By Penny Sitler, Executive Director
Addiction and substance abuse
Published in The Newark Advocate on August 21, 2017
Licking County has been the scene of a lot of news about drug use lately. Around the country, stories emerge daily about people from every walk of life – a medical school dean, attorneys, teachers, stay at home moms, construction workers, celebrity actors and singers and more – who have succumbed to addiction. Many die and many more live with the brain disease of addiction.
Yes, I said “brain disease.” Addiction is just that, a disease of the brain, and recovery from addiction is a difficult path to follow but it is possible. People often begin to use substances because of how they affect the brain by increasing feelings of pleasure or decreasing feelings of distress. Substance use problems often begin in adolescence and early adulthood so that is a critical time for early intervention.
Risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder:
- Availability and social acceptance of the substance
- Social groups prone to substance use
- Genetic predisposition
- Less sensitivity to the substance can cause overuse
- Learned habit resulting from effects of substance
- Other mental health problems – substance used as self-medication
Warning signs of dependence on a substance include:
- Increased use over time
- Increased tolerance for the substance
- Difficulty controlling use
- Symptoms of withdrawal
- Preoccupation with the substance
- Giving up important activities (work, social, family, etc.)
- Continued use even after recognizing a problem with substance use
Addiction seldom happens in a vacuum. People close to the person with addiction normally notice signs that something is wrong. When we facilitate Mental Health First Aid training in our county, we caution people to pay attention to the warning signs and know where to get help. In Licking County, Licking Alcoholism Prevention Program (LAPP) is the entryway to treatment for substance use disorders, which often occur with mental health issues. Call LAPP at 740-366-7303 to help someone get started in evidence-based substance use disorder treatment programming.
The earlier a substance use disorder is detected and treated, the easier it will be for a person to recover. Early intervention will prevent many of the long-term effects of addiction on someone’s health, relationships, education, finances and career.
If there is someone in your life that you recognize the signs of a substance use disorder in, be supportive and reassure them that there is help available. In addition to the professionals at LAPP, there are support groups that help people who are in recovery from substance use disorders. Twelve-step programs including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) will provide support as someone works their recovery.
Substance use disorders cause a ripple effect of harm from the person with the addiction through the family members, co-workers or schoolmates throughout the community. Such disorders do not discriminate. Anyone could become addicted at any time. Our next opportunity to learn more about the addiction and mental health challenges facing Licking County is on September 6 at the United Way’s Community Partners Council (CPC) meeting at the Licking County Library from 10 am – 12 noon. Speakers will include Jim Takacs, Kay Spergel, Kim Wilhelm, Doug Ute, Brad Copley, Carie Spicer, Trent Stanford and Colleen Richards. I hope our community will come together to educate ourselves about the impact of addiction on Licking County.