"192aDay" Campaign Spotlights Heartbreaking Toll Of Addiction

By Kelly Burch 03/28/19

The campaign aims to spread awareness about addiction and offer resources for recovery and treatment options.

Image: 
pictures of overdose victims and their loved ones from the "192aDay" campaign
Photo via 192aDay.org

Each day, 192 people die from a drug overdose in the United States.

“That’s like a plane crashing each day, day after day,” write the leaders of #192aday, an initiative from the Addiction Policy Forum, an organization that aims to bring awareness to drug addiction and fight for better treatment.

The friends and relatives of people killed by addiction penned an open letter, highlighting the things they wish they had known. “We hope that this knowledge, painfully earned, can help you and your family,” they write.

It’s important that family members and friends familiarize themselves with the signs of addiction. Although they can be hard to spot, follow your intuition if you feel there is something more going on, the family members write.

"We now know that we should've been more proactive in the very beginning,” said Barbara. Her son died of a fentanyl overdose at 46, but a teacher had first expressed concern decades earlier, when he was in 8th grade.

Even experimenting with seemingly harmless substances like cigarettes or marijuana can be cause for concern, the family members say.

And once you realize your loved one is abusing drugs, don’t wait until they hit rock bottom to offer them help. “Now with fentanyl, rock bottom was an overdose, a fatal overdose,” said Justin, who lost her son Aaron to an overdose at 20.

When your loved one is ready for help, realize that recovery takes time. “I wish I would've known that recovery is not about 3 months, 6 months, a year in rehab. It’s a lifetime. When they release someone from rehab, it’s not the end. It’s the very beginning,” said Karla, whose daughter Alicia overdosed at 28.

Finding quality treatment can be lifesaving, so talk with other families and organizations to identify the best treatment option for your loved one. “Resources are much easier to find these days because people are finally talking about the disease,” said Katie, whose brother died of a drug overdose.

Family members should be open to all courses of treatment, and help their loved one connect with the type of treatment that is most likely to help him or her succeed. “I’d thought medication-assisted treatment (MAT) was ludicrous, just trading one addiction for another, but I was wrong,” Katie said. “Since losing my brother, I often wonder if MAT would’ve helped Zachary succeed. When someone has cancer, we don’t choose between chemo and radiation—we layer treatments.”

Even failures can be important for recovery, or serve as warning signs for the family. Aimee D’Arpino found out after her son died that he had received Narcan at least seven times in prior overdoses. “That is seven missed opportunities to intervene and save our son’s life,” she said.

Although it’s difficult to talk about, family members need to be open about the connection between substance use and suicide, said Jim, whose son Scott died by suicide. “His relapse led to his suicide,” Jim said.

Lastly, no matter how your loved one is doing in managing their recovery, it’s important that family members seek out their own support and resources.

“It feels like you’re drowning when you’re worried about your kid and desperately trying to find help,” said Doug Griffin, whose daughter Courtney died from an overdose. “And the stigma around this disease can mean backlash and judgment from some of the people closest to you, but help does exist. Reach out. There are so many people right next door who are dealing with addiction too and so much support we can give each other.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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