Rowan Marrs, visual communication design freshman, witnessed her stepmother and her stepmother’s sister struggle with substance abuse, and she has experienced how it could tear a family apart, she said.
“A lot of the time, people don’t realize it’s happening,” Marrs said. “You need that helping hand, you need somebody to pull you out of it because it sucks.”
Anything can become substance abuse depending on how a person consumes it and who they become because of it, she said.
Substance abuse is a mental disorder as individuals become reliant and struggle to see the issue, she said.
About 10% of U.S. adults have drug use disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Institutes of Health. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas saw a 33% increase in opioid deaths due to the isolations, said De’An Roper, assistant professor of practice in the School of Social Work.
Nursing freshman Anne Tran grew up around her father who constantly drinks and smokes, which eventually led her and her mother to contracting asthma.
It devastated Tran as she grew up, avoiding physical activities due to her asthma, Tran said.
“It hurts me to know that he’s still doing it despite knowing all the consequences behind it,” she said. “If he does pass away, it doesn’t affect just him, it affects everyone around him.”
Substance use disorder is a brain disease that changes the brain as a result of using the substances, such as creating a physiological dependency, Roper said.
Latoya Oduniyi, Health Services assistant director, oversees the health promotion and substance abuse prevention program at UTA. Having the knowledge of how different substances affect an individual physically, emotionally and socially could be a preventative tool, she said.
Individuals with substance use disorders are thrown into jail instead of a given treatment, criminalizing the disease, Roper said. The steps to recovery differ for every individual, whether it be joining a church, attending a group meeting or by their own willpower, she said.
“It’s a myth that you have to go to treatment to stop using,” she said. “There’s no-one-size-fits-all.”