Global Warming and Substance Use Problems

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

It’s not even spring and the country has been experiencing record high temperatures. The heat may feel welcome during the winter doldrums, but it also comes with a cost.

Most of the warming trend is human-induced as opposed to natural. We’re all playing our part in the trends and likewise are subject to the consequences.

Check out this site to understand facts about climate change. Everything is covered from the sea level rise to shrinking ice sheets to glacial retreat to ocean acidification. All of these things are contributing to the unprecedented pace at which temperatures have been rising since the 1950s.

These rising temperatures have produced humanitarian crises and associated mental health problems – including substance use disorders.

The Impact of Climate Change

Weather disasters lead to panic and displacement of individuals from their homes and communities. The disaster might come in the form of flooding, earthquakes, high winds, and wildfires.

Associated trauma can result in anxiety disorders, PTSD and substance abuse. Extreme ages (very young or elderly) are particularly vulnerable. Also at higher risk for developing problems are those individuals who have a pre-existing psychiatric problem and those lacking in monetary and supportive resources. But regardless of socioeconomic status, anyone can face loss of a job, home, or community.

First responders also are at risk for heightened anxiety and coping with substances.

The Emotional Toll

Of course not everyone affected by a natural disaster will have a pathological response. Emotional response is variable and tends to fluctuate over time. For example, there can be initial relief after an event and sometimes symptoms of a disorder don’t appear until a person is triggered by an ‘anniversary’ event.

For this reason, early intervention by mental health professionals is vital to a person’s recovery and success after an event. Professionals tend to focus on normalizing the reactions of victims and aim to enhance supports and create calm environments that foster good sleep and comfort. Naming the risks of using alcohol and other substances during a disaster is also an important part of reducing the risk for individuals.

There are a number of excellent resources to help cope with mental health matters after a disaster:

Climate change is part of our reality and there are things that we can do about it.

Images Courtesy of iStock

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