1. Learn CPR. Heroin and Opiate Addicts die simply because their breathing stops. Breathe into them and you will keep them alive. Make sure everyone who interacts with the addict knows CPR.
2. Keep Narcan with you at all times. Although it may take more than one dose, Narcan can and will help you save an addict from death due to overdose. Make sure you, the addict, and all family memebers no where to find the Narcan and how to use it.
3. Create strong boundaries. If an addict loses access to money, or the substitutes for money (such as free housing, shelter, transportation, etc.), they lose access to heroin. As they struggle to keep heroin in their body, they are more likely to hit a bottom and hopefully a "softer bottom" than death. Stop doing things that help your addict stay addicted and they will end up in treatment sooner.
4. Know the "tells". There are very specific characteristics that heroin addicts exhibit when using and when withdrawing. You should know them all. Most addicts have a "special few" tells that are specific to them - like their own personality. You should know these as well. "Tells" will help you know where your addict is in the "Relapse-Recovery Lifecycle." These tells are summarized in my book - Heroin - Living and Dying with an Addict You Love, How to Survive When Every One Dies
5. Come to believe this first bitter truth. Addicts always lie - they never tell the truth. They will leverage your love and forgiveness against you and your better judgement hoping you will believe them one more time so that they can use one more time. Using one more time - JUST ONE MORE TIME - is always always always the last thing in an addict's mind before the use for the LAST TIME - the Last Time as in the time they overdose and die. When you believe them you do so at their peril...and unfortunately, eventually your own as well.
6. Come to believe this second bitter truth. When you get that "gut feeling" that your addict has relapsed - BELIEVE IT! No additional evidence is necessary. When you get this feeling, their life is in danger, and your denial furthers their jeopardy. The only time to act with a chance of success against heroin addiction is now, otherwise, your actions will be done in a funeral home.
7. Have a plan of Recovery or a plan for Death. Is this too morbid for you? I am sorry - but look around. Death is everywhere. If you don't know what to do in the event of a heroin addict hitting a bottom then you might as well start shopping for a coffin. Shop for a Detox and Rehab or shop for a Coffin. Your choice. Oh, when to start? Right this very instant. Lives are on the line - yours and your addicts.
8. Get an education. You better start learning and fast! Every needle in your addicts veins is one more shovel full of dirt dug from his or her grave. Get educated. You can start with this book!
A visit to the ER due to a heroin overdose is not a normal visit. But the most important part of the visit is the exit - you will never have a better chance to get your addict to rehab than when in the ER after saving his or her life. If you don't know where you are going to take them - you will go home - and when you do your shot at recovery is usually toast!
9. Get your butt to Al Anon or Nar Anon. There are people who will bend over backwards to help you. Why? Why would complete strangers go to almost any length to help you? Because their recovery from the suffering imposed upon them by an addict depends on them helping others --- other like you!
10. If in doubt whip it out! If you have even an inkling that your loved one is involved in heroin or opiates you better put pride, shame, ego, all of it aside and sit down and ask them. Put them on the spot! Offend them! Hurt their feelings! because maybe you have seen the news lately - you may not get a chance to ever embarrass them again - because they will be dead. Stand up, Buck up, and get real. A few months of ego bruises is nothing compared to a lifetime of regret, a life time of "I wish I woulda, I wish I coulda..." This path will get you on an addiction cycle too - Xanax, Klonopin, and other benzos that you might need to help you cope with the depression that comes with not doing all that you could when you had the chance!
6/25/17: Final Edition Heroin Herald and Overdose Observer
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