On the heels of a reported nationwide spike in substance use in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, DC Health has launched MyRecoveryDC, a public education campaign to help individuals addicted to opioids, alcohol and other drugs access the District’s comprehensive network of treatment and recovery services.
Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol and drug use disorders were a serious problem in the District of Columbia:
- One in 10 District residents suffer from an alcohol use disorder, twice the regional and national average.1
- One in 8 District residents suffer from a substance use disorder, nearly twice the regional and national average.1
- Opioid overdoses in DC have nearly doubled since 2018 with 411 people dying in 2020.2
- In 2020, 94% of DC opioid overdose cases involved fentanyl,2 and fentanyl is in almost all heroin found in DC.3
“Although addiction is an ongoing issue, we know that many District residents likely started or increased substance use as a way of coping with stress or emotions related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Shauna White, Pharmaceutical Control Division Program Manager, Health Regulation and Licensing Administration, DC Health. “We want to let individuals with the disease of addiction—as well as their family and friends—know that there are people and services available right now to help you on your road to recovery.”
A centerpiece of the MyRecoveryDC campaign is connecting District residents to Certified DC Peers—individuals who have been successful in their own recovery process and who are now working to help others. Through advertising, social media and a website, District-based peers share their personal stories in hopes of inspiring others to seek treatment.
Among those who participated is Mark S., who shares his journey from altar boy at St. Martins and an athlete at Mackin High School to a man in an alley, alone with his addiction. Today, Mark is a husband and father with three decades of sobriety, who says: “There’s a way out! You do get better. It’s a way out and it’s called recovery.”
Mark’s story is one of many included on the campaign’s website, MyRecoveryDC.org, which also provides options for visitors to be connected with a peer educator. Studies have shown that individuals with an addiction who get assistance from a peer educator stay better engaged in the recovery process and are less likely to return to use.4 Also, sharing stories of addiction and recovery can decrease public and self-stigma and encourage affirming and inclusive attitudes toward people struggling with addiction.5
The MyRecoveryDC campaign is part of LIVE.LONG.DC., the District’s strategic plan to reduce opioid use and misuse and to reduce opioid-related deaths.
District residents seeking more information about treatment and recovery from a substance use disorder are encouraged to visit MyRecoveryDC.org or call the 24/7 Access Helpline at 1-(888)-793-4357 (7WE-HELP).