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Intervention to Save a Life

Articles, Australia, International, Understanding Addiction

A very wide range of vices plague people in every corner of the planet. Just a few of those fall in the drugs and alcohol category. Many people can enjoy these things in moderation, either self-imposed or with the blessing of drug control authorities, prescription drugs for example. However, there are people who cannot control their vices and become addicted to various substances, both legal and illegal. The worst part about all this, is that addiction can kill and majority of time will destroy the life of the addict, as well as lives of those he holds dear.

To hear that a family member or a close friend has passed away due to an overdose is terrible. People around the addict who died begin to question themselves and many slip into a downward slope of depression. Many will try to help the addict, like his family and his friends. Unfortunately the efforts to sway the addict from his course of self-destruction can come too late and falls on deaf ears. There are those, who will not notice that their loved one is slipping into addiction or will pick up on it and try to intervene only to fail. If more people would know how to spot the tell-tale signs and symptoms of substance abuse and addiction, they might be able to get the addict the help he needs.

According to CDC, or Center for Disease Control, men are more prone to losing their lives to alcohol or drug addiction. Most people are under the impression that this is predominantly a young adult and teen issue, yet that is not the case – age group that is most likely to overdose is between 45 and 55 years of age. It is important for all of us to see the signs a mile off, be able to pick up on subtle hints and subconscious cries for help of people we love.

Denial

To begin a path to recovery one must first come to terms with their flaws and shortcomings. To fix a flat tire, you must first admit that the tire is flat and that it must be fixed. That seems straight forward enough until it comes at a price of swallowing pride and accepting help. Humans are proud beings and as such rarely admit to their faults as that removes them from their comfort zone and shows the world how vulnerable they are. Whatever the cause – shame or guilt, denial is one of the most common barriers an addict will build around him and one of the hardest things for the loved ones of the addict to overcome. Most addicts don’t believe they have a problem to begin with. In their mind, they are controlling it, everything is just fine. They are going through the motions of their daily activities like work and meeting with friends or family, but at the back of their head they are planning that next hit or a drink. Or worse, desperately trying to find where to get their next fix. They might slowly change the group of people they associate with, people with similar interests and cravings, just to ensure they can have a bump whenever they want, without the scrutiny of loved ones and friends who are clean.

All this happens slowly, gradually and without much of a fanfare. By the time most addicts have nothing more to hide behind and are forced to admit to themselves they are addicted, it’s already too late to simply cut out and turn back. Thankfully, human beings are social creatures. We interact with people in our community, friends and family on a daily basis. These people are the lifeline of a developing addict, even if he himself is blind to see it. There are signs we – people that care, can pick up on and act before it’s too late.

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Some of the signs a person is under the influence or addiction of drugs can be quite clear and obvious, once paid attention to:

  • Red and bloodshot eyes with large pupils
  • Impaired motor functions
  • Sudden fluctuation in weight
  • Impaired speech
  • Shakes and tremors
  • Sudden lack of personal hygiene

There are also more subtle signs of behaviour of a possible drug addict, that loved ones should be paying attention to if they become prominent:

  • Constant daydreaming and inability to stay focused
  • Financial issues and possible clash with the authorities
  • Mood swings and outbursts of aggression and anger
  • Complete loss of motivation to do even the simplest of things
  • Depression
  • Stress and anxiety

For better or for worse, alcohol addict can be identified much easier. Mostly due to the fact that alcohol is legal and can be openly enjoyed in most societies. Alcohol lacks the stigma of being an illegal substance, as such alcohol is much easier to acquire and use therefore alcohol addicts are harder to convince they have a problem. It’s harder to feel yourself slipping into the abyss of alcohol addiction because you are just having a drink right? It’s not like you are going out and pumping your veins with heroin or snorting endless rails of cocaine, right? It’s just a drink. And then another. And then another one.

Identifying the addict in this situation is not hard. Convincing them is, but for those who have very little to do with alcohol, here are a few signs your loved one may be in need of an intervention:

  • Sudden changes in personality
  • Mood swings
  • Impaired coordination and motor functions
  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Lack of inhibitions
  • Drinking without company
  • Depression
  • Shakes and withdrawal symptoms

When planning an intervention, it’s important that the message is delivered through people that are close and dear to the addict. There will be times when these people have been already pushed away by the addict, over many years of substance abuse but it takes the strength of just a few of them to save the addict. Family members, friends and even colleagues can participate, anyone who is close to the addict and are concerned with the well-being of the addict, is not shy about sharing their views and how the addict and his affliction is impacting them. The confrontation is going to be awkward, so love and understanding must be most prominent emotion here. Preferably in a safe and familiar environment to the addict. Hate, anger and blame games will only push him away and you will never get through to him again. A calm and relaxed yet serious and caring tone should be employed, while still allowing loved ones to ask questions and share their feelings.

Professional Advice

An ill prepared intervention can do more harm than good. The addict will feel shamed and bullied, will put up barriers and layers of emotions, driven by anger and depressing feeling that the entire world is against him. Most likely will succumb to the addiction with gusto and lose the will to fight it. People who care about the addict should first contact a specialized rehabilitation centre and discuss the organization of an intervention. Every case is different so there is no scenario that will benefit all cases. A therapist can help you understand what to do and what not to do in an intervention, it would augment the chances of the intervention being successful and allow the addict to make first steps towards recovery. They can offer information, knowledge, expertise and most importantly – facilities and treatment plans for when the addict has come to start realization about their problem.

Emotional support and communication – that is what an intervention is all about. The first steps to recovery are the hardest and the path will test both the addict and his loved ones. It will be painful both mentally and physically, but with enough preparation and open communication all parties involved can be ready for it.

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Anne -

Anne Lazarakis joined the DARA Rehab team from Sydney, Australia. She writes about addiction and mental health on a global, local and community level. She also relays personal accounts of substance abuse and recovery through the stories of our clients, their families and our own team members.

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