September is National Recovery Month, an opportunity to promote and support treatment and recovery practices. To stop drug overdoses and raise awareness about addiction and recovery, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control launched an education campaign focused on reducing stigma. The campaign provides information about addiction and treatment options and encourages support of people in recovery.
Addiction is a disease, not a character flaw.
Addiction is a treatable disease that can happen to anyone. In fact, one in seven Americans reported experiencing addiction in 2020. Addiction occurs when a person’s use of drugs or alcohol results in health issues or problems in their daily lives.
Many factors can increase the risk of addiction. People may use drugs to cope with stress or trauma or to help with mental or physical issues such as chronic pain.
To increase awareness about addiction treatment and support, it is important to share information about drivers of drug use and avoid perpetuating stigmas.
“Millions of Americans are in recovery from addiction and millions more are struggling with substance use and we must do all we can to support them,” said Christopher M. Jones, PharmD, DrPH, MPH (CAPT US Public Health Service), acting director for CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “That means providing effective care, support, and services that respect the health and dignity of people who use drugs.”
If you think a friend or loved one may be experiencing addiction, there are some signs that you can recognize. A major warning sign is if a person keeps using drugs even though their use is causing problems — like trouble keeping a job, relationship turmoil, or run-ins with law enforcement. Another sign of addiction is trying to stop or cut down on drug use and not being able to.
Treatment can help people get their lives back.
Recovery from addiction is possible. The overall goal of treatment is to help support people so they can engage productively in their family, workplace, and community. For those with an opioid use disorder, medication treatment may be the first step to recovery. Medications for opioid use disorder are effective in helping individuals treat addiction and stay in recovery longer. Medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration include:
Other treatment options for opioid use disorder and other substance use disorders include behavioral therapy, outpatient counseling, and inpatient rehabilitation.
“Addiction is a treatable disease and recovery is possible,” said Dr. Jones. “Our priority is to do everything we can to equip communities with tools and resources to address underlying risk factors for addiction, help connect people to care, and save lives.”
Supporting recovery makes a difference.
Recovery is not easy, nor does it happen overnight. Relapse is common, and it is an expected part of the recovery process. It is okay to ask for help and to ask someone if they need help. Treatment and the support from family, friends, co-workers, and others can make a big difference in the recovery journey. Recognize that addiction is a medical condition, not a moral failing.
Stigma against people who use drugs can be a major barrier to treatment. Stigma can negatively affect emotional, mental, and physical health, which makes stopping stigma important to help loved ones feel safer and healthier and for seeking and remaining in care. Help prevent stigma, starting by choosing compassionate, nonjudgmental words that treat people with respect and reflect an accurate, science-based understanding of substance use disorders. Know the facts about addiction and recovery and share them with others in your community.
“Recovery belongs to all of us — every person, family, and community impacted by addiction and drug overdose,” said Dr. Jones. “We need to ensure prevention, treatment, and recovery supports are in place and accessible to all who need them.”
Important steps to know when you think someone around you is overdosing:
- Call 911
- Administer naloxone, if available
- Keep the person awake and breathing
- Lay person on their side to prevent choking
- Stay with the person until emergency assistance arrives
For more information and resources to understand addiction and reduce stigma this Recovery Month, visit CDC.gov/stopoverdose/stigma.
If you or someone you know is struggling with overcoming addiction, visit findtreatment.gov to find treatments available near you. SAMHSA’s National Helpline is also a great resource to share with someone who may have a substance use disorder. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for assistance.