Exposing Substance Use Disorder in Jefferson County

January 25, 2019

As we ring in the New Year, it is important to bring awareness to issues that affect our community.

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (January 22 – 27) is recognized to raise awareness of the impact of substance use disorder in adults and adolescents.

In a 2018 report on the use of substances by adolescents, the Missouri Department of Mental Health exposed that 1/3 of students consumed alcohol, 1/3 of students used electronic cigarettes, and 17% of students used marijuana.

There are multiple reasons why students begin using substances at a young age.

“We work with many adult patients who began using opioids in their teens, which may have begun by receiving prescriptions to treat injuries or taking a parent’s or friend’s prescription,” said Rachael Bersdale, Vice President of Adult Behavioral Health at COMTREA.

“These medications can be overpowering to the brain, creating physical and psychological dependence that continues when the prescription ends. This dependence includes intense withdrawal and cravings which make it difficult to stop using and can lead to use of other opioids including heroin,” said Bersdale.

Other possible reasons for addiction are peer influences at parties or relying on substances as a coping mechanism after experiencing a traumatic event.

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week explores common myths about drugs and alcohol. Rod Campbell, Associate Vice President of Youth Behavioral Health at COMTREA states, “We need to dispel the myth that substance use is an adult disease or best treated in adulthood. The reality is the factors contributing to problems with substance use can be identified and treated in childhood. The belief here is that treating these factors early on will equip individuals and families with skills necessary to develop in a healthy manner. In doing so, the hope is to bypass a substance use disorder in adulthood altogether”.

Another common myth is that “substance use disorders only happen to certain kinds of people” said Bersdale. “Many patients say, ‘I didn’t think this would ever happen to me.’ We have patients from all professions, socioeconomic and education levels, races, and ages”.

If a loved one or close friend struggles with substance use disorder, it may be difficult to know the best way to approach the situation.

“The most important thing is to get educated and start the conversation. Let them talk about what they are going through, that you have learned about how difficult this is for them, and that they are loved and have your support,” says Bersdale.

“Finally, let them know that there is hope for recovery, this is something they don’t have to do alone, and there are resources available for getting effective treatment. With withdrawal, cravings, and trauma that many individuals with substance use disorder experience, they may not be ready to stop using,” said Bersdale.

“I think it is really helpful for families and friends to have support in dealing with how a loved one’s substance use has affected them,” continues Bersdale. “We are creating a group at COMTREA to help support families and friends, which will be available to the community at no charge”.

Treatment and resources for support are available from many organizations and providers in Jefferson County and across the state, including inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and self-help groups.

COMTREA provides personalized services based on the level of care a patient needs. Visit the COMTREA Welcome Center at 2310 North Truman Blvd, Crystal City, MO 63019 for immediate care, call 636-220-5397, or attend the Open House on February 22 from 2-4 PM.

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