In recent years the nation has reeled from the tragic loss of lives to accidental drug overdose. In 2019 alone, America lost 67,839 souls due to an overdose, an astonishing statistic. There is much work to be done in changing this troubling trajectory and to hopefully prevent overdose deaths. This goal begins, of course, with addiction prevention.
Learn the Signs of a Substance Use Disorder
Any substance that alters the consciousness, thoughts, or mood is potentially subject to abuse. The brain will register the positive effects caused by the substance in its reward system, which can prompt the individual to revisit the experience. Substances become dangerous as tolerance to its effects increases, meaning that more of the substance is needed to experience those initial desired effects. Over time, chemical dependency takes hold as the brain becomes dependent on the dopamine rush. This leads to the brain reducing or stopping its own dopamine production, so the individual becomes trapped in dependency.
The earlier that the signs of a substance use disorder are recognized and acted upon, the better the recovery outcome. While each substance will cause its own list of particular symptoms, here are some general signs and symptoms that indicate a loved one might be struggling with a substance issue:
- Mood swings
- Changes in eating habits, rapid weight loss or weight gain
- Sleep disturbances
- Hiding substance or paraphernalia
- Neglecting appearance or personal hygiene
- Sudden money problems
- Excessive work or school absences
- Decline in work or academic performance
- Participates in high-risk activities, impulsive behaviors
- Isolates from friends and family
- Loss of interest in usual group of friends, activities once enjoyed
- Tries to cut down or quit substance, but cannot
- Continues to engage in substance use despite mounting negative consequences
- Withdrawal symptoms present when substance is not available
Addiction prevention begins with awareness. If you or a loved one is experiencing some of the above signs of addiction, it is essential that you take proactive steps to get guidance.
5 Actions to Prevent Overdose
A substance overdose results from consuming a large quantity of the substance in a short period of time, or all at once. The liver is unable to metabolize the toxins, which results in poisoning. An overdose, regardless of the specific substance involved, always constitutes a medical emergency. When an overdose occurs, a swift response is essential as drug overdoses are often life threatening.
To prevent an overdose from occurring, the most useful advice is to not engage in substance use in the first place. In addition to that, here are 5 tips to help prevent an overdose:
1. Do not mix.
Many overdoses occur because the person used alcohol while taking medications like benzodiazepines. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, as are benzodiazepines, which together could cause respiratory failure.
2. Beware of fentanyl.
Sadly, a large number of overdoses are due to the unknown presence of the deadly synthetic opioid, fentanyl in the substance. Fentanyl is now commonly added to heroin and prescription pills purchased from illicit sources.
3. Seek help early on.
When the signs of a substance use disorder are clearly present, getting help to overcome the disorder as early as possible will help prevent a future potential overdose.
4. Minimize relapse risk.
After you have completed a treatment program it is essential to have a strong support network available. Relapsing back to opioids after a period of sobriety can cause an overdose, so minimizing relapse risk is key. Medication supported recovery (MSR) can help reduce the risk of relapse.
For individuals at risk of opioid overdose or relapse, the medication, naloxone, can block the effects of the opioid and restore respiratory function during an overdose event.
By focusing efforts on addiction prevention, the problem of overdose is avoided. However, if you or a loved one is engaging in substance use, please reach out for help.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formally Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.