Overview: Alcohol, Medication, and Drug Use after a Disaster

Concerns Regarding Alcohol, Medication, and Drug Use After Disaster

Some people increase their use of alcohol, prescription medications, or other drugs after a disaster. You may feel that using drugs and alcohol seem to help you escape bad feelings or physical symptoms related to stress responses. However, they can actually make these things worse in the long term because they interrupt natural sleep cycles, create health problems, interfere with relationships, and create potential dependence on the substance.

If your use of alcohol or drugs has increased since the disaster or is causing problems for you, it is important for you to reduce your level of use or seek help in gaining control over your use.

If You Have Had an Alcohol, Medication, or Drug Problem in the Past

For people who have successfully stopped drinking or using drugs, experiencing a disaster can sometimes result in strong urges to drink or use again. Sometimes it can lead them to strengthen their commitment to recovery. Whatever your experience, it is important to consciously choose to stay in recovery.

What You Can Do: Reach out to others

  • Find a friend to help you avoid use of alcohol or substances.
  • Go to a substance abuse support group if possible.
  • If in a crisis, tell a disaster worker to help you find an alcohol or drug recovery group.
If you feel the urge to drink or use substances:
  • Try not to be alone. Try to be in a safe space with others who can care for you.
  • Call a doctor, clergy or friend and share your feelings.
  • Get to a safe location where you can get services, such as water, food, shelter.
  • Try to make sure to drink water, eat well, get enough sleep, and use your family and others for support.

Preventing Overdose Risk: What to remember

Overdose is most common when:

  • Tolerance is lower - this can happen even after short periods of not using heroin, ‘oxys’ and methadone. Anytime someone resumes using opioids after a break, overdose risks are increased. This can happen after a disaster.
  • Resistance is down - due to sickness or other health issues, or being affected by a disaster situation.
  • Using alone - no one can request help.
If a loved one or someone you know may be at risk of an overdose, call now for information about getting an Overdose Rescue Kit. (805) 667-NO-OD, (805) 667-6663. You can save a life.

How to Help Others

If you think a family member or friend is having a problem with drugs or alcohol here are some things you can do to help:
  • Try to remain calm, unemotional, and factually honest in speaking about their alcohol or drug use behavior and its day-to-day consequences.
  • Discuss the situation with someone you trust - from the clergy, a social worker, a counselor, a friend, or someone who has experienced alcohol or other drug abuse.
  • Be patient. A person suffering from alcohol and other drug addictions generally take a long time to develop, and recovery does not occur overnight.
  • Try to accept setbacks and relapses with calmness and understanding.
  • Refuse to ride with anyone who has been drinking heavily or using other drugs. Help to encourage the people around you to always have a designated driver.

Need Help?

If you think you or a family member needs substance use services, call our Access Line at 1-844-385-9200. The staff will perform a brief screening and provide a referral to a provider.

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