Monthly Archives: November 2015

Who Are These People Who Use Drugs?

There is a segment of the population who doesn’t drink or use drugs. But many do. A small percentage of illegal-drug users become addicts, while the majority of people who use drugs do so responsibly. I’m not advocating for the use of drugs, but there is a misunderstanding about people who abuse them.

Drug addicts are thought of as the deviants of society. They are thought to be living in crack houses or under a bridge, unemployed, school drop outs, prostitutes, or pimps. Advanced addiction brings negative consequences but the majority are just like everyone else. They are your family members, your friends and your co-workers. It could be your son, daughter or grandmother.  It may be you.

When you think of people who use drugs, what image comes to mind? Listen to a group of drug users talk about their perceptions of the demographics of drug use and addiction.

Discussion Guide:

What kind of person comes to mind when you think of an “addict”?

Are they male or female?

What is their age?

Are they typically upper, middle or lower class?

Are rural, urban or suburban people more likely to use drugs?

Who is  more likely to use drugs, people who are less educated or more educated?

Are they more likely to use drugs if they have a family history of addiction, or have no family history of addiction?

Are they religious or non-religious people?

Are they medically healthy or medically unhealthy?

Supplemental Reading: The Demographics of Drug Use and Addiction

Choose Your Words Carefully

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Will Never Hurt Me does not hold true for substance abuse. The words we use to describe a person who is chemically dependent upon a substance can either contribute to a negative stereotype, or can convey a medical condition. To reduce stigma against people with this disease, we need to change our language.

Guided Discussion:

What words have been used to describe you? Junkie, Dopehead, Freak, Loser, etc?

What are medical words to describe a person who has a substance use disorder?

Have you been discriminated against because you have a substance use disorder?

Did you cause your addiction? Can you control it?

Is addiction a moral weakness or a disease?

It is said that substance abuse creates brain changes that impairs memory, motivation,  impulse control and judgment. If this is true, can you make sound and rational decisions to cease your drug use?

Supplemental Reading:

“Here’s One Simple Way We Can Change The Conversation About Drug Abuse”, Matt Ferner

“Stop Talking Dirty: Clinicians, Language, and Quality of Care for the Leading Cause of Preventable Death in the United States”, Kelly, Wakeman & Saitz

What Can We Learn from Bananas about Relapse Prevention?

Pavel G. Somov developed a Banana Peel Metaphor to distinguish between a “slip”, “lapse” and “re-lapse”. Imagine that you are walking down the street and see a slippery banana peel on the ground. You avoid it to prevent yourself from slipping. Or perhaps you don’t see the banana peel in time and you slip but catch yourself.  Or further, you fell but got back up. Worse yet, you fell and fell again, or stayed down until help arrives. Craving, lapse and relapse work in much the same manner.

Discussion Guide:

Describe a craving that did not lead to drug use.

Describe a lapse in which you fell but regained balance.

Describe a re-lapse in which you fell and couldn’t get back up.

What are the triggers that are likely to lead to cravings?

What tools do you have to regain your balance after a lapse?

What is your relapse prevention plan?

Supplemental Reading:

Bananas of Slip, Lapse and Re-Lapse Prevention,  Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Things Not to Say To Someone in Recovery

One of the most important tasks of recovery is replacing a drug environment with healthy friends and activities. It can be difficult to find and cultivate new friendships.

Discussion Guide:

Scenario: Imagine that you are in recovery and trying to make new, drug free friends.

Do you want them to know about your addiction history?

Are you apprehensive about meeting new people because they may know of your history?

How do you choose new friends?

What do you NOT want someone to ask you?

Supplemental Reading:

Top 10 Things Not to Say to Your Buddy in Recovery, Brian Whitney buddy-recovery


Overdose Prevention

Drug overdoses from heroin or pain medicine happen more often than you’d think. Just recently, 74 people overdosed on the west side of Chicago within a 72-hour period.  Listen in to a support group of people who were dependent upon heroin or pain pills, and are now in recovery, as they discuss their experiences with overdoses. We walk through educational information on how to prevent overdose deaths with Naloxone.  Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is an overdose reversal medication. How does it work? It is a narcotic antagonist which displaces opiates from receptor sites in the brain and reverses respiratory depression that is usually the cause of overdose deaths. This material is borrowed from The Chicago Recovery Alliance’s overdose prevention materials.

Discussion Guide:

Tell me what happened at the most recent overdose you experienced or witnessed.

What did you do to respond to this overdose?

Name three factors that increase the risk of fatal opioid overdose?

Can you name the three signs of opioid overdose?

What “folk remedies” or “home remedies” are you familiar with?

Are you familiar with Good Samaritan Laws?

What does SCARE ME stand for?

Supplemental Materials:

The Chicago Recovery Alliance educational slideshow “The Treatment of Opiate Overdose with Naloxone”

The Chicago Recovery Alliance “Pre/Post Test on The Treatment of Opiate Overdose with Naloxone”

The Chicago Recovery Allilance “SCARE ME: Things to Do with An Opiate/Heroin Overdose”

The Chicago Recovery Aliance “OD Prevention/Management Checklist” for the use of three injection partners.

Scholarly article “Injection drug users trained by overdose prevention programs: Responses to witnessed overdoses”