We all know that drug addiction is rampant in Canada; with more than 10,300 overdose fatalities between 2016 and 2019, for an average of 10 lives lost each day, the crisis is irrefutable. Of those who died, more than a quarter had steady employment, while a slightly larger percentage were constantly unemployed.
The fact is that addiction affects Canadians from each and every walk of life.
It doesn’t matter if you’re from Main and Hastings in Vancouver, York Mills in Toronto, or St. Michel in Montreal; drugs are everywhere, and so are the people who use them. Income, net worth and physical, emotional and mental capacity certainly allow individuals to sustain themselves for longer, but the suffering is uniform.
Addiction can cost people their life, marriage, kids, job and everything worthwhile if it isn’t dealt with expediently. There are proven ways to overcome substance use disorder, but rarely are people able to overcome it alone.
People need love, support and care. Too often, people are willing to look the other way when they suspect something is wrong.
The easiest people to lie to are those who want to believe us. The addict may feel depressed, trapped, ashamed, stigmatized, and a number of other feelings. The path to recovery starts with acknowledgement, respect and compassion.
If you suspect someone is struggling with drugs, here are 5 ways you can help:
1. Identify the Problem
There must’ve been something that caused you to be concerned about your loved one, friend or colleague; try your best, without being intrusive, to find out what’s going on. What are the signs you’ve seen? Have there been any dramatic changes in their lifestyle, mood, productivity or relationships? Once you have a grasp of what’s happening, you’ll be better equipped to talk to them from a place of love.
2. Educate Yourself
A common misconception is that addiction is a moral failing, the reality is that for many years this was the consensus. Modern research and science overwhelmingly support the fact that individuals with chemical dependency issues suffer from a chronic, relapsing and sometimes fatal disease. People do not choose for their lives to be unmanageable or to be chemically dependent. The more someone knows about this particular illness, the better equipped they’ll be to offer assistance.
3. Plan an Intervention
Extending a helping hand must be carefully considered and executed. If there is any doubt about the fact that you’re being authentic, the person who you’re trying to help is likely to put up barriers and have difficulty hearing what you’re trying to say. Think about what you’re going to do, plan it out, and then come from a place of concern and love. If necessary, you may need to hire a professional or seek someone with knowledge about the best practices of intervening for assistance. Try your best to do it properly once, as this could be the difference between life or death.
It’s natural that anyone who is suffering from drug addiction would want to keep it a secret. The fear of consequence or fall out makes the subject a very difficult thing for an addict to talk about. Communication is vital, as once they realize that you’re on their side, and simply want to help, barriers will start to come down. Use non-violent communication and talk things through.
5. Offer a Solution
You can talk all day about what the addicted individual should do, but the reality is that you need to provide them with a viable alternative to the path they’re on. Will they need inpatient treatment? Will they need counselling? Make sure you have resources that you can offer so they understand you’re ready to support them. There is no quick and easy fix, but with your support, your loved one can recover.
In our society, far too many people suffer the consequences of addiction in silence or alone; there is an alternative, but most of the time it requires the involvement of others. If you suspect that someone is struggling, be a vehicle of change and lend a helping hand. Doing something is easier than you’d think.
Written for Together We Can by Tristan Elliott, a third-year BBA student who currently works as the Marketing & Communications Coordinator. He is passionate about issues affecting the local community, economy, and Canada as a whole.
Pictures courtesy of Unsplash.com.
Cover: Christian Erfurt, 1: Craig Whitehead, 2: Andrew Neel, 3: Romain V, 4: Joshua Ness, 5: Priscilla Du Preez