BEE HEARD: What is substance use and can you become addicted?   

Native Connections

What is substance use? Can you become addicted?  

Substance use is when a person experiments with using substances such as alcohol, marijuana, opioids, methamphetamine, vape, and huffing chemicals. Even nicotine is considered a substance. These substances can affect our bodies and minds in different ways, especially our brains and behaviors.  

Substance use is especially critical for youth and young adults up to the age of 24. Why is that? Studies have shown that our brains don’t stop developing until we’re 24 years of age and using substances earlier than 25 years old can hinder our brain’s ability to develop properly. We also know that using substances at any age can create unhealthy pathways in our brains, unhealthy behaviors, and affect our ability to cope with normal stressors in life.  

Yes, you can become addicted to these substances. When people are addicted to a substance, they repeatedly use it despite the harm caused to their mind and body. Many people have different ideas of what addiction is and how easy or difficult it is to overcome. In reality, addiction is very complex, and substances effect each person differently. There is good news, you can overcome addiction with support and treatment.  

What is addiction?  

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and their Drug Facts page, addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences.  

The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people. However, repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a “relapsing” disease — people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.  

For more information, check this website:  

Is substance use related to mental health?  

Yes. In many cases substance use and mental health disorders go hand in hand. You might hear this referred to as “co-occurring disorders”. According to The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), addiction to drugs or alcohol is a mental health illness. How? The use of substances changes our normal behaviors and even the priorities in our life.  

If using substances is affecting your ability to Live, Love, Learn, and Laugh, it might be affecting your life in ways that aren’t healthy. We would encourage you to seek someone to talk to about using substances and how that use has affected your life.  

The takeaway.  

Substance use disorders and mental health disorders can affect anyone from all walks of life and areas. Many illnesses, whether they are caused by substance use or mental health concerns, are common and recoverable. Early prevention and conversation with your family and friends about using substances, with clear guidelines and family expectations, is crucial.  

The Southern Ute Native Connections Program is a great resource for those of you who might need some tips and support to effectively talk to youth and adults about substance use. We have plenty of handouts broken up into age categories that can be emailed or picked up at a designated tribal pick-up area.  

As always, the Southern Ute Behavioral Health Division is here for you if you need someone to talk to and for assistance putting a plan together to change your behaviors. If you are in recovery, we can also help you with that too by assisting you with your recovery plan.   

Together we can be here for one another.  

Feel free to contact the Southern Ute Behavioral Health Division for more tips or mental health services at 970.563.5700. We would love to talk to you and your family about staying mentally healthy.  

We are looking for community members and youth to join the Prevention Coalition tasked to reduce youth substance usage, eliminate mental health stigma, and start the discussion around suicide and prevention.  

We have monthly coalition meetings and workshops to help our community understand the real story behind alcohol, meth, opioids, vaping, marijuana, and other drugs in our community. We need your help! All meeting is held virtually.  

For more information, please contact Precious Collins, Native Connections Program Coordinator for more information 970-563-5700 or email 


  • Southern Ute Health Center, Behavioral Health: 69 Capote Drive, Ignacio, CO 970-563-5700. For local Native Americans. Call to schedule a counseling appointment.  
  • Southern Ute Division of Social Services: 116 Capote Drive, Ignacio, CO 970-563-2331 for local Native Americans needing assistance with child welfare needs and family support.  
  • 24/7 Axis Health System Care Hotline: Durango, CO You’re not alone. With our 24/7 crisis services, help is on the way. Your health… We’re in this together. 970-247-5245 
  • St Ignatius Catholic Church: Pastor Cesar Arras, 14826 CO-172, Ignacio, CO 970-563-4241. 
  • Ignacio Community Church: Pastor Randall Haynes 405 Browning Ave, Ignacio, CO (currently located inside ELHI) 970-759-3633  
  • Second Wind Fund of the Four Corners: Believes that every child and youth at risk of suicide should have access to the mental health treatment they need. We match children and youth at risk for suicide with licensed therapists in their communities, 720-962-0706. 
  • Women’s Resource Center: Creates personal, social and professional growth opportunities for all women in La Plata County, 970-247-1242. 


  • Colorado Crisis Line: 844-493-8255 or Text “TALK” to 38255. You’ll immediately be put in contact with a trained counselor, ready to text with you about anything. 
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Has both an online chat and 24/7 phone line at 1-800-273-8255 if you are thinking of suicide or need help for a loved one. 
  • The Trevor Project: Which seeks to serve LGBT youth, has a 24/7 suicide prevention line at 866-488-7386. 
  • WeRNative: Join the movement by liking them on Facebook (, signing up for the text messaging service (text NATIVE to 24587). 

 You are ready to help create a drug-free community? Want to help and be a part of the change? 


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