Lessons learned from Demi Lovato: how to help someone with an opioid addiction

July 26, 2018 | by Aaron Weiner, Ph.D.
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

GETTY IMAGES/AXELLE/BAUER-GRIFFIN via Women’s Health Magazine

Prince. Heath Ledger. Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Tom Petty. Cory Monteith.

And earlier this week, reports indicate, Demi Lovato.

We’ve just had another stark reminder of the danger of addiction, as another prominent artist reportedly nearly died of an opioid overdose. Sources say she was revived with naloxone (Narcan), which may have saved her life.

For every celebrity overdose that makes the news, there are literally thousands more occurring every year to people just like us.

According to the DuPage County Narcan Program, we lost 95 of our own in 2017 to deaths related to opioid overdose.  And thousands more are at risk, either attempting to cope with addictions of their own, or struggling under the weight of over-prescribed medications that they feel trapped to get out from under.

Demi Lovato was fortunate to escape from her reported overdose with her life, but many others are not so lucky.  If you, or anyone close to you, is struggling with an opioid addiction, I would strongly recommend the following:

  • Get naloxone. The drug may have saved Demi Lovato’s life. Naloxone (brand-name Narcan), is a critical component to pushing back against the opioid overdose epidemic.  Naloxone reverses an overdose for 30-90 minutes, giving an ambulance time to arrive and stabilize the patient.

I personally carry naloxone with me in my briefcase, because it’s an easy step to take to be ready to save a life. Naloxone can be purchased without a prescription at any pharmacy in Illinois, or the below organizations have free naloxone training programs:

DuPage County Health Department - Dupage Narcan Program, 630-682-7400

Will County Health Department- Narcan Distribution Programsubstanceuse@willcountyillinois.com

Live4Lali- Overdose Prevention and Naloxone TrainingsArtemis@Live4Lali.org, 844-LV4-LALI (584-5254) x808

  • Get talking. One of the biggest drivers of the opioid epidemic is the fact that nobody is talking about addiction.  In an era where it’s becoming safer and safer to talk about depression, suicide, panic attacks, and attending therapy, we still treat addiction as if it’s shameful.

So often when I speak to parents who have lost a child to an overdose, they had no idea that their child was using opioids. Or at the very least, no idea how far the disease had progressed. 

So start the conversation. Make it OK to talk about. Make it safe. Addiction is not a choice, a moral failing, or a crime – it’s a disease, and those who suffer from it feel horribly trapped. Help them to share what’s going on in their world, so you can help them out of it.

  • Get help. Addiction is a treatable disease.  However, it is incredibly difficult to overcome this disease on your own.

Think of a time when you tried to make a change in your life, like keeping a diet or exercising regularly. How difficult was that? Now add on strong biological cravings telling you to move backwards, difficulty coping with strong emotions without reverting back to old behavior, being alienated from most healthy people in your life, and potentially being surrounded by others who are encouraging you to keep doing what you’ve been doing in the past.

It’s tough. Really tough.

Fortunately, help is out there, and it takes many forms. Talk to your doctor about treatment options that are right for you: peer-support groups, professional help, and medications are three of the most productive steps you can take. Or if you’d like to talk to a behavioral health specialist, you can call us at Linden Oaks 24/7 at 630-305-5027 – free of cost and no matter your insurance, we can help you figure out your next step.

Demi Lovato is fortunate to be alive – we can only hope that she makes the most of the second chance that she has been given. If you or a loved one are living with an addiction problem, please reach out for the resources that are available to you. Working together, there is no epidemic we cannot overcome.

Contributing author: Danielle DeGrado, APN

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