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Substance Use and the Holidays

For those who struggle with substance use disorder (SUD), the holidays can be a very challenging time of year. Alcohol is prevalent at many festivities. The holidays may also usher in stress, mental health challenges, family conflict, financial strain, difficult memories, heightened emotions, and loneliness. Tack on the stress of the ongoing pandemic, as well as potential mental health issues due to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and the risk compounds. In fact, according to the CDC, the most dangerous months for drug and alcohol related deaths are December and January (along with March).

How can healthcare providers, employers, and friends support those in SUD recovery this holiday season?

  1. Help them create a plan

If you’re a doctor, therapist, or a peer who has direct contact with someone who’s in recovery, help them create a plan for the holidays. You may be able to assist them in devising an approach for handling specific situations, people, stressors, and triggers. Elements of the plan might include managing stress, creating an exit plan, bringing non-alcoholic drinks to a party, and minimizing triggers.

  1. Tap into resources for those with SUD

Whether you’re an employer, healthcare provider, or public entity, it’s essential to make those with SUD aware that various resources are available if they need support over the holidays. A great national resources is SAMHSA’s Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889, which is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

  1. Recommend that they connect with peers in recovery

Studies show that having friends to talk to during recovery is important, as they provide a  “safety net” of supportive peers who can relate to the recovery journey.  That can be problematic, though, as many people in recovery – particularly in the early stages – have close friends who are still using substances.  This means that we have to help individuals establish new, supportive connections that can relate to their recovery journey. Having common, shared experiences (even if they are difficult) is a powerful spark for connection.  That’s why we created the Connections app, which offers a close-knit community for those in recovery.

  1. Openly discuss mental health and substance use

Although mental health and substance use are being discussed more openly these days, they still carry an unfortunate and unwarranted stigma. Individuals often feel the need to hide their feelings and struggles in fear of being judged.

The reality is, however, that mental health conditions and SUD are chronic illnesses, just like diabetes and heart disease and, as such, they warrant the same discussion, support, and acceptance. It’s important that we open the discussion and provide knowledge about these topics, enabling those with SUD to feel more accepted and hopeful, rather than ashamed.

Learn more about CHESS Health today

CHESS offers a comprehensive recovery toolbox for healthcare providers, the public sector, and individuals. With the Connections app from CHESS, patients have access to personalized recovery resources and connections with peers, when and where they need it.

Let’s band together and help SUD patients get through these next couple of months (or any time) with a clear and open mind. Contact us today to learn more about what we offer.