Substance use disorders are a serious issue among Americans today. In 2018, SAMHSA's National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that about 20.3 million people aged 12 or older had experienced a substance use disorder in the past year. In addition, the opioid epidemic continues in communities across the country. In 2018, more than 130 people lost their lives each day due to opioid-related drug overdoses, and 2 million people had opioid use disorder.
Due to damages disasters cause, survivors may be unable to access their usual treatment and services for substance use disorders as well as health and mental health conditions. Individuals in recovery may have difficulty obtaining the medication that is part of their medication-assisted treatment. If they participate in peer support groups, they may have trouble finding meetings that are being held or getting to or from meetings. Because substance use disorders involve functional challenges and impair judgment, individuals with substance use disorders may be less prepared for disasters and less able to take steps to ensure safety if a disaster occurs.
Also, while disaster survivors do not usually develop new substance use disorders after disasters, they may notice increased substance use and misuse in themselves and other survivors. Disaster behavioral health professionals and other healthcare practitioners should identify increased substance use as a possible disaster reaction and provide survivors with tips and techniques for healthy coping and sources of additional support.
This installment of the SAMHSA Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series focuses on substance use and misuse and substance use disorders after disasters. Resources address the following topics:
- Information to help disaster responders address substance use and misuse concerns among survivors during and after disasters
- General information about substance use and misuse and substance use disorders, including how disasters may affect individuals with and without preexisting substance use disorders
- Ways that community leaders, emergency managers, and clinical service providers can help people with substance use disorders before, during, and after disasters
- Substance use disorders among first responders
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