What to do if you’re worried about yours or a loved ones’ substance use

I never met my grandpa on my dad’s side – he died long before I was even an idea and when several of his 14 children were still just kids. But I do know that he struggled with alcoholism, and so I’ve been taught from a young age to be careful and to be on the lookout for symptoms of substance abuse because it does run in the family. 

In fact, at least half of a person's susceptibility to drug or alcohol addiction can be linked to genetic factors, according to the American Psychological Association. Other risk factors include untreated or unmanaged mental illness, early use of substances, peer pressure, lack of family involvement, and taking a highly addictive drug. 

Substance use disorder affects more than 20 million Americans, according to John Hopkins Medicine. You are not alone. Addiction is a disease, and it’s not your fault – but the way you respond to it is your responsibility and it definitely doesn't excuse the way you treat others. 

I have heard stories all my life about how addiction can affect someone. It can change your personality, impact your ability to make rational decisions, increase your anger and selfishness, and slowly destroy your vital systems and functions. It affects not only you, but everyone around you – your significant other, your children, your friends and your co-workers. For me, if my grandfather sought help for his substance use disorder, maybe I would have had the chance to meet him and a lot of the mistakes he made in his life could have been avoided.

So, please, before it's too late, seek help! If you’re worried about yourself or a loved one and you don’t know what to do, a good first step is to visit the website StartYourRecovery.org. There, all in one place, you can find personalized information based on who you are – whether you’re a teen, a parent, a senior, a veteran, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, etc. – and the substance you are struggling with. You can learn about risk factors and treatment options, hear from others who have dealt with similar struggles, and find support near you. 

The team at the public health communications firm Reingold developed StartYourRecovery.org because they realized, when it came to substance use disorder, the resources out there were severely lacking. So, in 2016, they decided to create a one-stop-shop for individuals to have easy access to treatment options as soon as they’re ready to find help. Today, the website connects more than 800,000 people a year to substance use disorder treatment. 

Brooks Lape, co-founder of StartYourRecovery.org and senior director of digital marketing at Reingold, said, as someone who is in recovery himself, this has really been a passion project for him. He’s helped make sure the website includes everything he would have wanted – such as  non-stigmatizing language and information about multiple pathways to recovery. 

“Recovery is less about abstaining from use and more about what’s preventing you from living the life that you want,” he said. “We’re working to raise the bar for the entire industry, and we’re working hand-in-hand with thought leaders across a number of different leading organizations to make sure we get this right.”  

Click here to find rehab centers, counseling, and support groups available near you. 

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