Alcohol Overdose & Treatment
Drinking alcohol can become a slippery slope: while many enjoy drinking socially now and then, it’s easy to fall into a routine of regular use and even overuse, which can turn into abuse and addiction. In fact, the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimated that over 14 million Americans age 12 and over have had alcohol use disorder (AUD) within the past year, but only slightly more than one million received treatment.
Many who are at risk don’t realize it because the onset of alcohol use disorder (AUD) is gradual. In fact, those with a family history of substance abuse of any kind are four to six times more likely to develop an addiction of their own, and it usually occurs when they are younger. Those who drink before they reach the age of 15 have five times the rate of addiction later in life, and often think that because they can “hold their liquor” they are okay.
Often it takes a major life event to make a person realize that they or a loved one most likely has AUD. Common examples are an accident or arrest while under the influence, losing a job, divorce, and alienation of family and friends.
If you think you or someone you love has a problem with alcohol, it’s important to know you’re not alone and there is help available. Overcoming any kind of addiction is tough, but there are many resources to help you and your family members understand and overcome alcohol use disorder.
Effects of Drinking
Most are familiar with the pleasant effects of alcohol, which is why they imbibe. There are other effects that are not so pleasant, though. Short-term effects include blackouts, loss of inhibition, and dulled reaction times as well as a reduced core body temperature and raised blood pressure. Long term, alcohol use can destroy brain cells, cause liver fibrosis, irregular heartbeat, and stroke. AUD is also known to cause several forms of cancer including esophageal, liver, and colorectal cancer. Although not every person with AUD will develop these effects, chances are they will develop one or more over the course of their lifetime.
Aside from the physical effects, AUD can devastate a family and damage relationships beyond repair. Every fifty minutes someone dies from a drunk driving accident, so there are many more lives and families that feel the effects forever.
Support Groups and Organizations
If you think you or a loved one has AUD, help is only a phone call away. There are national support organizations that can help you decide what treatment route best fits your lifestyle, and help you understand the disorder and how it affects not just the drinker but their family, friends, and coworkers as well. On the state level you’ll find specific resources more specific to your health needs, and your county and city can give you contact information to treatment within your reach.
There are also support groups and resources for family members of those with AUD, and this is vital because AUD is also generational. A support group can teach the family how to cope with the dysfunction which comes with extensive alcohol use and may prevent children from becoming alcohol abusers themselves.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the US, and it goes hand in hand with depression. While middle aged white men make up nearly 70% of suicides, those between the ages of 15 and 24 have a suicide rate over 14%. This shows that, while older adults are more likely to kill themselves, the act itself can affect those of any age.
If you or someone you love seems to be depressed, it is vital that you know the warning signs of suicide and have the resources to prevent it from occurring. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states that over 16 million US adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2016; that’s over 6% of the adult population.
There are a wide range of risk factors that can lead to suicide, such as the loss of a relationship, job, or home. Because over 50% of 2018 suicides were by firearm, access to a weapon is considered a high-risk factor. There is also stigma associated with asking for help, which is perhaps why middle-aged males are in the highest at-risk demographic for suicide.
If you’re under too much strain or feeling hopeless, you should seek help immediately. Likewise, if you know someone who appears or sounds depressed, you should err on the side of caution and step in with any help you can offer. Keep in mind the fact that, while nearly 50,000 died from suicide in 2018, it is estimated another 1.4 million attempted suicide, and those individuals might be successful in their next attempt.
Effects of Suicide
While suicide ends a single person’s life, it also causes a ripple effect to everyone in that person’s circle and beyond. While family and friends face a devastating loss, the death also effects the person’s neighbors, coworkers, faith community, and everyone in contact with the immediate circle.
Suicide still holds a stigma in the US, and this can lead to a “wall of silence” within a family and rob survivors of the ability to talk about the causes as well as their own feelings. Guilt and self-blame are common among survivors, as are thoughts of committing suicide themselves. It is vital to understand the warning signs and have access to help immediately if you or a loved one appear to be thinking suicidal thoughts.
Support Groups and Organizations
If you or a loved one seem to have suicidal tendencies, help is at your fingertips. There is a national hotline as well as a wide range of educational materials, and every state has crisis lines on both the state and county level. Larger metropolitan areas have local resources, and your physician and/or therapist can provide you with immediate help.
In addition, if you have lost a family member or friend to suicide, you should consider joining a support group to help you learn to cope with your loss. The same holds true for children who have suffered a loss; joining a group can help them learn to cope and ease the chances of survivor’s guilt common to those who lose loved ones to suicide.
Drug Overdose & Treatment
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that, in 2018 over 67,000 persons died from drug overdose: over 20 persons per 100,000 citizens. While some deaths were ruled intentional, the majority were not, and the numbers don’t reflect the thousands who overdosed and survived.
What is an overdose? An overdose is the point of use where the level of drugs in a person’s system become toxic to the user, causing failure of one or more organs that sustain life. Although most people think of an overdose as being associated specifically with illicit drugs, prescription drugs are responsible for abuse and overdoses, too.
Persons under the influence of a drug usually do not realize that they have overdosed until they are in a medical emergency. If you or someone you know uses illegal drugs or abuses prescribed medications there is a risk of overdose. You should learn the signs and symptoms so that you know when to seek help in case of a drug overdose.
If you’ve had an overdose and survived, this is your wakeup call to seek help, because the next time you probably won’t be so lucky. While surviving is great, there may be long-term damage to one or more organ because of the abuse. By conquering your addiction, you may be able to reverse the damage or at least prevent it from becoming life threatening.
Effects of Drugs
Just as there are many drugs abused, there are many effects and side effects of drugs, especially when mixed with alcohol. Some effects of overdose are slowed, fast, or irregular pulse, abnormal breathing, abnormal temperature, blacking out, and changes in skin color. Those who have used a drug repeatedly usually build up a tolerance, and those who use street drugs have no idea of the ingredients or strength of what they are taking so they usually are not aware that they are overdosing. Depending on the drug of choice, they may experience seizures, delirium, difficulty breathing, anxiety, or extreme agitation. In addition, withdrawal from some drugs may in itself become a medical emergency.
Support Groups and Organizations
If you or a loved one is having addiction issues, there are many resources you can turn to for help. On the national level, there are helpline and informational resources relevant to the specific drug of choice and on the state, county, and city level you can find both help detoxing and help to stay sober from drugs once they are out of your system.
Local support groups are everywhere, and you shouldn’t hesitate to join Narcotics Anonymous or a similar group, even if you’re still using. Likewise, a local support group can help families cope with the devastating effects a drug user has on their family unit.
Treatment and Rehab
An overdose should be medically treated as soon as possible. Rather than only trying to take care of the person yourself, you should immediately call emergency responders. You can also roll the person onto their side to prevent aspiration in case they vomit and stay with them until the ambulance arrives and they receive medical treatment.
Not all treatment is rehab, and yours will depend on the drug of choice and your personal circumstances. Some drugs require hospitalization to detox, others such as prescription drugs may be monitored and decreased incrementally by your healthcare provider. That being said, rehab and joining a support group should be seriously considered so that you can address the issues that led to addiction in the first place. Surviving an overdose should be the wakeup call you need, because the next overdose may be final.
Info for Veterans
Many veterans return from service with anxiety, depression, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Because of the stigma attached to receiving mental health treatment, they may choose to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, gaining immediate relief but making the issues worse in the long run. If you or a loved one is a veteran with alcohol or drug abuse issues, you should check with the VA as well as state resources for treatment and an action plan for recovery.
Because veterans who use alcohol or drugs often don’t identify with civilians who may have the same problems, a veteran-specific support group or treatment plan may be more effective in long-term success on the road to becoming substance-free.
Do You Need Help?
If you think you may have a problem with alcohol, drug use, or suicidal thoughts you can find resources here to help you understand what you’re going through, what might happen, and how to overcome the obstacles in your life. Often, educating yourself is a major step in recovery because when you’re under stress, depressed, or frightened it can be hard to think outside the box. Knowledge is power, so by accessing these pages you can find the strength and resources needed before it’s too late.
If you’re concerned for a loved one, you can learn the different options available and educate yourself on how addiction affects those in the immediate family circle of the abuser. This can help break the cycle of abuse so that it doesn’t continue into the next generation.
Choosing a Rehab Center
If you feel you need treatment to overcome your addiction, don’t just pop into the nearest hospital or rehab center. Look at the different types of help available (inpatient, outpatient, or support groups) and decide which might work best for you and your life circumstances. Once you decide what kind of help you want, examine the options in your city and state to find the best program for your own needs. Just because a rehab center is around the corner from your house doesn’t mean it’s effective; look for reviews and recovery statistics, requirements, treatment protocols, and other aspects of a program before you decide to enter a program.