Dr. Gates is Talking About...September is Recovery Month

October 04, 2023

The following piece was written by Wood River Health's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jonathan Gates and published in the Westerly Sun in September 2023.

Dr. Gates is Talking

September is Recovery Month. Since its inception in 1989, Recovery Month has served as an opportunity to raise awareness about recovery and celebrate the inspiring journeys of individuals who have successfully overcome an addiction or a mental health barrier.

One of the primary goals of Recovery Month is to destigmatize addiction and mental health disorders so people can more easily seek and receive the tools and resources they need. Substance use disorder (SUD) is “a treatable mental disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior, leading to their inability to control their use of substances like legal or illegal.” It’s not a character flaw. About half of a person’s risk of developing an SUD is based on their genetics. Just like cystic fibrosis, diabetes and many other conditions, a person’s genetics directly influence their risk for developing SUD. Knowing this information can be a relief for patients, and help everyone better understand.

Advances in research, therapy, and medical interventions have led to more effective and personalized treatment options. We now have effective medications to treat SUD with few or no side effects. Primary care providers, with the help of counselors and peer recovery
support, can now treat the majority of SUDs. Increasingly, integration of behavioral health – which Wood River Health has been doing for years – is extending the range of treatments available without involving specialists.

Many individuals face barriers to getting the help they need such as financial constraints, lack of insurance, or insufficient resources in their communities. Equitable access to affordable and evidence based treatment should be the cornerstone of every healthcare practice. Community involvement and engagement also play a pivotal role in the success of recovery - our ability to demonstrate compassion and provide support to those who are in the recovery process is crucial. This month is a good time to check in with the people in your life touched by others on, or who are personally working on, their road to recovery. They’ll be glad you asked.