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COVID-19 Resources for the Community

The Drug Education Council, Inc is a wonderful resource for many in the community dealing with COVID related stress and anxiety. Bryan Comer sat down with Virginia Guy to talk about COVID and Vaping issues, and to outline the many ways DEC is making a difference. TAKEAWAY: Reach out to friends and family and see how they are doing.

Video Transcript:

Bryan Comer (BC): Hello, Bryan Comer from Tobias, McCormick & Comer and joined again by Virginia Guy the Executive Director of the Drug Education Council. Virginia as always, it's great to see you appreciate you being here.

Virginia Guy (VG): Thank you.

BC: We're obviously still (social) distancing. I want to talk just where we've kind of left off the last time in terms of have you seen any kind of correlation or talked to any experts who are discussing how Covid can impact people, particularly as it pertains to vaping? That was an issue we were talking about last time.

VG: Yes, some our local pulmonologists as well as all the way up to the National Institute of Drug Abuse are looking at the connection between vaping and the outcomes if you get Covid. So we do know that with Covid has pretty serious effects on the lung, that if your lungs are already damaged from either traditional smoking or vaping, you could be at more risk for having a bad outcome. So they are looking at that connection and we really encourage everybody, this is a great opportunity to quit smoking, to quit vaping, to quit tobacco use completely, which would be the healthiest thing to do just to take care of your lungs.

BC: And I've seen studies, and I didn't realize that the lungs don't heal, and the damage that is done is permanent.

VG: Right you know we're real concerned about that. I did not know that either that the lung is the only major organ that does not repair itself, so you can lose a good bit of your liver and your liver will start to repair there's even you know brain damage you can build new brain pathways but the damage that's done to the lungs is permanent. So no matter where the damage comes from you know it's permanent, so we really want to keep particularly our young people, teenagers, young adults and pregnant women away from any kind of vaping products. Anybody who's ever tried to quit smoking will tell you how difficult it is. We know that nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs to the brain. We also know that the teenage brain is far more vulnerable to addiction, so the younger you start smoking or using any kind of nicotine, or any kind of drug for that matter, the more likely you are to develop an addiction and that will last for your entire life.

BC: The Drug Education Council is such an asset to this community and not just in Mobile but in the entirety of Southwest Alabama and the reach has really expanded and particularly now when people have been furloughed, when they've lost their jobs, when they've been quarantined in isolation for so long it seems that people perhaps are either resorting to bad habits from a long time ago or reaching for new bad habits. Can you kind of tell us a little bit about some of the services that the agency provides in terms of prevention and the resource than y'all are for the community?

VG: Well Bryan, you're absolutely correct. We've watched during this pandemic and you know folks having to be physically isolated, we've been trying to encourage them not to be socially isolated, to connect. We know that people who already struggle with substance use disorder addiction, this time has been particularly hard for them when everything is disrupted and it's hard on all of us but it's very, very hard when you've got job insecurity, job loss, economic insecurity, food insecurity. So all of those things can lead to either increased drug use or relapse for somebody who's in recovery. We call alcohol deaths, drug deaths, and suicides the "deaths of despair" so we really want to reach out to the community, we want them to know that there's help available, there's people out there who are willing just to talk to them, just to connect with them. There's a lot of meetings now that are on a virtual format, there's a lot of ways to connect as we go through this time together. We're really reaching out to the community and trying to get that help for folks.

BC: I would imagine that creating healthy habits and maybe even routines are good ways perhaps that we could all get better just in general, but also to keep from falling into a place where perhaps drugs or alcohol would be a tempting factor.

VG: Right. Routines are so important, so you know your routine in these days will probably be different than your routine was a couple of months ago. Having some kind of routine such as getting up at about the same time every day, going to sleep at about the same time, trying to eat as healthy as you can, getting outdoors whenever you can, doing as much exercise as you can and then connecting with those people that are healthy in your life, that love and care about you and that we can all support each other. I think we all appreciate that kind of connection if somebody calls us we haven't heard from in a while just to see how we're doing you know so I encourage everybody to reach out to people this is a very, very important time for us to stay connected as much as we can.

BC: One thing I wanted to mention that has gone under the radar but shouldn't are the food services the Drug Education Council has provided for the community. I know things have changed since the school year officially ended but tell us about what y'all did while school was still in place.

VG: We know that some of the highest need families in our community are getting their food from the feeding programs that are going on so we've been working with those feeding programs where our staff will be there available to talk to families, to give everything from prevention information that they can talk to their children about developing healthy habits, staying away from drugs and alcohol, all the way to helping people if they're worried about someone they love that may have an alcohol or drug problem. So we've connected with those feeding programs whether people are coming to get food we're able to talk with those families and a lot of times those families are coming every day to get their food, or they're coming once a week to the different feeding programs so it's been an opportunity for us to connect with families in the community. We've got a lot of families that are hurting because of this pandemic and because of the economic loss. We started out with a medical crisis then we quickly went into an economic crisis, now we've got a mental health crisis and that's the thing that we want to try to work on so that we can get everybody back mentally healthy and as stable as they can as the community begins to open back up and our economy starts to grow again.

BC: That's just fantastic. I really cannot stress enough what an important job the Drug Education Council does for the community. You are a valuable resource for people and I really encourage you if you need help, or you know somebody who needs help, reach out to them. You can call them, their office number is 478-7855, that's 251-478-7855 and you can visit their website drugeducation.org. The main thing is y'all are here, you're a great resource and please reach out if you need help, they're fantastic. Virginia, it's always great to see you, please keep up the great work that y'all are doing in the community and again, thank you so much for coming down here today.

VG: Thank you for having me.

 See related article: Dangers of Vaping

If you know someone who has been harmed due to vaping, contact the attorneys of Tobias, McCormick & Comer for a free consultation.

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