A huge thanks to Bethany Hatton for our guest article on addiction:
ADrugRehab.org states, “Addiction is tricky and calculating, and it’s the only disease that can take more than one person down with it, if it is left unchallenged. Addiction dramatically alters the lives of not just the addicted person, but of everyone within his or her vicinity, namely family and friends.”
Addiction in Australia
Millions of Australians are affected by drug addiction and alcohol dependency, either directly or indirectly. There are dozens of different drugs that can have a significant impact on a person’s life. ABC reports that the number of drug overdose deaths in the country has risen to the highest levels in nearly 20 years. It can be difficult, however, to determine if your loved one has a drug problem because different drugs have different symptoms, and people react to drugs in ways unique to them.
Identifying a substance abuse problem
Addiction to anything, whether it is drugs, sex, gambling, or food, can leave a person feeling socially isolated. According to ReachOut.com, a few social signs of a substance abuse problem include:
- Avoiding non-users becoming isiolated
- Feeling uncomfortable when unable to access their drug of choice
- Relationship problems
- Job loss
- Going into debt to fund habit
Other indications include:
- Anxiety attacks
- Poor attention span
- Depression, often severe
- Declining health, specifically heart problems
If you suspect that a friend or family member has an alcohol or drug problem, the first step is to help them recognize and admit it. Understand that you cannot force them to undergo treatment, but they may be more willing to get help if they are sure that they have a strong support network. Once they are willing to consider treatment, reach out to their doctor or healthcare provider.
The end goal of drug treatment is for the user to have the self-control their use if possible or to avoid taking drugs in the first place. But quitting cold turkey can be very tough and is often not a good idea. Withdrawal, the body’s response to craving a specific substance, can have debilitating symptoms including high blood pressure, anxiety, and shakiness. A person with an addiction to alcohol or a benzodiazepine, such as Valium, may even be at risk of death due to a sudden shock to the system if they quit using unexpectedly. The National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre in Sydney reports that opiate withdrawal, which was previously believed to be non-life-threatening, can result in death due to dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea.
Approaching an addicted person
Opening up a line of communication is an important part of helping your friend or family member seek treatment for their addiction. PositiveChoices.org.au explains that you must prepare ahead of time, however, before beginning the conversation about substance abuse. Gather information about the drug and decide exactly what you want to say about how you feel that the drugs have affected your loved one’s life. Come at them with compassion but be ready for some push back and negative reactions. More than anything, stay calm and be willing to listen to what they have to say. If you are intimidated or believe approaching them on your own may put you at risk, have a friend, family member, or mental health professional join you. You could also work with other close friends or family members to stage an intervention.
Type of treatment
There are dozens of residential treatment centres throughout Australia and even more outpatient facilities that can help. Long-term treatment, those programs designed to last between six and 12 months, offer 24-hour care and begin with a thorough medical detox. Community counselliing and support groups are also of offer.
Throughout treatment, patients are taught both how to live independent of chemical dependency and how to reenter society in recovery. The type of treatment your friend or relative seeks will be dictated by number of factors including their willingness to undergo treatment, time constraints, and finances.
For more information on alcohol and drug treatment, contact the Alcohol and Drug Foundation at 1300 85 85 84, your doctor or a psychologist. If it is a life-threatening emergency, call 000 or seek immediate medical intervention.