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For Heroin Addicts, Hurricanes and Relapse Often Go Hand in Hand
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For Heroin Addicts, Hurricanes and Relapse Often Go Hand in Hand

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The amount of alcohol Americans are drinking is on the rise, a new study finds. The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, finds that one out of every eight Americans is suffering from alcoholism. The number rises to one in four for those under the age of 30.

The 49.9% increase since the last study conducted between 2001-2002 isn’t the result of underage drinking either. According to News Day, the rate of drinking in underage people has actually decreased considerably since the last study. Adult drinking, on the other hand, has increased across every demographic.

“I think the increases are due to stress and despair,” said the study’s lead author Bridget Grant, “and the use of alcohol [is] a coping mechanism.”

In the United States, roughly 20 million people suffer from depression. The numbers have only been increasing in recent years as more millennials are diagnosed with chronic depression and anxiety disorders.

“As Americans, we were promised to be whoever we wanted to be, and we were given high unemployment rates and no guarantee of a job after college,” reports Megan Hoins. “We were promised peace and prosperity, and we were handed terrorism and a severe economic recession.”

The link between alcoholism, drug use, and struggles with mental health have been noted by professionals for years. However, as Hurricane Irma approaches in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, people in early recovery from substance abuse face unique obstacles during natural disasters.

According to researcher Andrew Gollub, the increased stress during a hurricane can result in relapse for those suffering from addiction because the storm interrupts treatment. For instance,
Kiro7 reports that heroin treatment centers that lost power during Hurricane Sandy measured methadone by candlelight.

Many Americans rely on emergency departments’ 24-hour access to care, and those suffering from addiction are no different. The fear of experiencing painful withdrawal can often result in life-threatening behavior when care is limited or unavailable.

Many substance abusers chose to stay close to their dealers rather than evacuating so as to avoid withdrawal symptoms during Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Others shared needles with strangers or used unregulated street drugs when they were unable to receive treatment.

In preparation of Hurricane Irma, methadone clinics were granted permission by the state of Florida to provide their patients with five days worth of medication. In addition to methadone, clinics are also ensuring patients are equipped with Narcan, which can save a person from an overdose.

“Have faith in the foundation you’ve built,” said Julie Boon of Eudaimonia Recovery Homes after Hurricane Harvey. Boon has been living sober for 30 years. “If you get into fear, reach out and speak to somebody.”