May 10th is set to be the first ever National Fentanyl Awareness Day. The aim is to raise awareness about illicit fentanyl in counterfeit pills and illicit drugs that has been the primary cause in recent increases in overdose deaths, particularly among 14-to-23-year-olds. The call-to-action is simple: spread the word on social media with the hashtag #NationalFentanylAwarenessDay. This effort is the result of a coalition of nonprofit organizations, corporations, government agencies, and schools with an Advisory Council of experts in drug policy, public health, harm reduction, internet safety, and neuroscience. Head on over to the website (linked above) for more information and resources.
May 8-14 is National Prevention Week (NPW) sponsored by SAMHSA. The purpose of NPW is to provide a national public education platform to bring together communities and organizations to raise awareness about the importance of substance use prevention and positive mental health. May 8th not only kicks off NPW but is also National Prevention Day. SAMHSA starts the week off with a free virtual conference. The website also has resources that communities can use to promote NPW and ongoing prevention strategies throughout the year.
April 4th-10th is National Public Health Week. The opioid epidemic is a priority for many public health institutions, such as the CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office of the Surgeon General, to name a few. One of RCORP’s objectives is to expand harm reduction programs in our rural communities. Harm reduction strategies can affect public health by reducing overdose fatalities, life-threatening infections related to drug injection, and chronic diseases like HIV and hepatitis. To learn more about how harm reduction programs can improve public health, visit the SAMHSA website.
April is Stress Awareness Month. While observed mostly in the UK, recognizing stress as a potential stumbling-block to well-being is certainly a worldwide endeavor. When applying it to our RCORP community, untreated stress has long been recognized as a driving element to initial substance misuse and relapse. Learning stress management skills not only helps individuals struggling with substance misuse issues but can also help those who support them. Visit the Stress Awareness Month link for resources on maintaining healthy stress levels.
March 30 is World Bipolar Day. A 2016 SAMHSA Advisory reports that rates of SUD are high among people with bipolar disorder. Research suggests that from 30%-50% of people with bipolar disorder will develop a SUD. On March 30, the organizers of World Bipolar Day encourage those with social media accounts to share the hashtags listed on the website to increase awareness of bipolar disorder.
It has been estimated that nearly 2/3 of inmates in US jails and prisons have a substance use disorder. Historically, SUDs have not been addressed by the prison system while a person is incarcerated. This contributes to a cycle of recidivism that’s detrimental, not only to the individual and their loved ones, but also to the community at large. A recent NIH report highlighted a study that compared two rural Massachusetts’ jails, one that provided medications for opioid use disorder (MOUDs) and one that did not. The people who received medication had a 32% lower risk of recidivism. Interestingly, guided by our own Judge Duane Slone, the 4th Judicial District in Tennessee (Jefferson County in East TN) is the first in the state to implement a similar program in their jails. We hope that this bold step will go a long way in stopping the cycle of SUD and incarceration.
February is Black History Month. This presents an opportunity to shine a light on the toll that substance use and mental health disorders can have on Black/African American communities. While occurrence rates are similar in all populations, quality treatment options are less accessible for Black/African Americans. The rate of increase of Black/African American drug overdose deaths between 2015-2016 was 40 percent compared to the overall population increase at 21 percent. Black/African American populations also face double stigma, that of being in a racial minority and the stigma related to substance use and mental health disorders. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers explanations for why these disparities occur and what may help. The website also includes a comprehensive list of resources available for Black/African Americans in your community that may be struggling with substance use or mental health disorders.
February 2nd is Groundhog Day – that momentous day when a furry woodland creature’s shadow (or lack of) supposedly predicts an early or late Spring. You may be wondering, “What does Groundhog Day have to do with substance use disorder?” That takes us to the 1993 movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray in which the main character repeats the same day over and over. Some recovery programs use this film as a parallel to the addiction-recovery-return to use cycle. An article on The Mighty website poignantly illustrates this.
The U.S. Department for Health and Human Services, in partnership with the U.S. Postal Service, is offering 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests to all U.S. households, including U.S territories and overseas military and diplomatic addresses. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.
The tests available for order:
- Are rapid antigen at-home tests, not PCR
- Can be taken anywhere
- Give results within 30 minutes (no lab drop-off required)
- Work whether or not you have COVID-19 symptoms
- Work whether or not you are up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines
- Are also referred to as self-tests or over-the-counter (OTC) tests
For more information and resources, please click here.
The New Year brings an opportunity to start fresh with new ways of thinking about addiction and recovery! Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) wrote an essay with recommendations for how to change traditional thinking about substance misuse and what it means to be in recovery. Characterizing drug addiction as a chronic but treatable disorder rather than a weakness in character is critical to changing old thinking patterns. Abstinence as the primary desired outcome of recovery is often unsuccessful due to the traits of the disease and human nature to avoid perceived failure. Reducing stigma, employing harm reduction strategies, and acknowledging meaningful milestones in long-term recovery are ways to start the New Year with a fresh outlook on what successful recovery looks like!