Fair warning, this is a raw blog on my part. I hesitated to write this blog but I figured I need to put out there a very silent and deadly killer and its effect.
Background: 2 weeks ago, I lost a client to a possible overdose. I had worked with him over three years and he had been in recovery during this time I worked with him through some relapses. He had worked hard to change his life after many traumatic and devastating losses in his life. He had turned to opiates and opioids at times, to the point he had become addicted before the age of 18. Sure, he had had injuries, but the doctors over prescribed, as he was very charming and convincing with his doctors.
His father, concerned, had contacted my client’s doctor to let him know of his concerns in regards to his prescriptions. The doctor, at the time, citing the confidentiality of all clients over 18, stated he could not talk to his dad. His dad, devastated, wrote a heartfelt letter explaining his concerns and his fear his son would die from opioid issues. The doctor, of course, never acknowledged receipt of the letter or anything to make the father feel recognized.
Fast forward to today: I was at a memorial service for my client with many other of his friends who were distraught. His father, of course, was devastated. The girlfriend, two weeks later, still in shock. Lots of memories were shared of how great he was and how his smile, intelligence, and humor, made everyone feel better for the moment. I was equally devastated, despite the professional distance. Why? I'm a human being who has feelings.
So the effect of substance use should be apparent based on this story but let me make sure I list them:
Yes community. We should all feel a sense of loss. It needs to be said that we are fighting a war against substance use, a war we are losing because of apathy: not my family, didn't know him, I don't know for a fact what he died from, he should have done something about it. I also see an increase willingness to experiment from younger teens. Why?
Apathy. We need to talk about substance use to our teens and the risks associated it. Not minimize it or ignore it. Parents know it's happening but don't want to set limits. So talk about it instead of limits. Open conversations, let others know of these struggles. It is the silence that makes our biggest accidental killer, substance misuse and abuse, the monster that no one talks about.
After all, think about the excuses to not talk about substance use. Would you do that about cancer, heart disease, or diabetes?