Overdosing is serious, but not everyone who overdoses will die. Medical advances have improved in recent decades, making life saving medications widely available that reverse the effects of overdose.

After someone overdoses for the first time, one of two things will happen: one, the person will leave substance abuse behind for good, or two, the person will return to a dangerous cycle of substance use that could lead to an overdose that results in permanent death.

If you have a loved one who continues to play with fire and abuse substance after an overdose, here’s what you can expect and how you can help reverse the cycle.

The effects of overdosing

If someone you loved survived an overdose, here are some things that might play out in the next few months. 

  • Withdrawal: once someone has developed a tolerance to a drug, abruptly stopping use will result in a physically and mentally painful withdrawal process. Your loved one is likely to become irritable, tired, sore, nauseous and exhibit physical distress
  • Difficulty in relationships: the irritability that comes with withdrawal and the stress of managing triggers may lead your loved one to lash out at the people nearby. Don’t take these outbursts personally, and instead focus on managing your own emotional triggers
  • Observable stress around triggers: when you’re with a loved one who has just survived an overdose, triggers to return to drug use, or to use a drug in deadly amounts will be ever-present. Stay alert so you can help your loved one through the hardest moments

You and your loved one will both experience the rocky waters immediately following an overdose. The effects of overdosing can be brutal, but there is hope for a sober future.

How to help someone after overdosing

If you’re looking for tips for how to help someone after overdosing, here are some concrete actionable steps that can make a difference in your loved one’s life.

1. Have a conversation

Talking about drug addiction can be uncomfortable and intimidating. You may worry that you’re saying the wrong thing or that you’re triggering stress that will lead to future drug use. There’s no perfect script for a conversation after an overdose, but the important thing is that you open the door to future listening and discussion.

Here are some subjects you may want to hit on in that first conversation after an overdose: 

  • Your gratitude for their survival
  • Your concern that addiction has escalated to an extreme
  • Your desire to provide support in ending an addiction for good
  • Your belief that professional treatment is the best option
  • Your encouragement throughout all of the stages of recovery

There’s no shame in having an emotional reaction to a loved one’s overdose. But before sharing your alarm, anger or sadness, gauge whether it’s appropriate to share bedside at a hospital or whether it can wait for a future conversation.

2. Acknowledge the problem and point to concrete signs

When families stage interventions or address harmful behavior, one of the best ways to elicit change is to be specific and outright about acknowledging the problem and to point out signs that mark the severity of the problem. 

For example, you may want to share that you’ve noticed your loved one missing commitments, withdrawing from family and friends or struggling to pay bills. Expressing your concern shows that you care for your loved one and may even illuminate symptoms of addiction that he or she didn’t even know were present.

3. Support professional treatment

At this point in an addiction, recovery requires professional treatment. While your loved one might feel that they can overcome addiction on their own after surviving an overdose, the extent of the dependence warrants intensive care, most likely at an inpatient recovery center. 

While you are limited in your role and true sobriety always requires someone to choose it for him or herself, you can still take big measures to encourage professional treatment. Here are ways you can volunteer your support.

  • Help your loved one call to sign up for care
  • Research local treatment providers and recommend specific facilities
  • Offer to aid with transportation to treatment
  • Help your loved one pack for residential treatment
  • Keep in contact during inpatient care by attending visiting hours, making calls or mailing notes
  • Celebrate victories as your loved one makes progress through withdrawal and the early days of recovery
  • Offer to listen to experiences of recovery
  • Keep your loved one accountable for continuing care
  • Keep an eye on your loved one’s medication (if applicable)

Just be sure that your actions aren’t enabling your loved one. While your support is invaluable, you shouldn’t have to work harder than your friend or family member to overcome substance abuse. 

4. Engage in fun, healthy and sober activities together

Committing to sobriety isn’t up to you, it’s up to your friend or family member who struggles with drug addiction. However, you can model an enjoyable lifestyle and invite your loved one to partake. When your life is attractive, recovery will have a clear and meaningful goal.

Reach out today

Real Recovery Sober Living can offer you the support you need as you support your loved one in recovering from the effects of overdosing. Real Recovery Sober Living is an extended care community offering programs for men and women outside of Asheville, North Carolina. Find out more by calling today.