In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, researchers are releasing data showing that there is an increase in drug and alcohol abuse after a natural disaster. Since drugs and alcohol are often turned to in times of crisis and extreme stress, it is understandable why there can be an uptick during disasters such as hurricanes and other tragic events.
The report also indicates that health officials can predict where the increase in substance abuse will occur. Areas that are hit the worse often show the sharpest increase of substance abuse hospitalizations. This can be seen in reports generated after Hurricane Katrina. Prior to the storm, New Orleans residents sought treatment for substance abuse disorders at a rate of 7.13 per 1,000 people. After the storm that number jumped to 9.65 per 1,000 people. Those that lived in the Lower 9th Ward, an area that received the most damage, were more likely to abuse more than other people living in places that were not impacted as much.
“We found that the rate of hospitalizations for substance-abuse disorders increased in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This result is not surprising given that a large segment of the local population experienced trauma, which had the potential to increase hospitalization rates at the same time that they city’s population was reduced,” explained the researchers.
This information can be used in a number of ways. The correlation between stress and substance abuse is highlighted with this report and can allow medical professionals to better predict future abuse by the presence of stress in a patient’s life. Additionally, hospitals and treatment personnel can focus their rehabilitation strategies in areas that are experiencing more stress, like after a natural disaster.
Treatment programs and health officials are always looking to improvement treatment and increase access to effective treatment. In addition to providing victims of natural disasters with food, clothes and shelter, it may be necessary to increase access to treatment and therapy.
As with most substance abuse issues, the faster and more effective the intervention response, the more likely it is for recovery to take place.