Home  |   Subscribe  |   Resources  |   Reprints  |   Writers' Guidelines


Excessive Heat Poses Increased Risks for Individuals With Behavioral Health Conditions

The Substance and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is issuing a heat advisory to alert the nation to the increased risk of heat-related illnesses for individuals with mental and substance use disorders. Children and older adults with these conditions are particularly vulnerable to elevated temperatures.

Exposure to excessive heat is dangerous for all American citizens and can lead to heatstroke which is considered a medical emergency. Heatstroke occurs when the body’s temperature-regulating system breaks down and the body is unable to cool itself. Internal body temperatures can rise to levels that may cause irreversible brain damage and death.

Individuals with behavioral health conditions who are taking psychotropic medications or using certain substances are at a higher risk for heatstroke and heat-related illnesses. These medications and substances can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate heat and an individual’s awareness that their body temperature is rising.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), effective methods to prevent heat exhaustion include drinking plenty of fluids, replacing salt and minerals that may be removed from heavy sweating, wearing loose light-colored clothing, wearing sunscreen, staying cool indoors with air conditioning, and monitoring those at high risk. For individuals who may be living in facilities, ensure that they are well hydrated, have access to cooler areas, and monitor temperature levels, especially for those individuals who may be taking antipsychotic and anticholinergic medications.

For more information on how to prevent, recognize, and treat heat-related illnesses, please see the CDC’s publication, Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety at http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/. SAMHSA is partnering with the CDC to promote physical and emotional health and prevent co-morbid medical conditions for individuals with mental and substance use disorders. Please visit SAMHSA’s Wellness Initiative website at http://www.samhsa.gov/wellness to learn more.

— Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration