‘People can sometimes feel isolated’: Overcoming addiction during the holidays

Local News

UTAH (ABC4) – According to the Centers for Disease Control, December, January, and March are the most dangerous times of the year when it comes to drug and alcohol-related deaths. During the holidays, Utah healthcare facilities see an increase in demand for addiction-related services. One hospital provides an array of different services for those in recovery and ways families can help their loved ones this winter.  

 “Addiction includes everyone. It doesn’t discriminate,” Jenifer Gorder told ABC4. She is the clinical manager of Ogden Regional Medical Center’s behavioral health services. 

Surveys from the American Addiction Centers show that 84 percent of Americans feel moderateLY to overwhelmingly stressed, and about 25 percent feel more depressed during the holidays. These surveys offer a small glimpse into why those recovering from substance abuse are more prone to relapse during the holidays. The surveys may also reflect what is happening here in Utah.  

During the holiday season, Utah hospitals — like Ogden Regional Medical Center — see the highest demand for addiction-related services for the year.  

“People can sometimes feel isolated,” explained Justin Hatch, director of behavioral health services at Ogden Regional Medical Center. 

“They feel like they’re concerned about not being able to be around their family because of their substances they’re using and those types of things.” Hatch said.

He told ABC4 that along with the pressure of the holidays, winter weather often increases that feeling of isolation for many people. For those in recovery, this can all lead to a relapse.   

“We operate under the disease model,” Jenifer Gorder stated. “So, it’s much like someone who has diabetes. With someone who has diabetes, you would never say ‘Stop choosing to have that.’ So, I would say that’s the biggest misconception.” 

Gorder explained that those who live with addiction are not actively choosing to be addicted to any given substance. The idea that they are, she said, is a harmful stigma. “There’s often a lot of guilt. There’s often a lot of shame. Both with family members and with the patient, but we try to let them know that and teach them that we’re always glad to see them,” she stated. She told ABC4 they would rather see a patient many times than have to read his or her name in an obituary.  

To help those in need, the hospital offers in-patient and out-patient services as well as detox services. Hatch told ABC4 this is important because the Ogden area has one of the highest levels of overdose in the state. He added: “People are more likely to get treatment and stay in treatment if they’re connected (to their providers), and if they’re connected long term. And so, the nice thing about having the services here in Ogden is we can be engaged for a long period of time.”  

The goal is to help people before an overdose. However, if that does happen the hospital offers detox services. “Detox can be life-threatening,” said McKenzei Martin who is the nurse manager of behavioral health services at the hospital. 

She explained that going through the detox process at a hospital has many benefits. The most important is the safety aspect. If a person has medical complications during the process, the emergency room is nearby.  “It isn’t easy, and they do feel sick while they’re going through that,” Martin stated. “What’s really wonderful about our staff is they show so much compassion to those patients.”  

Hospital officials said that families can look for the early signs of relapse to help their loved one avoid a potential overdose by looking for “any kind of irregular behavior.” Gorder continued to explain what that may look like, “Maybe they’re sleeping longer, maybe they’re staying awake longer, maybe they’re not eating, maybe they’re eating more, maybe they’re losing weight.”  

Hospital officials told ABC4 the hospital has already taken precautions to be prepared for the influx it will see this holiday season.

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