We’re losing more and more of our loved ones to overdose. The rate of drug-related deaths in the past few years has skyrocketed to record-breaking levels.
In 2000, there were about 17,000 drug overdose deaths in America. That number grew to over 63,000 in 2016, which was the highest recorded yet. However, even that record was topped again in 2017, with over 72,000 overdose deaths.
How do we stop this ever-growing problem?
One way is through education. We need to be aware of (and help others to be aware of) the signs of drug use in order to combat the epidemic sweeping our country.
When it comes to your friends and family members, be on the lookout for the following changes:
- Isolation – Are they isolating themselves from friends or family who don’t drink or do drugs?
- New Friends – Are they spending a lot of time with new friends or with friends who drink or use drugs?
- Money Issues – Do they always seem to be out of money? Are they often asking to borrow money?
- Lack of Hygiene – Are they unconcerned with their appearance? Are they paying less attention to personal hygiene?
- Sleep Problems – Have their sleeping habits changed? Are they either sleeping too much or not enough?
- Tardiness/Absenteeism – Are they showing up late to work or school…or not showing up at all?
- Suddenly Secretive – Are they extremely private about possessions and their whereabouts?
- Change in Demeanor – Are they sluggish or overly tired? Do they seem “wired” or on edge?
- Easily Irritated – Are they more irritable or confrontational than normal?
What do I do if my loved one is abusing drugs?
If you or anyone you know is suffering from drug or alcohol abuse, you can reach out to a Joint Commission Accredited Health Organization treatment center such as Foundations Wellness Center as a starting point. (You’ll be able to see a golden JCAHO logo on their site). Many centers make admissions personnel available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer your questions and concerns. If they cannot help you, they can point you in the direction of someone who can.
What do we do first?
First, your loved one needs to stop using drugs. Substance abuse treatment centers typically either provide a short detoxing period onsite or at a detox center nearby before starting treatment. Why is this? The physical withdrawal symptoms are most intense during the first week after stopping drug use, and medical supervision ensures that the individual can detox safely and most comfortably.
After detox follow-up treatment is critical. The underlying cause or conditions that may have contributed to drug or alcohol abuse – whether it be stress, depression, anxiety, past trauma, or something else – needs to be addressed with individual and group therapy over a period of at least 30 days with a day/night program, or partial hospitalization, followed by a period of intensive outpatient treatment. This can be followed by an outpatient program when necessary.
Finally, once formal treatment is complete, newly sober individuals should participate in ongoing support to avoid relapse and maintain sobriety. Many treatment centers offer an alumni group to facilitate this.
You are not alone!
Dealing with drug or alcohol abuse in a loved one can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to go through this process alone.
Many treatment centers encourage your involvement in treatment. This allows you to learn more about what led to drug use and how you can help your loved one stay sober. Not only should you be involved in treatment, you’ll need support afterward, too. In addition to getting your loved one help, look for a support group for yourself as well (Parents of Addicted Loved Ones, Al-Anon, Nar-Anon and Codependents Anonymous are a few of these support groups; there are others).
All of this may sound like a difficult undertaking. However, there is a lot of help available for you and your loved one.
The consequences of doing nothing – risking a possible felony conviction or overdose – are too great. Pick up the phone today and reach out…you’ll find plenty of people, resources, and help waiting.
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