By Teresa Cansdale
Niagara Gazette — For the past 24 years the month of September has been nationally recognized as Recovery Month to acknowledge those impacted by mental and/or substance abuse disorders. The observance of Recovery Month is to highlight that substance abuse and mental health services can positively impact those dealing with these disorders in order to enable them to live a healthier life. As part of the initiative to support those in recovery and to assist those seeking treatment it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of substance abuse and what constitutes drug dependency.
The more common and noticeable warning signs for drug abuse include physical, behavioral and psychological changes in an individual. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc., physical changes a person may begin to show include changes in appetite and sleep patterns, sudden weight loss or gain, seizures without a history of epilepsy, deterioration of personal hygiene and grooming, shakes, tremors, slurred speech, and impaired or unstable coordination.
Behavioral changes will be noticed by those who interact with the individual on a daily basis. Behavioral warning signs include sudden changes in relationships, friends, favorite hangouts and interests. Individuals may also be withdrawn, silent, and engaging in secretive behaviors. They may also have an unusual or unexplained need for money and begin to have financial problems leading them to borrow and steal from those around them who may find money and valuables missing more frequently. In addition, another sign of drug abuse/dependency include a drop in attendance from school and work, and complaints about the person from co-workers, supervisors, teachers, and classmates.
The final category of signs and symptoms of drug abuse deals with psychological symptoms. These relate closely to behavioral warning signs, including sudden changes in mood, irritability, angry outbursts, or inappropriate laughter. Individuals may also be hyperactive or agitated at certain times and lacking motivation or becoming lethargic at other times. Other psychological warning signs are an unexplained change in personality or attitude leading an individual to appear fearful, withdrawn, anxious, or paranoid for no apparent reason.
When an individual is ready and willing to seek help for a substance abuse related problem and/or dependency the first step is admitting there is a problem. This is the first step in the road to recovery and indicates an individual’s willingness to change and find solutions. Those that have taken the first step by seeking out services/treatment have made the choice to lead a healthier lifestyle. This support will help them continue on the path of recovery. With Recovery Month upon us, it is a time to recognize and remember the hard work and dedication that comes from those making a conscious effort to live a healthier life, as well as individuals working in the field of treatment and recovery.
The Prevention and Education Department at Northpointe Council Inc. is committed to doing our part in increasing awareness on substance abuse within the community and recognizing those who have worked hard on seeking out help and are in recovery. As part of our efforts we will be hosting our 5th annual Recovery Picnic, in collaboration with Fellowship House, Inc. on Sept. 28. The picnic will be held at Oppenheim Park shelter 3L from noon to 4 p.m. and will include both AA and NA speakers throughout the event. This is a FREE family friendly event and we encourage those in recovery, those who support someone in recovery, and individuals who work in the field to attend, celebrate and enjoy!
For more information on this community event or for more information on the services Northpointe Council Inc. offers please call 282-1228 or access our website at: www.northpointecouncil.org.Teresa Cansdale is a prevention specialist at Northpointe Council, Inc.