When Death from Addiction Comes As a Surprise
When it comes to addiction, there are certain stereotypes that tend to come to mind. People often picture drug abuse as only happening in certain environments – homes, families, communities in which drug abuse is common. But the words “typical” and “drug user” cannot be used in the same sentence. There is no such thing as a typical drug user as addiction knows no boundaries. Sometimes, death from addiction happens in the most unexpected of people, in the most unexpected of circumstances, with seemingly no way to know it was coming. These deaths are particularly hard on families and loved ones. Amidst the confusion, guilt, and grief, there is one prevalent theme: shock. And there is one prevalent question: how could we have stopped it?
It’s a tricky, loaded question to ask, a responsibility that should not be placed on any human being. Warning signs can be so easily missed, and no one can be blamed for missing them. Truth is, most of us don’t even know what to look for. Because of the shame around addiction, drug users find ways to be incredibly secretive about their behavior, making it difficult for loved ones to notice anything drug-related going on.
The numbers, however, are warning signs in themselves: according to the NIDA’s National Survey of Drug Use and Health, 17.8 Americans report using illicit drugs in the past year, and 48.8 percent report using illicit drugs in their lifetime. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2018, more than 67,300 Americans died from a drug overdose.
These numbers are warning signs to the entire population: it could be any one of us. And because no family or community is immune to addiction, no family or community is immune to the need to be on the lookout for addiction-related warning signs.
Signs a Loved One May Be Suffering from Addiction
They may not always be easy to spot, but there are many warning signs that your loved one may be suffering from addiction. And while some signs and symptoms differ with different types of addiction, some signs can be generalized and overarching overall addiction.
General Signs of Addiction in a Loved One:
- Sudden change in personality
- Rapid weight loss or gain
- Lack of motivation
- Desire to be alone more often
- Disregard for appearance and basic hygiene
- Fatigue/constant appearance of tiredness
- Lack of interest in former passions
There are many more things to look for that could also mean your loved one is suffering from addiction. In her recently released book, “Smacked: A Story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction, and Tragedy”, Eilene Zimmerman describes many warning signs she noticed in hindsight after her ex-husband’s death. It was a death by overdose, due to addiction no one had any idea was there. Zimmerman writes, “Peter has been sick for more than a year with some kind of ongoing, low-grade flu, constantly exhausted and weak. My kids say he sleeps the whole weekend when they are here, forgets to grocery shop, never makes meals.” She continues on to say he would often say he was leaving to pick up dinner or groceries then disappear for hours. He would then get harshly defensive when asked where he had been. As she learned after his death, he was often leaving to purchase drugs or to get high.
As with Eilene Zimmerman’s story, many drug abusers get defensive and angry when questioned about drug use or addiction. However, confronting and questioning them if you believe your loved one is struggling with addiction is perhaps the only way to begin helping them, if approached with love and empathy.
Preventing a Death from Addiction: How to Help a Loved One
- Asking when something seems “off”
- Refusing to enable their addiction (i.e. not providing them with money if you believe they may be using it for drugs)
- Setting aside judgment
- Educating yourself on rehabilitation and recovery, then talking to them about its positive nature and success rates
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, between 2017-2020, there have been 4,600 suspected opioid deaths and 37,382 suspected opioid overdoses in Arizona alone. With these statistics, it is impossible to be too concerned or too involved when you believe a loved one may be showing signs of addiction.
If you believe a loved one may be suffering from addiction, talk to them. Talk to a professional. Offering your own support and encouraging them to get professional support in rehabilitation could very well be their saving grace. Contact Soul Surgery Rehab today to get professional support – we’re here to help.