By Latika Davis-Jones
The symbolism of the mystical phoenix – a bird that is reborn from its own ashes – is very similar to an individual who takes the brave step to seek help or treatment for the disease of addiction. Treatment and recovery supports can provide hope, growth, and transformation to those struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD).
The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, where I currently serve as acting Secretary, has fittingly chosen the phoenix as our logo. At DDAP, we believe people can and do recover from SUD.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and I would like to use this month to reach Pennsylvanians who may be struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).
AUD is a chronic brain disease involving having to drink more to get the same effect or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking. Unhealthy alcohol use also includes binge drinking — a pattern of drinking where a male has five or more drinks within two hours, or a female has at least four drinks within two hours.
As a state agency within the Shapiro administration, much of DDAP’s work is centered on strategies to reduce substance misuse and dependency, including AUD. While treatment is much of our focus, our collaborations also emphasize reducing stigma, intensifying primary prevention, strengthening the drug and alcohol treatment system, and empowering sustained recovery.
Just a few weeks ago, I was before the General Assembly presenting DDAP’s budget needs for the upcoming fiscal year. Part of understanding our financial needs is recognizing the current SUD landscape across the Commonwealth. As I shared with the legislators, alcohol use has been and continues to be a rising concern.
DDAP-funded treatment data shows that treatment admissions for alcohol as the primary substance accounted for almost 36% of all treatment admissions across the Commonwealth in 2022. So far in 2023, alcohol represents nearly 40% of the calls received by the Get Help Now hotline, which is up by 28% from two years ago — the biggest relative increase in call volume when compared to other substances.
My department is committed to providing access to quality care for anyone who needs help. No one has to go through this tough time alone.
Get Help Now Hotline
DDAP’s Get Help Now hotline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), is a trusted resource for help. The hotline is confidential, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and staffed by trained professionals who will connect callers to resources in their community.
Single County Authorities
County drug and alcohol offices, known as Single County Authorities (SCA), can help with treatment funding if an individual is uninsured or underinsured, assess the need for treatment or other services, and make referrals to match treatment and service needs for individuals with AUD and other substance use disorders.
Pennsylvania’s Addiction Treatment Locator, Assessment, and Standards Platform, called ATLAS, is another trusted resource. ATLAS evaluates addiction treatment facilities’ use of evidence-based best practices and includes an assessment to understand the appropriate level of care someone should receive.
DDAP’s Just Five program is an online platform that aims to provide education about SUDs, including AUD, by focusing on prevention and treatment for all of Pennsylvania’s workforce. We encourage Pennsylvania employers to partner with DDAP by incorporating Just Five’s lessons into workplace health initiatives to help reduce the stigma surrounding addiction and other behavioral health conditions.
Life Unites Us
Lastly, I encourage all Pennsylvanians who may currently be living with an SUD or who have a loved one struggling, to check out our Life Unites Us campaign. This campaign raises the voices of folks who have overcome the disease of addiction and gone on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
Again, if you or someone you love is struggling, please remember that you are not alone. When individuals receive appropriate treatment for an SUD, recovery isn’t only possible – it is probable. Reaching out for help can be scary, but there is hope in the help that is available for Pennsylvanians. Each day is a new opportunity to rise from the ashes.
Dr. Latika Davis-Jones is the acting secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. She writes from Harrisburg.
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