By Patrick O’Neil
A recent national survey on addiction and drug use revealed that over 90% of the actively using addicts and alcoholics in America do not believe their substance abuse is a problem, and in turn have no intention of seeking help to get sober. Meanwhile in 2019 nearly 72,000 died from drug overdoses, while another 142,000 had overdose related visits to hospital emergency rooms. And now, with Covid-19 disrupting everything, and drug use at an all time high, it looks like the numbers for 2020 are going to be even worse. 5 reasons to not postpone entering treatment.
Many addicts will stay in their addiction out of fear. They have no idea what sobriety entails or how to live without drugs and alcohol—even though their lives are in shambles. “A key characteristic of drug addiction,” writes Dr. Shahram Heshmat, “is that the individual suffering from it continues to use despite harmful consequences.” Which falls in line with Narcotic Anonymous’ definition of insanity, “doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” Admitting that drugs and alcohol are a problem is the first step an addict needs to take in order to begin their journey of recovery. Entering rehab treatment would logically be the next, but getting sober is a commitment. It takes hard work, determination, and courage. Which intimidates the majority of addicts and out of fear they make excuses as to why they can’t check into an outpatient program. In response to those excuses, here are the top 5 reasons not to postpone entering treatment.
Addiction is a potentially fatal disease that doesn’t just get better on it’s own. The longer the addict uses the worse the consequences. Their physical and mental health will decline and the damage may be permanent. The addict develops a tolerance to their drugs and they need to use more to achieve the same effects as before. The more the addict uses the more their life spirals out of control and the harmful consequences starts piling up. With addiction there is no going back to “casual using.” If the addict stops for a period of time and then returns to their drug of choice they find themselves exactly in the same progressive pattern of using as before—because the process of addiction changes the way the brain functions. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “the development of tolerance can eventually lead to profound changes in neurons and brain circuits, with the potential to severely compromise the long-term health of the brain.” If the addict doesn’t get sober they may die from their disease.
In their report, “The Connection Between Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness,” The National Institutes of Health concluded that, “Many individuals who develop substance use disorders are also diagnosed with mental disorders, and vice versa.” What this means is that a majority of addicts suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, the effects of trauma, and other mental health issues are using drugs to self-medicate. However what is also known is that prolonged use of the drugs that originally gave the addict some relief can cause their mental health to get worse and increase their levels of stress and anxiety. In the end the underlying mental health condition goes untreated and the addict’s overall health suffers. The sooner they enter drug rehab treatment and get sober the quicker they can begin to address their mental health and ultimately feel better.
Many addicts think they have all the time in the world and that when they’re ready they can get sober. But according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention life expectancy in America is on the decline, mainly due to the increased death rates from opioid drug overdoses, suicides, and chronic liver disease—the latter two being equally a direct result from addiction as the obvious correlation of an overdose.
“People were predicting this would be because of the obesity epidemic,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “Not to say that doesn’t play a role, but suicides and drug overdoses have eclipsed that in many ways and it’s really a driving factor.“
The Omni Health Calculator is a tool that calculates the damage that different drugs cause due to addiction and the resulting expected loss in life. According to Omni every time an addict uses they lose anywhere from eleven to twenty hours off of their lifespan. The average age expectancy in the United States is seventy-nine years, but if the addict is a daily user then their drug habit could take years off their life—that is if they didn’t die from an overdose.
Living with shame, guilt, fear, and in denial is not a definition of quality of life. Yet that is exactly how many addicts live. The majority of their time is spent hiding their addiction from family and friends. They have ongoing financial problems due to the exorbitant cost of their drug habit. Their health is on the decline. Their relationships are dysfunctional or nonexistent. Many isolate. Some are paranoid, and delusional. Their reality is slipping away. Entering treatment allows the addict freedom from their active addiction and they can begin to live life again.
Addiction is all about escaping reality. “Addicts run from reality,” writes Dr. Stephen A. Diamond, “[they] prefer the pleasure of intoxication, the bliss of oblivion, to the suffering, banality, ordinariness, and difficulty of mundane day-to-day reality, [which] inevitably includes suffering, pain, [and] loss.” But the problem is that reality never goes away, and the addict has to keep using more drugs to escape, until the pain of addiction becomes their only reality, and they eventually realize that they are trapped. By entering drug treatment and becoming sober that fear of reality diminishes and what the addict was originally so avoidant of seems not only foolish, but also counterproductive, and unrealistic. Gaining control of their lives allows them to be present for everything; the good, bad, exciting, normal, and yes, even the mundane. Which is basically what life is all about.
If you think, or even know, you have a drug problem and want to do something about it. Do not postpone getting the help you need.