Tag: Opiate Epidemic

This fact could not have been made clearer than in a conversation with Theresa Russell*, who agreed to talk about how heroin has touched her life.

Theresa began by handing over a list of six people’s names, their ages, and the dates of their overdoses and deaths.  She reports she is very angry right now, as the most recent death was one of her very best friends from high school.  He was 32 years old and overdosed on Nov. 1, 2015.

She explains that her anger and disbelief stem from the very first overdose in 2002.  This was the father of a high school friend.  Theresa, along with a close circle of friends, attended the funeral in 2002, and in her mind, this was the moment she knew she would never pick up opiates and heroin.  She believed her peers all felt the same.  Sadly, this was not the case.

Until society finds a way to manage the heroin issue, friends and family will continue to ask themselves, “What more could I have done?” or “Why didn’t I see that?”

The list of six people who died of drug overdoses are all connected, in some way.  Her very best female friend from high school “Jane”, has struggled with opiate addiction.  Jane’s husband was the third one on the list to die in the fall 2008.  Jane also attended the funeral in 2002.  Theresa is puzzled that after attending a funeral of someone who overdosed and died of drugs, why anyone would ever choose to use drugs?  She also wonders what makes a person walk into a room and decide that they will jab a needle into their body to get high.  What is going through their minds the first time they try heroin?  It is no secret that after the first time, people can get hooked.  

Theresa had another friend that died in the spring of 2008 from a drug overdose, who was also at the funeral in 2002…they were all there to support their friend whose father lied in the casket. 

Theresa is angry and sad about what this drug is doing to our society.  She is also angry that her dearest friend from middle school and high school years have succumbed to the lure of heavy drugs. Theresa tried to intervene early on in her friend’s addiction, but the family and her friend were in denial.  Eventually, the family saw that Theresa was correct, and that their daughter needed help. Yet this friend still struggles today with relapses. 

When we hear about people dying from drug overdoses, it is important to also remember the friends and family left suffering.  Trying to make sense of death by heroin and of the addiction itself, is often terribly difficult.  Until society finds a way to manage the heroin issue, friends and family will continue to ask themselves, “What more could I have done?” or “Why didn’t I see that?”

Like Theresa’s loved ones, addiction can take hold of anyone and everyone. Addiction does not discriminate; whether wealthy, successful, or have a family, it can disrupt the lives of anyone. If you have someone in your life who is suffering from addiction, overdose is a real possibility. Here are some steps for dealing with a loved one you believe has overdosed:

Action Plan  **

  1. Call for help. The sooner emergency medical help arrives, the sooner professional treatment for the overdose can begin.
  2. Provide first aid. Becoming familiar with first aid techniques, such as CPR, can be helpful should the situation arise.
  3. Collect important information from the scene. Are there empty pill bottles or drug paraphernalia lying around? Take them with you to the hospital or provide them to first responders so the medical staff will know exactly what they are dealing with. This will help them render the proper treatment more quickly – a process that can mean the difference between life and death in some cases.
  4. Don’t judge. An overdose crisis is not the time to make judgments or accusations concerning your loved one’s addiction. While you should attempt to gain information concerning what drugs were taken and in what quantity, save your emotional commentary until after the crisis has passed.
  5. Be cautious and aware. Some drugs, especially in larger doses that can cause an overdose, can cause violence and anger. Some drugs can increase the user’s strength and tolerance for pain so drastically that they become almost super-human. Do not place yourself in physical danger to treat an overdose.

Author:  Lorrie Roberts, LADC, CCS

* Names have been changed for confidentiality reasons.
**Action plan courtesy of Alta Mira Recovery Programs

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In Maine, over the last 10-15 years, the rising tide of prescription painkillers abuse and other opiates based drugs (legal and illegal) has reached epidemic proportions. The abuse of alcohol and other addictive drugs like marijuana/synthetic cannabinoids, cocaine/crack, benzodiazepines, and methamphetamine also remain widespread.

As our families come together over the holiday season and we transition into the new year, it is important for us to all be aware that the devasting disease of addiction can impact all areas of an individual’s life, causing problems with family, friendships, work, school, finances, legal issues, along with physical and psychological health.

Addiction and its ripples effect cause destruction not only in the individual who abuses substances but in the lives of loved ones as well. These loved ones often experience unhealthy stress, anxiety, depression, physical sickness, and an overall diminished ability to do their best work or enjoy activities.

Warning Signs of Drug Abuse/Addiction:

  • Intense cravings or urges for the drug (mental and physical)
  • Compulsion to use the drug frequently (several times a day to several times a week)
  • Increased tolerance to the drug
  • Irresponsible spending of money
  • Failing to meet obligations and responsibilities, and/or cutting back on social/recreational activities
  • Violating historic morals and values to hide use or by doing things to get the drug that you normally wouldn’t do (stealing, cheating, manipulating)
  • Increased risk taking behaviors
  • Continuing to use despite wanting and trying to stop
  • Experiencing psychological and/or physical withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop taking the drug

Recognizing drug Abuse/Addiction in family members, friends, and co-workers:

  • Problems at work or home – frequently missing work, increased isolation, increased irritability
  • Physical health issues – lack of energy and motivation
  • Neglected appearance – lack of interest in clothing, grooming
  • Changes in behavior – exaggerated/argumentative efforts to hide or minimize use from family members, being secretive, distancing from family and friends
  • Changes in relationship with money – irresponsible spending of money, requests for money without a reasonable explanation, stealing money and valuables from others.

Help is Available:

If you or someone you know, needs assistance with addiction:

 

Author: Brian Dineen, LCPC, LADC, CCS, Outpatient Therapy Program Supervisor, Health Affiliates Maine

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According to Maine’s Attorney General’s Office, the evident opiate epidemic in Maine has resulted in 50 more deaths in 2014 from just 4 years ago.

In response to WMTW’s series on Maine’s Heroin Epidemic this month, Outpatient Therapy Director Luanne Starr Rhoades of Health Affiliates Maine comments, “There are a lot of reasons Maine is struggling with this epidemic.  In the not too distant past, physicians felt freer to treat their patient’s pain with opiates. In many cases, it was too much, for too long; and some people became addicted.”

Rhoades elaborates, “Now, with increased scrutiny of prescribing practices, physicians are hesitant to prescribe opiates for pain.  Left to their own devices, some people in pain have turned to Heroin and opiate medications sold on the street.  Criminal activity of stealing and diverting prescribed medications also happens.  Street drugs, and especially heroin, are abundant and relatively inexpensive. The supply of opiates and other drugs come into Maine right up the 95 corridor from Boston and New York.   As a result, we are now seeing our neighbors, co-workers and friends impacted by these drugs like never before”.

According to the Maine Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, in 2014, nearly seven out of ten overdose deaths involved an opiate. And since 2012, the numbers of deaths involving heroin and or morphine have more than doubled.

Getting help.

These are very alarming statistics, and many are wondering what we can do to combat this.  For those families who want to know how to help their loved one overcome this, there are some options they can consider.  For instance, doing an online search of Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) is a likely first step towards getting clean.

There are also Medication Assisted Treatment options for opiate addiction which are available in Maine in the form of Methodone and Saboxone prescribed by a physician.  Nevertheless, even after moving beyond the physical dependency and the cravings the reasons behind the abuse often are still there.  Seeking therapy from a substance abuse counselor can help individuals work through all of the struggles that lead them to using.

What to watch for.

Some signs and signals we can all watch for, that might mean someone is struggling with an opiate addiction:

  • Social withdrawal from family & loved ones
  • Extreme alterations in mood
  • Weight loss, nausea, diarrhea & vomiting
  • Continued use of the opiate, even after pain has subsided

You can get a complete list of warning signs and other useful information on opiate addiction at:  http://www.addictionhope.com/opiates

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