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Alcohol, Medication, and Drug Use after a Disaster

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Some people increase their use of alcohol, prescription medication or other substances after a disaster. You may feel the using drugs and alcohol seem to help you escape bad feelings or physical symptoms related to stress responses (e.g., headaches, muscle tension). 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.

Managing alcohol, medication, and drug use

Pay attention to any change in your use of alcohol and/or drugs. Consult with a healthcare professional about safe ways to reduce anxiety, depression, muscle tension, and sleep deprivation.
Correctly use prescription and over-the- counter medication as indicated. If you find that you have greater difficulty controlling alcohol/substance use since the hurricane, seek support in doing so.
Eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep, and use your family and other for support. If you believe you have a problem with substance abuse, talk to your doctor or counselor about it.

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.

Increase your attendance at substance support groups. Talk with family and friends about abuse supporting you to avoid use of alcohol or substances.
If you are receiving disaster crisis counseling, talk to your counselor about your past alcohol/drug abuse. If you have a 12 step sponsor or substance abuse counselor, talk to him/her about your situation.
If you have been forced to move out of your local community, talk to disaster workers about helping to locate nearby alcohol or drug recovery groups, or ask them to help organize a support group. Increase your use of other supports that have helped you avoid relapse in the past.