The holiday season may be the “happiest time of the year,” but it’s also one of the most stressful — which can lead those recovering from substance abuse issues to revive old bad habits and those still struggling with such issues to make them worse.
“We’re seeing more now than in the past,” said Mercedes Kent, clinical supervisor of outpatient services at Gateway Foundation Alcohol and Drug Treatment Centers.
“Since the pandemic, we have seen that, of individuals seeking help for the first time, the vast majority — up to 70% in some cases — are seeking help for alcohol use disorder,” said Marc Turner, president of Gateway’s community services division.
But as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers, substance abuse issues are combining with mental health issues stemming from the pandemic lockdown to create a worsening problem, Turner said.
Those “who have routinely used alcohol to manage negative emotions and feelings are using greater quantities because of the havoc which the pandemic has wreaked on their daily routine and access to other coping mechanisms,” Turner said. “We are also seeing an upswing in the misuse of cannabis, stimulants and opiates.”
As a result, Gateway counselors are using a modified program to treat both substance abuse and mental health issues at the same time.
“It’s co-occurring and it’s best to address the issues at the same time,” Kent said, adding that mental health issues can include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and paranoia, among other issues.
Kent is a proponent of not only teaching a person how to deal with substance abuse but how to recognize their mental health issues.
“It’s a brain disease” she said. “You may not know you have an issue.”
Kent, who has been with Gateway since 2008, said the program to treat co-occurring issues isn’t new, though it has evolved, and the co-occurring process is used with all clients.
“It’s a living, breathing program,” she said, adding that addressing both sides of the issue roots out the underlining problem so a solution can be formed. “We can pull that splinter out.”
The first step is for a person to realize there is a problem and reach out to professionals who can help, Kent said.</…….