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Addiciton warning signs during the holidays

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(The Center Square) — During the holiday season, addiction experts warn families to watch for signs of addiction in their loved ones.

“The stages of addiction look different from person to person and how long they’ve been drinking, using, etc.,” said Stephanie Lewis, clinical director of the Recovery Centers of America in Devon, near Philadelphia.

Lewis, a licensed social worker and someone who’s been in recovery for more than a decade, noted some common signs to look for in younger people off at college or middle-aged parents at home.

Family members growing distant and less communicative, dramatic weight loss or weight gain, grades dropping, asking for money more frequently and mood changes could all hint at something going on.

“What we know is drugs and alcohol are just a symptom of the problem — there’s definitely some problem going on inside that person,” Lewis said.

Colleges have been proactive in recent years to get students with substance abuse issues more help. Saint Joseph’s University hosts a collegiate recovery program with a recovery residence and offers counseling services. Also in Philadelphia, Drexel University has a recovery haven for sober living with peer mentoring and support programs for students.

Lewis praised such programs in Pennsylvania. Most collegiate recovery programs, though, are in the southeastern part of the state, with other regions lagging behind.

More support programs can help if people are willing to use them.

“For people to get sober and be in recovery, they have to want to do it on their own,” Lewis said. “If people don’t want to be sober, they’re not going to achieve it.”

Other, practical hurdles can make it difficult to get into recovery programs, too.

“You tend to see less women in treatment,” Lewis said. “I think it has a lot to do with childcare issues and responsibilities at home.”

As Pennsylvania will receive money to promote prevention and recovery programs from the opioid settlement over the next two decades, counties are spending the funds in different ways, from medication-assisted treatment in jails and hospitals to hiring recovery support specialists on the local level.

Mercer County, on the Ohio border, recently announced it has spent $122,000 on treatment and counseling. In November, York County approved almost $600,000 of its opioid funds for workforce development, youth mental health, psychiatric care, and expanding treatment services.

For anyone seeking help, or worried about a loved one using drugs, Lewis encouraged them to reach out.

“We’re seeing a lot of people die from opiate deaths on a daily basis so I think finding people to help is better than living in silence,” she said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has a hotline the public can call, 1-800-662-HELP, along with online resources.

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