Substance Use Disorder

Substance Use Disorder

Mental Health & Substance Use Disorders

Mental health and substance use disorders affect people from all walks of life and all age groups. These illnesses are common, recurrent, and often serious, but they are treatable and many people do recover. Mental disorders involve changes in thinking, mood, and/or behavior. These disorders can affect how we relate to others and make choices. Reaching a level that can be formally diagnosed often depends on a reduction in a person’s ability to function as a result of the disorder.

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Harm reduction is an evidence-based approach that is critical to engaging with people who use drugs and equipping them with life-saving tools and information to create positive change in their lives and potentially save their lives. Harm reduction is a key pillar in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Overdose Prevention Strategy.

The Georgia Harm Reduction Coalition, Inc. (GHRC) is a statewide wellness organization committed to promoting health and dignity by reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, STI, and Substance Use within vulnerable communities. 
Why are Harm Reduction Services Needed?

Harm reduction offers an opportunity to reach people who aren’t otherwise accessing healthcare services ― and offer them naloxone to reverse an overdose, and help connect them to other needed services. As an example, treatment services (such as medications for opioid use disorder) can be co-located with harm reduction services and offered as an option.

Harm Reduction’s Place in and Among Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery

Harm reduction is part of a comprehensive prevention strategy and the continuum of care. Harm reduction approaches have proven to prevent death, injury, disease, overdose, and substance misuse. Harm reduction is effective in addressing the public health epidemic involving substance use as well as infectious disease and other harms associated with drug use.

As an approach, harm reduction emphasizes kindness and autonomy in the engagement of people who use drugs. It also increases the number of touchpoints (and opportunities) that peers and/or service providers have with people who use drugs.

Specifically, harm reduction services can:

  • Connect individuals to overdose education, counseling, and referral to treatment for infectious diseases and substance use disorders.
  • Distribute opioid overdose reversal medications (e.g., naloxone) to individuals at risk of overdose, or to those who are likely to respond to an overdose.
  • Lessen harms associated with drug use and related behaviors that increase the risk of infectious diseases, including HIV, viral hepatitis, and bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Reduce infectious disease transmission among people who use drugs (including those who inject drugs) by equipping them with sterile supplies, accurate information and facilitating referrals to resources.
  • Reduce overdose deaths, promote linkages to care, facilitate co-location of services as part of a comprehensive, integrated approach.
  • Reduce stigma associated with substance use and co-occurring disorders.
  • Promote a philosophy of hope and healing ― by employing people with living and lived experience in leadership and in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of services. People with lived experience can also model for their peers what meaningful change can look like in their lives.
  • Build community and increase protective factors ― for people who use drugs and their families.

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988. 24-hour, toll-free, confidential support for people in distress. Prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.

Veterans Crisis Line – Reach caring, qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Many of them are Veterans themselves.

Disaster Distress Helpline – 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.

Georgia Overdose Prevention’s mission is to educate Georgians about the new laws governing drug overdose incidents and to distribute opioid overdose rescue kits to anyone who knows a person at risk for opioid/opiate overdose. 

“Over-the-counter (OTC) access to NARCAN® Nasal Spray offers more people the ability to respond in an opioid emergency, helping to save lives and keep loved ones and communities safe. Expanding access and awareness is critical given the staggering toll of the epidemic mainly driven by synthetic opioids, like fentanyl. Last year, approximately every seven minutes one life was lost due to an opioid overdose, and today it is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. The average response time for emergency services to arrive is approximately 10 minutes. Having NARCAN® Nasal Spray in a first-aid kit, or carrying it on the go in case of an opioid emergency, can make a difference and help reverse the effects of opioids while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive.”


Request a Naloxone Kit

Overdose Prevention Plan

Naloxone Facts


NOTE: The information contained in these self-help documents is not to be used as a substitute for professional care. Neither the authors nor the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association (GVMA) assume liability for injury incurred by following the information presented in these self-help resources.

Get Anonymous Help Now: Georgia PHP

The Georgia Professional Health Program (Georgia PHP, Inc.) is a nonprofit organization formed to assist all licensees of the Georgia Composite Board of Medical Examiners and in 2022 the Georgia Board of Veterinary Medicine who develop potentially impairing conditions, mental illnesses, substance abuse and other addictive disorders. They are not, per se, a treatment organization. Rather, they provide initial triage, referral into treatment, treatment quality monitoring, and long-term care for addiction and mental/behavioral health disorders.

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