Recently, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria devastated parts of Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, and Puerto Rico. A natural disaster can bring out the best in people; we saw this as citizens rescued flood victims from their homes and rooftops. But it can also ruin lives.
A disaster creates incredible stress--including, in some cases, a serious condition called “post-traumatic stress disorder” (PTSD). And stress can increase a person’s risk for lots of problems, including depression, anxiety, and related drug problems.
Reactions to stress
For instance, teens who have experienced a disaster may do things like:
- Withdraw from others.
- Resist authority.
- Be disruptive or aggressive at home or school.
- Engage in risky activity like using alcohol or drugs (including prescription drugs).
In fact, drug dealers often try to take advantage of a disaster, knowing that its victims may be more vulnerable to using (or starting to use again). This includes people who have witnessed the disaster but aren’t directly affected.
And what about people who are already addicted to drugs, but (because of a disaster) can’t get those drugs? They can experience painful and dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
You aren’t alone
The federal government recognizes that people who have been through a disaster face a lot of challenges. If you need help, try these resources from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:
- Warning Signs and Risk Factors for Emotional Distress
- Tips for Survivors of a Disaster or Other Traumatic Event
- Disaster Distress Helpline
Disasters like Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria are awful enough, and adding a drug problem will only make things worse. Help is out there—just ask for it.