The Emotional Rollercoaster of Overdose
When you or someone close to you overdoses, there are repercussions to deal with after the emergency is handled. There are enough overwhelming feelings to go around for everyone, and people want to know what they should do next. You may be dealing with police at the scene of the overdose as well as paramedics and hospital staff, and subsequently you may be referred to an inpatient rehab facility. While all this is going on, your emotions are spiking high and plunging low from this horrible experience.
For the Addict
If you’re the addict who has awakened from the overdose event, you will feel confused, afraid, and ashamed. The confusion may come from residual effects of the drugs you took. The fear stems from your worry that you could overdose again. You will worry about the consequences you face since your substance abuse has been discovered by those around you or, if the people in your life already knew you were taking drugs, the fact that this incident has brought things to a climax. You may also be worrying about whether you will suffer legal consequences. The shame comes from your own lack of control in your situation. All these feelings will also be mixed in with elements of gratitude toward the people who made certain you didn’t die. On top of everything, you will soon be troubled by urges to use again or by withdrawal symptoms.
For the Family Member
If you’ve read the above paragraph in an attempt to understand what your family member will be feeling, don’t be surprised if, of all those emotions, the one that seems dominant is the anger. The addicted person will use anger as a shield to hide his other emotions or to protect himself from recriminations. Most overdoses are not intentional, so you can most likely allay your fears that this was a suicide attempt.
You may also feel guilty or shame on your own part because you didn’t stop the person from using before a crisis occurred. You may be embarrassed about your relationship with the person as you deal with social workers, paramedics, or other professionals involved in your loved one’s care. It’s also natural to feel quite a bit of anger at the person for overdosing, because the consequences will require money at some level to straighten things out—whether you have to pay hospital or ambulance fees or some kind of legal fees.
For Both of You
So where do you go from here? The most important thing to do is ensure that the person will not overdose again. Even though there was no intent to overdose, the person will soon begin to feel cravings and withdrawal symptoms and will want to use his drug of choice again.
It’s important to consider what drug he was using and why. For example, if he was using opiates, he may have begun taking them because he experiences pain on a daily basis. He must be treated not only for the addiction but also the cause of the pain. If he was taking benzodiazepines for anxiety, it’s important to find ways to manage panic attacks and also to ensure that pills are not taken with alcohol.
If your family member has already received some kind of counseling for drug or alcohol abuse, then he will be a candidate for an inpatient rehab facility. The word inpatient in this case really means residential, since these facilities provide a therapeutic community residential environment so that addicts can get their lives back on track. Let the counselor be your guide through the entire process; you will get through this crisis, one step at a time.