Every September, we observe National Recovery Month, created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to raise awareness and educate people about substance use disorders and the many treatment options available to them. It is also a time to celebrate the advances made in addiction treatment, and the lives of people who struggle with substance use and mental health disorders. There is hope for recovery and for living happy, healthy and independent lives.
Since the advent of National Recovery Month over 30 years ago, we have made significant gains in reducing the stigma of drug and alcohol addiction and increasing awareness of, and access to, treatment. This year’s theme is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Celebrating Connections.” A particularly apt theme for a time when our personal connections and support systems may feel distant and uncertain. Recent months, however, have proven just how resilient our communities are, finding new ways to stay connected to friends and loved ones and fighting hard not to lose the gains we have made over the years. This September is a time to celebrate just how far we have come and to bolster ourselves for the journey still ahead.
Our understanding of substance use disorders has continued to evolve over the years, and so has the effectiveness of treatment methods. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), where medication is used in combination with behavioral therapy, has become the standard treatment for opioid use disorders. Many people suffer from co-occurring disorders — that is, addiction combined with depression, anxiety, PTSD or another mental illness. One disorder may not have caused the other, but they are interrelated and often exacerbate each other. MAT treats the physical symptoms of withdrawal, and we have learned that it is just as important for long-term recovery to treat the mental health of the client as well.
The addiction treatment field was already moving toward more telehealth options before the pandemic hit, and since its outset virtual and telehealth options have become available to an increasing number of people. Restrictions on accessing MAT have also been loosened during the pandemic, allowing more people to receive proper, regular treatment, some for the first time. Telehealth is doing the same, allowing people in rural areas access to providers licensed to prescribe buprenorphine and other drugs to help clients overcome withdrawal. For every new challenge, we have been able to meet it with new advances.
This year’s observations look different in many ways from previous National Recovery Month celebrations. However, one of the most heartwarming things that has emerged from this pandemic is the knowledge that our communities are strong and able to adapt to adversity. We’ve embraced telehealth and virtual gatherings to stay in touch with friends and offer support as many people struggle with isolation and anxiety. In that spirit, individuals and organizations are rising to the challenge and offering virtual or socially distant ways to celebrate the month and honor people in recovery:
- SAMHSA will be hosting several free webinars over the month on topics related to addiction and recovery, such as supported employment and the importance of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics.
- Everyday Miracles, a Spectrum Health Systems peer recovery center, is memorializing loved ones lost to overdoses on their Facebook Members are encouraged to send in their own photos and remembrances.
- Many organizations are sharing their upcoming events on the official National Recovery Month events calendar, from candlelight vigils to virtual 5ks. Everyone is encouraged to sign-up or add their own events.
- You can always make a donation or share your story to give hope to others.
Every September, great work is done to raise awareness about the importance of addiction treatment. So many addiction treatment and mental health professionals have been working hard to educate the public about addiction, to encourage more people to reach out and seek help. Regular people in their communities as well can do so much to advocate for change, and this year they are continuing to do just that, proving the resiliency of people in recovery no matter the circumstances.
Call us at 1-877-MyRehab to start your recovery today with Spectrum Health Systems. For more information about Spectrum’s continuum of care, visit our website at https://www.spectrumhealthsystems.org/services .