't work for anyone else: Like any other health condition, individuals may have to undergo several courses of treatment before they achieve recovery. Most require treatment that is ongoing and includes long-term supportive services, and repeated interventions and treatment episodes may be necessary. As it is with any disease, responses to treatment may vary even when individuals are addicted to the same drug.
People in recovery from addiction are at a higher risk for workplace accidents, injuries, and errors than other workers: People in recovery enter the workforce ready to face challenges. Those with undetected substance use problems pose more of a threat for accidents, absenteeism, and workers' compensation claims than those who are in recovery.
The Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board contracts with two excellent in-county facilities that offer outpatient alcohol and drug treatment services: The Counseling Center and Family Recovery Center. The MHRS Board also contracts with Neil Kennedy Recovery Clinic in Youngstown for detoxification services. For more information, call the Board office at 330-424-0195, or visit our website at www.ccmhrsb.org.