National Substance Abuse Prevention Month More Important Than Ever Amid Opioid Crisis
Since 2011, October is observed as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.
Its sixth year may be the most important yet, as the opioid epidemic continues to impact all aspects of our communities and take more lives.
“As prevalent as opiate use is, there remains a large portion of society who do not understand this problem. Unfortunately, in some circles, substance use disorders continues to be viewed as a moral problem or as something the individual should be able to control. The reality is people suffering with opiate use disorders are up against very powerful drugs. The likelihood that people with this disease will die, without assistance, has increased unbelievably over the past five years,” said Judith Chappell, behavioral health practice administrator at Monarch.
Chappell is co-licensed in addiction and counseling, which allows her to treat people we support with dual-diagnoses. Identifying and treating both with equal levels of importance is crucial because they are intertwined.
“A large percentage of people treated for a substance abuse disorder also have a co-occurring mental health disorder that must be addressed. Unfortunately, there are also many people treated for a mental health condition, who often have a recognized substance use disorder that is never a focus of care,” said Chappell.
Based on the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) placement criteria, Monarch is a level one substance use treatment provider with outpatient services in Stanly and Guilford counties. In Mecklenburg County, Monarch is in the process of developing an ASAM level one substance use outpatient service as well. A substance use disorder, is defined as the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically and functionally significant impairment, such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home, with unsuccessful effort to control use, with chronic and impulsive return to use in the face of negative consequences.
“The best way to identify a substance use disorder, if there’s any doubt, is to come in to our offices for a clinical comprehensive assessment. Utilizing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) criteria can very quickly be identified to help someone understand if they have a substance use disorder and what we can do for them. If someone needs a higher level of care than we can provide, we can refer them to an appropriate agency,” said Chappell.
According to the latest statistics from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the number of opioid-related overdose deaths in the state has increased by more than 800 percent from 1999 to 2016. The epidemic has only increased in severity with unprecedented availability of cheap heroin and fentanyl, a schedule II prescription drug that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the cost of unintentional opioid-related overdose deaths in North Carolina totaled $1.3 billion in 2015.
There are grassroots efforts to educate, prevent, and reduce the harmful effect of substance use. Lockup Your Medications (LYM) and Project Lazarus are both organizations available to people in North Carolina.
In 2011, former President Barack Obama along with The Office of National Drug Control Policy proclaimed October as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month in an effort to encourage prevention efforts all year long that target the root of the problem. It follows September as National Recovery Month, sponsored by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) which found 8.1 million adults had a co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorder in the past year.
On a national level, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded an additional $144.1 million in grants to prevent and treat opioid addiction in support of President Trump’s commitment to combat the opioid crisis. The grants will be administered by SAMHSA.