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August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day. I did not know this was a thing until I saw a brief piece about it in this morning on TV. Later today while in the car I heard a song that I associate with the torment of addiction. I remember playing it for a large group I was leading when I worked in rehab. While in the car I began to sob, thinking about this illness and a few of the people I lost to overdose. The deadly drug Fentanyl is often to blame in many of these instances. They were all young and had so much life left to live.

When I was new to my career in my early twenties , I worked with people who had serious mental illness. Many of them struggled with drug and alcohol abuse, but this was not always obvious to those who worked with them. I recall two of my clients within a year or so died accidently due to substance abuse related causes. I was not aware they were abusing drugs or alcohol and I wondered what was I doing wrong. I realize now that this condition is  both complex  and systemic. Addicts often excel at hiding their usage, at least for awhile.

I don’t think I mentioned this on the blog before but the main reason I switched from working in mental health to addiction services in 2017 was to see if I could be part of the solution. A few years prior a young family member of mine  was found dead of an apparent accidental opioid overdose. She was quite young and left behind a son. My brother in law helped his brother ( her father) identify her body. This decimated his family. While I was not a close relative of this young woman, I watched both her and her sister grow up over the years at holidays and at important occasions like weddings, the birth of a child, and funerals. I worry about my nieces who  may have inherited the genes for addiction. It is quite heavy for children to lose a cousin in this way, not to mention this baby born to two young addicts who will have to live his life without his mother. Addiction is a family disease.

I still work with a few clients who recently relapsed and a few who grew up in families with addiction ( ACOA). I realized eventually that I am not really strong enough to work exclusively with this population. I am grateful that I had the courage to switch specialties late in life and do what I could to be of service. I learned so much and use many of these skills in my current practice.  However, I  don’t fare well when young people needlessly die.

If you or someone you love is abusing drugs and/or alcohol, please reach out for help. While our system in the US is flawed, there are many ways to get some support or treatment. Don’t wait until you have to go identify a body.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

Also visit the online treatment locator, or send your zip code via text message: 435748 (HELP4U) to find help near you. Read more about the HELP4U text messaging service.

This post is dedicated to Nick, Paul, and Maria, along with all the families who have lost someone to this disease and all the souls who could no longer find their way back to safety.

7 comments on “International Overdose Awareness Day

  1. Thank you for sharing about such an important issue, Linda, and for sharing some of the resources available! We see the damage and riptide-pull of addiction, and particularly the effects of the opioid addictions, in the women’s health clinic where I’ve spent a good portion of each week in recent years. In addition to the invaluable resources you’ve already shared, I’ve found the work of Anna Lembke, Stanford Addiction Center’s director, to be super illuminating. She’s featured in several documentary films, and one of the better podcast interviews is Rich Roll’s podcast interview with Dr. Lembke.

    It’s a tough thing to be working in that area of expertise, Linda! Blessings to you.
    Jamie (Sophias-Children)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. litebeing says:

      Thanks Jamie for such a thoughtful comment. Addiction is increasing since the pandemic and systemic change is needed in my opinion. It was great to hear from you and hope all is well in your world.

      blessings,

      Linda

      Like

  2. fgsjr2015 says:

    I haven’t been affected on a personal level by the opioid addiction/overdose crisis in my country; but I have suffered enough unrelenting ACE-related hyper-anxiety to have known, enjoyed and appreciated the great release upon consuming alcohol and/or THC. Yet, I once was one of those who, while sympathetic, would look down on those who’d ‘allowed’ themselves to become addicted to alcohol and/or illicit ‘hard’ drugs.

    However, upon learning that serious life trauma, notably adverse childhood experiences, is very often behind the addict’s debilitating addiction, I began to understand ball-and-chain self-medicating: The greater the drug-induced euphoria/escape one attains from its use, the more one wants to repeat the experience; and the more intolerable one finds their sober reality, the more pleasurable that escape should be perceived. By extension, the greater one’s mental pain or trauma while sober, the greater the need for escape from reality, thus the more addictive the euphoric escape-form will likely be.

    Lasting PTSD mental pain is very formidable yet invisibly confined to inside one’s head. It is solitarily suffered, unlike an openly visible physical disability or condition, which tends to elicit sympathy/empathy from others. It can make every day a mental ordeal, unless the turmoil is prescription and/or illicitly medicated.

    Meantime, the preconceived erroneous notion that drug addicts are simply weak-willed and/or have committed a moral crime is, quite fortunately, gradually diminishing. Also, we now know that Western pharmaceutical corporations intentionally pushed their very addictive and profitable opiates — I call it by far the real moral crime — for which they got off relatively lightly, considering the resulting immense suffering and overdose death numbers.

    During the first half of 2022 there were at least 1,095 lives lost in B.C. from toxic-drug overdosing, and more than 10,000 such deaths since April of 2016. Typically societally overlooked is that intense addiction usually doesn’t originate from a bout of boredom, where a person repeatedly consumed recreationally but became heavily hooked — and homeless, soon after — on an unregulated often-deadly chemical that eventually destroyed their life and even those of loved-ones. Either way, neglecting people dealing with debilitating drug addiction should never have been an acceptable or preferable political option.

    But the callous politics typically involved with addiction funding/services likely reflect conservative electorate opposition, however irrational, towards making proper treatment available to low- and no-income addicts. Tragically and appallingly, it’s as though some people, however precious their souls, can be considered disposable.

    Even to an otherwise democratic and relatively civilized nation, their worth(lessness) is measured basically by their sober ‘productivity’ or lack thereof. Those people may then begin perceiving themselves as worthless and accordingly live their daily lives more haphazardly. Sadly, many of the chronically addicted don’t really care if they overdose and never wake up. It’s not that they necessarily want to die; it’s that they want their pointless corporeal hell to cease and desist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. litebeing says:

      Thanks for visiting and sharing such a thoughtful response. The system is broken because society is broken and this is a symptom of that break.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this beautiful post and dedication, Linda.
    May people get the help before it’s too late! It’s important to have an awareness day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. litebeing says:

      Thanks for your kind words Ka. Awareness is the beginning…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. litebeing says:

      thank you Ka! Sorry that I have been slow to respond. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

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