Natural Disasters and Those With Substance Use Disorders

Over the weekend, many people across the country tuned into news outlets and the internet to watch the path of Irma and how this massive storm would damage the State of Florida. Cities were evacuated and people were told to take shelter, preferably outside of the State until the storm passes. As this is being written, we still do not know the total impact that Hurricane Irma will have on Florida and how damaging this hurricane will be to property and people.

While we pray for the safety of those who are in the eye of the devastation, we must remember the impact that storms and other natural disasters can play into a person’s recovery. Prior to the storm reaching Florida, facilities in Miami, Florida were supplying extra syringes through their needle exchange programs so that those who are intravenous drug users would not share needles and spread disease as the storm raged on.

Scientists and researchers have learned through the study of other disasters that those who have substance use disorders tend to have a much higher rate of staying put in a storm so that they can remain closer to their dealer and they also shared needles at much higher rates as supplies were low. Treatment is also interrupted and life-saving drugs like Narcan are often scarce. Through other megastorms like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, treatment facilities and those who care for people who have a substance use disorder have learned that even natural disasters cannot interrupt a person’s ability to keep healthy and maintain sobriety. In Florida, a week’s worth of needles and Narcan kits had been given away to individuals who need those life-saving medications and supplies.

As we watch the news stories over the weekend, make sure that we remembers that some are struggling with not home loss or property damage, but are struggling with much more to keep their health and safety long after the storm has left. As we also face blizzards, snowstorms and tornadoes in Ohio, we cannot forget those who rely on the services provided to help sobriety and keep those with substance use disorders alive and not sharing needles. Make sure that your community has an emergency plan for natural disasters so that they are able to continue on their road to health and sobriety.

Prevention Action Alliance
September 8, 2017

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