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Gov. Whitmer declares September as Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month

September has been declared Alcohol and Drug Recovery Month by The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, according to an MDHHS release. They are joining with community networks to celebrate recovery and raise awareness of recovery-oriented systems of care working to prevent and treat substance use disorders in Michigan.

“Like other chronic and relapsing diseases, such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease, substance use disorder can be managed successfully,” said Whitmer. “This Alcohol and Addiction Recovery Month, we recommit ourselves to providing Michiganders struggling with substance use disorders with multiple points of care — from expanded tele-health services to medication assisted therapies. When Michiganders with mental health or substance abuse disorders seek help, they deserve to be met with the knowledge and compassion that anyone can recover and manage their conditions successfully.”

The release states that substance use disorder is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the individual and those around them.

The above statement is one example of what Keweenaw County Sheriff Curt Pennala said in May 2021, in reference to the need for a public conversation on better understanding of mental illnesses and the stigma attached to them. As stated in the Upper Peninsula Community Health Needs Assessment Report published in 2018 (Page 177):

“Note the term ‘disease’ used above” the report reads. “Addiction was not always seen as such by the medical community or society at large. It was looked upon as the result of a free choice on the part of the addicted individual or the result of a weakness in self-discipline or character. As such, addiction carried a significant stigma which persists to the present day. Alcoholism was first recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA) as a disease in 1956, Addiction itself was defined as a disease in 1987.”

Alcohol is not the only addictive source categorized the term “substance use disorder,” however, as pointed out in the MDHHS release:

The United States is amid an opioid epidemic, the release states, with opioid overdoses killing nearly 48,000 people per year. An opioid can be a prescription drug, or an illicit substance, such as heroin.

“The use of tobacco, alcohol, prescription opioids and illicit drugs is costly to our nation,” the release states, “exacting approximately $820.5 billion dollars annually, and growing, in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care.”

The Upper Peninsula is not exempt from state and national statistics. The U.P. needs assessment study found that the U.P. was feeling the effects of the nationwide opioid epidemic, with increased use, overdoses, and the highest neonatal abstinence syndrome rates in Michigan (before the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns). Comprehensive and coordinated efforts to manage the crisis are needed, including a Continuum of Care approach from promotion and prevention to treatment and recovery, plus addressing root social causes, the assessment report stated.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Aug. 2020 published key findings from the National Health Interview Survey which included:

“Among adults aged 18 and over, 5.1% engaged in heavy drinking (consumption of an average of more than 14 alcoholic drinks per week for men or more than seven drinks per week for women in the past year)”. While 5.1% may sound low, to many, the U.P. health needs assessment study found the percentage of heavy drinkers was more than double the national average. Both statistics were gathered during the same year.

“14 percent of U.P. adults are heavy drinkers and 12.9 percent are binge drinkers,” the U.P. study found. “Both types of excessive alcohol consumption can lead to short- and long-term adverse health outcomes.”

In the long-term, substance use disorder may lead to mental and physical effects such as paranoia, psychosis, immune deficiencies and organ damage that will require treatment to resolve.

“In 2019, over 1.3 million people in Michigan, age 12 and older, had abused an illicit drug in the past month,” states the MDHHS, and “615,000 individuals aged 12 and older in Michigan needed treatment for illicit substance or alcohol use – 7.3 % of the population.”

“Recognizing Alcohol and Drug Addiction and Recovery Month allows us to celebrate those who have successfully been able to manage their disease and also highlight the need to provide resources, dignity and treatment to those who are affected by a substance use disorder,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “It’s important to educate Michiganders on how recovery is possible, welcomed and celebrated not just in the present but for the rest of their lives.”

A person’s treatment and recovery are built on his or her strengths, talents, coping abilities, resources and inherent values. It addresses the whole person and their community, and is supported by peers, friends, and family members. Support for tele-health services has enabled thousands of Michiganders to engage safely in substance use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery support services that would have otherwise been inaccessible.

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