When I reached the bottom with my own addiction to pot and prescription drugs almost 30 years ago, I too realized that I had to change my life or I would die. I knew that I didn't really want to die, but that I couldn't go on living the way I was at that point. I had grown quite tired of being a caterpillar, though I had no idea how to become a butterfly.
The War on Drugs has been a failure, and soon enough using drugs will shift from a criminal to a public health issue. But what if we paid people not to engage in harmful consumption? If we rewarded them for stopping damaging use? Couldn't the savings in all manner of costs greatly outweigh the comparatively small expense of any incentive?
I had a good friend of mine become a drug addict. Crack specifically. I never imagined he'd be using it in a million years, but life has a funny way of showing you that anything is possible. He was a natural born hustler. He sold dope at school, at parties and pretty much wherever he could make a buck.
As a pain psychologist, I share patients' concerns about limiting opioids without providing access to alternatives. Ethical pain care should emphasize first the programs and initiatives that empower individuals to best control their own pain. When people are equipped to help themselves feel better, they need fewer doctors and treatments.
Think of pain as being your "harm alarm," a signal that is designed to get your attention, to motivate you to escape whatever is causing it. After all, pain -- potential harm -- could mean injury or even death. In this way, pain serves a useful purpose because it is functions to keep you safe and alive. But what about chronic pain?
Epidemics of obesity, diabetes, infectious diseases and suicide that plague First Nation children across Canada are complex and multi-faceted. Yet government solutions often focus on simplistic bio-medical approaches -- when they address the crises at all -- and too often ignore the cultural strategies proposed by indigenous leaders.
When we give so much to those around us without first giving to ourselves, we run the risk of hurting them more than we're helping. All of us need to feel our own resilience -- it's an important human need. When we decide to give more than is healthy, we often take those feelings of resiliency away from others.
If you experience withdrawal symptoms, this does not meant that you cannot get off opioids. Withdrawal symptoms mean that your opioid level was dropped too quickly and your body was surprised by the lack of medication. The key is to work with your body to successfully taper your opioids -- by making small changes slowly over time.
In my practice, I have seen the terrible impact addiction can have on people of all backgrounds. It destroys jobs, families and personal health, often in the span of just a few months. This level of complexity and quick-moving consequence is something you don't often see in many other conditions, which makes finding solutions that much harder. Addressing addiction requires approaching treatment in a much more integrated fashion across different parts of the health care system and groups of providers.
What you don't have to do forever is live with debt. You don't have to spend every month calculating how much you can afford to put towards debt repayment, while continuing to use credit, and staying in the never-ending cycle of borrowing money and trying to pay it back. It's not an easy cycle to get out of; I know that firsthand.
Over the five years I spent seeking treatment, my family and I encountered a seemingly endless series of obstacles -- from programs that couldn't accommodate me, to waiting lists that lasted much longer than my desire to get clean -- all of which combined to feel like the treatment system was designed for me to fail.
I'm coming up to my 19th anniversary of becoming clean and sober, and this time of the year for me is typically a moment of reflection. I'm still not sure how I went from standing alone on a subway platform with the intention of taking my life 20 years ago, to standing in front of an audience of 200 people looking to me for guidance and hope.
It is the loved ones who need to be the people who say to the addict, "We love you enough to no longer support you in active addiction. When you're really ready to be in active recovery of some kind, let us know and we will do whatever we can to help you make that happen." But this is a very scary prospect for most loved ones, and for many different reasons.
Syrian refugees have left everything behind. In most instances they do not know how to speak English or French, they do not know anyone and have to deal with brutally cold temperatures. All these factors make them exponentially more susceptible to depression or further exasperates any existing mental health condition.
If anyone you care about is struggling, it's so important to let them know you care and are there for them. These conversations aren't easy, but if you need to determine if you or a loved one has an alcohol addiction, the 20-questions assessment from Johns Hopkins University is a strong indication of a drinking problem.