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Recovery is a Journey, Not Just a Word

Posted 01-17-2019

Every year, millions of adolescent and adults are impacted by substance use disorders in the United States. While tobacco use and underage drinking have been steadily declining since 2002, only a 5% usage reported in 2014, the use of illicit substances has been increasing. In 2014, 4.3 million Americans, ages 12 and older, reported using pain relievers for nonmedical use.

The Opioid Epidemic

We are currently in the midst of an opioid epidemic. But what does that really mean? In 2016 alone, over 63,000 Americans died from an overdose, and over 42,000 of those deaths were from opioids. Those are just some of the beginning numbers. According to the National Safety Council:


  • 11 million Americans misused an opioid pain reliever in the past year
  • More than 2.1 million people suffer from an opioid use disorder
  • One in 10 Americans know someone who has died from an opioid overdose

North Carolina is currently one of 13 states that are improving the opioid epidemic in our state by:

  • Mandating prescriber education
  • Implementing opioid prescribing guidelines
  • Integrating prescription drug monitoring programs into clinical settings
  • Treating opioid overdose
  • The increasing availability of opioid use disorder treatment

Recovering from a Substance Use Disorder

Recovery is an ongoing journey, not a one-and-done type of treatment. Even if you, or someone you know, is suffering from a severe and chronic substance use disorder, with the right help and determination, you can overcome this disease and regain control of your life.

What does it mean to be in recovery? This means making positive changes and valuing becoming contributing members of society once again. This process is not an easy one, but one that is highly personal and occurs on many different pathways. Recovery may include clinical treatment, medications, faith-based approaches, peer or family support and much more.

PORT Health’s Medication Assisted Treatment

According to the National Safety Council, successful evidence-based treatment programs address the interdependent aspects of addiction. Understanding how opioids affect a person’s biological, psychological, and social aspects explains why medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is not only necessary but is beneficial to those struggling with a substance use disorder and is the most effective way to treat these disorders.

There is a widely held belief that MAT is simply substituting one drug for another. This is simply not true. The two primary drugs used during this form of treatment satisfy the brain’s pain receptors without the respiratory suppression or addictive euphoria of opioids. Some of the benefits from this form of treatment include:

  • Supporting the recovery, health and well-being of the person or families served
  • Enhancing the quality of life for the person served
  • Reducing symptoms or needs and building resilience
  • Restoring and/or improving function
  • Supporting the integration of the person served in the community

At PORT, we believe that MAT is most effective when it is administered in conjunction with comprehensive therapeutic services. The combination of these two treatments creates better outcomes for the patient, such as:

  • Increased independence
  • Greater integration back into family and community

Mental Health in the United States

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), one in five adults, aged 18 and older, has a mental illness. In 2014, nearly 44 million Americans reported having a mental illness, with only 45% of those receiving treatment services. Some other numbers behind mental illness include:

  • Over one in 10 adults had a major depressive episode in the past year
  • 9.4 million adults thought seriously about suicide
  • One-half of all chronic mental illness begins at the age of 14
  • 42 million American adults live with anxiety disorders

Mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood. Research suggests multiple, linking causes of mental health conditions in a person. Some of these causes include genetics, environment, and lifestyle influence. Some of the most common mental health conditions include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder

There is no single test that will diagnose a mental health condition and trying to tell all the different signs isn’t always easy either. Each of the illnesses listed above has it’s own set of symptoms, but some of the most common signs of mental illness include:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Changes in eating habits, such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Abuse of substances like drugs or alcohol
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Extreme mood changes, including controllable highs and lows

These types of conditions can also begin to develop in young children. In fact, one-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14. At the age, many adolescents are still learning how to identify and fique out their thoughts and emotions, so they do not share what is bothering them. Symptoms of mental illness in children may include:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Frequent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

Recovering from a Mental Illness

Recovery from a mental illness is possible when you start treatment early and play a strong role in your own recovery journey. Choosing the right combination of treatment and support that works for you is an important step in your recovery process. Treatment choices for mental health conditions will vary from person to person.

Some of the most common forms of treatments for a mental health condition include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Self-help and support groups
  • Psychosocial rehabilitation

Finding Help with PORT Health

Whether you are suffering from a mental health condition or a substance use disorder, help is available to you and your loved one. At PORT Health, we have locations across Eastern North Carolina that offer walk-in services. We believe these illnesses are treatable and recovery is always an option.