Utah Ski Resort Towns: Seasonal Affective Disorder and Substance Abuse
Who doesn’t like walking outside and feeling the warmth of the sun on their skin and participating in all the summer activities available? Utah is known as being any outdoorsy person’s dream playground. Plenty of areas to go rock climbing, fishing, four wheeling, dirt bike riding, hiking, camping, and many other outdoor activities. However, we don’t stop once the air gets a chill and the snow starts falling, because we are also known for having the greatest snow 2on earth. Winter brings with it, it’s own activities such as skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and even the Sundance film festival. There is something for everyone, for every season. Why then is Utah’s population ten percent more likely to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)? SAD is thought to be linked to the waves from sunlight, including infrared, ultraviolet, and all in between, and the lack thereof on our brain chemistry. Without the sun it is dark and when it is dark our brain starts to produce the hormone, melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that helps us sleep, which is great when we are in bed and it’s ten at night, but if it is constantly being produced during the day, while you’re at work and trying to get things done, it can be a problem. Sleep is a common symptom of all depression, including SAD. Less sunlight also can result in less serotonin being produced which also can cause depression.
There are two types of SAD. The least likely is spring-onset or summer-depression when symptoms occur in late spring and early summer. The most common type of SAD is the fall-onset or winter-depression when symptoms begin in the late fall and early winter months and continue until spring or summer months. These depression symptoms that occur start and end at the same time of every year. Most people can notice the change in themselves when the weather changes. Just like with all depression some people look for ways to ease these feelings and symptoms with different substances. To combat the drowsiness people turn to cocaine, methamphetamine, or other stimulant drugs, some people try to ease the symptoms with alcohol, heroin, or other opiates. It is important to see a doctor when you notice these symptoms affecting your daily life and mood so that they may help with antidepressants, light therapy, and psychotherapy. SAD tends to affect women more than men, people who have other family members diagnosed with SAD or regular depression, and younger adults (it is less likely to affect the elderly).
Substance Abuse in Ski Towns
While the entire state of Utah and other northern latitude states are more likely to suffer from SAD, ski towns in Utah are highly susceptible to substance abuse during these winter months. Substance abuse is always more likely in cities where they are easier to obtain. In cities that thrive on tourism and need a nightlife to go with all the day activities, substance abuse, especially alcohol are highly used. At night, when temperatures fall below freezing, most people stay inside and try to stay warm with their friends and families. Main Street, Park city is know for it’s restaurants, bars, and even night clubs. Snowbasin is a northern Utah ski resort that feeds down into downtown Ogden which is also occupied with restaurants, bars, and a high substance abuse epidemic. The Sundance Film Festival, in Park City, is well known and this city tries to provide the high-life experience these celebrities are used to.
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Utah is no stranger to alcohol. Especially these ski towns. Ogden has their own distillery and Park City has their own distillery. While this may be the easiest to obtain, Utah has all drugs available too. The Deputy Chief of Summit County Sheriff’s Office, Frank Smith, says that drugs are always in Park City but it is higher during the ski season when tourists come to town and want to party. Between July 2015 and July 2016 there were 77 arrests made in the county for distributing drugs.
When drugs are readily available, people who suffer from SAD think that they can simply get high or drunk and solve their problem. However, if the substance abuse starts because of SAD, after months of abuse, even when summer approaches and depression feelings and symptoms wane, addiction may already be prevalent. Utah is known for it’s high depression rates, high suicide rates, and it’s high substance abuse rates. While there are other factors that play into these statistics, it is no question that SAD and other mental and emotional disorders play into these high numbers. One of the easiest ways to combat this is to seek out professional help and not just that of substances. The University of Utah is well aware of the effects of SAD and the correlation it has with substance abuse and have psychologists studying how to help. There are therapies available to help people get through the winter months without turning to drugs or alcohol.
Getting Help for Substance Abuse in Utah
If you or a loved one is suffering from substance abuse, addiction and/or mental health issues, please rest assured that help is available. There are many different options available and our admissions team can help. Please contact us here or call 1-888-986-7848 to speak with an admissions counselor to help verify your benefits and find the best treatment options available.
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