Opioid-involved overdose deaths are officially on the decline in Utah since 2017 — mostly due to the rise in resources surrounding awareness and the prevention of a substance abuse disorder.
With the help of the non-profit organization, USARA (Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness), and the state-run campaign, Use Only as Directed, Utahns are becoming more aware of the recovery process, as well as avoiding addiction altogether.
How USARA is helping addicts recover from substance abuse disorder
While staying on the path to recovery is difficult enough, many former addicts have a hard time finding the appropriate resources for staying healthy. That alone may keep addicts going back to drugs such as heroin and opioids, according to Evan Done, the Community Outreach and Empowerment Coordinator for USARA.
“A lot of times people will go to a residential treatment facility…for substance use disorder and then after they’re done, they’re looking for what the next step is. How they are going to maintain their recovery for the long term,” Evan described.
Another major point of emphasis for Evan and USARA is the freedom of choosing the right path to recovery. While the 12-step program has been historically the most widely used, USARA believes that options for recovery are what works best.
“It’s really important for us, as an organization, that we recognize that there are many paths to recovery,” he said. “For decades in this country, twelve-step was the only game in town but that’s no longer true.”
Evan’s experience with a substance abuse disorder
Evan knows firsthand what it means to be a recovering addict. He has struggled with his own substance abuse disorder over the years but is focused on his sobriety now.
“I’ve been working on my recovery since 2012 and it hasn’t been a linear process for me. There’s been stepbacks,” he said. “In that time, my life has gotten progressively better.”
According to Evan, though, his own struggles have allowed him to better help others who are struggling.
“We know that addiction just thrives in shame and secrecy,” Evan explained. “If someone feels that shame around a recurrence of use or an instance of use, it’s really easy to get sucked right back into that old cycle of addiction that they were in previously.”
His focus is now to change; to change people for the better and to make them become healthy again.
“I think that the amazing thing about recovery is that people in recovery, as they change, we change others, so changed people change people,” he added.
For more information regarding USARA or to find resources relating to recovery or substance abuse disorder, you can visit the USARA website by clicking here.
Preventing substance abuse disorder with ‘Use Only as Directed’
There are many programs and organizations focused on assisting in the recovery process in Utah. That’s exactly what Use Only as Directed is doing. The campaign focuses on the prevention of a substance abuse disorder beginning in the first place.
The state-run program is aimed at bringing awareness to the use and abuse of opioids. The campaign also promotes starting a conversation with doctors to provide a safe alternative to opioids. According to Heidi Peterson, the Prevention Program Manager at the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, addiction can happen fast.
“What prevention science shows us is that people can become addicted in as little as seven days to an opioid,” she said.
“In the past, and since about the year 2000, we’ve become more and more aware of how much opioids are prescribed, sometimes needlessly,” she added.
Behind the numbers
The numbers behind opioids don’t lie. In 2017, Utah providers wrote 63.8 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons. Comparatively, that number was higher than the average U.S. rate of 58.7 prescriptions. The overdose rates for Utah also correlate with the excessive prescriptions leading to 456 drug overdose deaths in 2017 alone.
As a state though, Utah has become more aware of the dangers surrounding the opioid epidemic. We have also become more educated surrounding substance abuse disorders in general. Ultimately, if you do need to opt-in to an opioid prescription, Heidi recommends three things.
“We’d like to use three phrases: we want to speak out, opt-out, and throw out. When you’re going to the doctor, have that conversation, advocate for your own healthcare.”
There are plenty of prevention resources that you can find at the Use Only as Directed website. Staying educated, though, should also be a priority for Utahns everywhere to focus on their own prevention.
“Remember to start that conversation with your doctor, have that conversation in your families. Get on the prevention end of things, be great advocates and heroes for your kids in that sense,” Heidi said.
To hear more from Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley, you can listen below or subscribe to the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast on Apple Podcasts and be sure to check out the ‘Project Recovery‘ page on KSLTV.com.
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