It can happen to anyone, and is more common than you think
It may be surprising to learn that between 2011 and 2012, almost 250,000 Canadians aged 15 years and older reported abusing prescription opioids (like OxyContin). This was the finding of the Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey.
These numbers are especially shocking when you factor in that Canada recently surpassed the U.S. as the No. 1 consumer of opioids worldwide.
While opioids are effective pain relievers, the problem is that addiction can start without warning from a legitimate prescription to alleviate pain, and spiral down a dark path.
Opioid addiction is an equal opportunity condition that can happen to anyone, no matter their ethnicity or social status. It is a vicious cycle of fulfilling intense cravings over and over again to avoid the intense and painful symptoms of withdrawal. And without treatment, addiction can be fatal.
While there is no cure, it is a chronic medical condition that can be managed. Dr. Joel Bordman, a physician who specializes in addiction and pain, talks about getting help:
“Opioid addiction is terrible, but help is possible. While we could use more access to medical treatment in Canada, it is available.
“Many patients don’t know where to start when it comes to looking for help, and feel it’s so overwhelming that they don’t reach out.
“Opioidrecovery.ca can help Canadians learn about opioid addiction, and get information about the journey to recovery and where to locate support services close to home.
“My hope is that people living with an opioid addiction and their families will use it as a resource to find the help and support they desperately need.”
The good news is that recovery from an opioid addiction is possible. Visit opioidrecovery.ca to learn more.
Q&A: Teens & opioid addiction
Imagine if you were to tell someone that you have “a progressive, chronic medical condition affecting the brain.” Would you expect them to judge you? Probably not. Instead, an outpouring of sympathy and concern would likely follow.
But if you were to tell them you have an addiction, chances are you would face strong judgment.
People with addiction, including teens, deal with unjustified prejudice every day and it can keep them from seeking much-needed help. Dr. Bordman shares his expert advice.
Q:I think my teen may be hiding a problem with opioids. How do I know if she’s addicted, and how can I help her?
A: Addiction is a crippling medical condition. As a caregiver or loved one, knowing the signs of addiction is an important first step in aiding in the treatment process and journey to recovery.
Some social symptoms of opioid dependence include: isolation, problems with school or work and loss of friendships; while some physical symptoms could include: mood swings, depression or anger.
Supporting a loved one living with an opioid addiction and encouraging them to seek help can be difficult. The key is not to give up. Keep the following in mind:
1. A difficult conversation. Your teen may feel she doesn’t have a problem, she may feel embarrassed talking about it, or she may fear the consequences of her addiction. Start the conversation and listen, let her know you fully support her.
2. Establish trust. You need to establish her trust to get her thinking about change. Make sure she knows she can depend on you.
3. Ask for help. Seek professional medical assistance, peer-support or counselling – this will emphasize that you’re fully behind your teen’s recovery. Establishing a strong support network can play an important part in treatment success.
4. Communicate. Speak honestly and openly. Be frank about your feelings and boundaries. And be clear that you are her support system, but know that seeking help is ultimately her decision.
There are online resources that can help. At opioidrecovery.ca, there is an assessment tool that can help your family determine if there’s a problem, as well as information about where to seek help and what the journey of recovery could look like.