Overdose, it’s a scary word that nobody likes to consider passing to someone they love. For millions of people living with addiction themselves or loving someone with an addiction, this is a constant and legitimate fear, especially with so many people across the country overdosing on drugs. Far too many people die from drug overdoses. But for the lucky ones who do it, what are the next steps their family members should take to make sure this doesn’t happen again?
While there is no 100% guarantee that a loved one will not start using drugs again after taking these steps, it is always best to be proactive in such situations. Narcan and detox can be effective short term solutions to dealing with immediate problems, but they are not long term solutions to a serious problem. An overdose is always a serious event and, if left untreated, it is usually never a one-off event.
So what are some practical steps a family can take if their loved one overdoses? Read on to find out.
Address the immediate problem.
First, whenever you discover that a loved one has overdosed, it is always a good idea to call 911 immediately for emergency medical help. Even if you have the opioid reversal drug Narcan on hand and can administer it, you should still get medical attention. Any overdose is a life-threatening problem that must be addressed by trained healthcare professionals. Even if you can resuscitate your loved one, they still need to be examined by a doctor.
Don’t you have narcan on hand? If you have a loved one struggling with opioid addiction, having Narcan in the house would be a smart idea. Many states will be selling this life-saving drug in local pharmacies without a prescription. Make sure to talk to a trained doctor about how and when to give Narcan before you need to use it. It is best to do this in advance; Preparation is always better than repentance.
Address the underlying problems.
Just going to the emergency room is not enough to resolve the underlying problems that led to the overdose in the first place. Too often, family members think that the overdose will be enough to “scare the person outright” so that they will never use drugs again. While there are certainly cases where this has been the case, it is not common. That’s because addiction is a powerful thing that can lead people to make irrational choices. In order to do everything possible in the future to prevent another overdose from occurring, the person with the addiction must address their addiction.
Seek professional help.
There’s no shame in seeking professional help, especially when it comes to something as serious as addiction. After a loved one goes to the hospital, it is advisable to look for a long-term treatment program to combat the addiction. Short term detox programs are not very effective in helping a person sober up in the long term. If you really want your loved one to control their addiction, then a long-term program is the best way to go. Don’t be fooled that a short hospital stay is enough to fix the problem.
Be prepared to confront your loved one with their addiction. Nobody enjoys having to denounce someone for their destructive behavior. While this will most likely be an awkward conversation, it will be well worth your efforts. Better to confront a loved one with their addiction and take the risk of getting upset with you than saying nothing and taking the risk of another overdose. It is important to do this as lovingly and sensitively as possible. Remember that your loved one has been through a lot, especially if they just overdosed. While this is going to be an already tense time for them, this is the perfect opportunity for you to see if they are ready to receive the help they need to get better. For many people, a near-death experience is a wake-up call to show that a significant change in lifestyle is necessary.
You may need to intervene.
Intervention is something that can be extremely uncomfortable for everyone involved, but has the potential to save the lives of loved ones. If you’re not sure where to start or how to put together an intervention, I recommend consulting an addiction professional for help. Many places will help you with how to do it yourself or you can put you in touch with a skilled interventionist who can help you carry out the intervention.
Set up treatment as soon as possible.
If you can set up treatment for your loved one’s addiction, put them on a program as soon as possible. An ideal scenario would be to put the person in rehab immediately after they are discharged from the hospital. No matter what they tell you, it is not a good idea for them to see their friends or get a final resolution before going to rehab. Too many people have died from their “final solution”. The best thing you can do is get her for treatment right away.
Be prepared for them to change their minds.
Often times a person overdoses, takes help with their addiction, and then changes their mind when they get into rehab. Second thoughts often arise when a person begins to sober up and feel the mental and physical effects of withdrawal. Cravings are a perfectly normal thing for an addict when trying to sober up. Early recovery difficulties are why it is beneficial to be in an inpatient treatment center in the early stages of sobriety. Your loved one may try to call you to tell you that they are better and that they don’t have to go through the length of their program to stay sober. It is vital that you be firm in your decision that you want them to help. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of empowerment.
Find a program that focuses on long-term results.
An essential aspect of healing addictions is learning how to develop new life skills to stay sober and thrive. A good addiction program will address multiple facets of the person’s life for long-term success. Programs that only focus on short-term goals are much less likely to achieve long-term success.
The most important thing a family can do for a loved one struggling with addiction is to help them receive the help they need to get well. While it may initially be more convenient to make something possible for a loved one by not pushing them to get help, it certainly won’t help them recover. While an overdose is never something anyone would hope for, it is an ideal time to get your loved one to seek help with their addiction.