A man from New Hanover County was shot and killed abruptly this month when his passenger woke up from a “drug-induced stupor” and fired a gun without warning. The driver was headed down I-95 at the time, and a backseat passenger was able to get control of the car before it crashed near the Union Street exit, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reports.
OnStar alerted police to the accident, and when they arrived on the scene, the man who shot the gun was combative. Officers were forced to use a stun gun several times so they could get him to UF Health. The backseat passenger told police that all three of them had been smoking something called “Loveboat” – in this case, cigarettes dipped in marijuana and formaldehyde. He also reported that the passenger who killed the driver had several bad reactions to the use of different substances in the past.
The effects of drug use and abuse are often startling and fatal. When it is clear that drug use causes nothing but problems, why is it that people continue to get high?
- Perspective is relative. To the objective viewer, a “bad” reaction may not be that serious to someone who is living in active addiction. In fact, they may not remember most of it – if they remember anything at all – if they are so high that they black out. In some cases, the issue may be that what defines “normal” includes all the negative consequences of drug use and abuse, and that a life that does not include those effects does not feel possible or even imaginable.
- Impulse control is altered. Many people in active addiction report that they are often doing things before they even realize it is happening. When they are already under the influence (e.g., buzzed due to alcohol or marijuana), they may make the choice to engage in further drug use and other behaviors without really considering whether or not it’s a good idea. The individual may feel that they do not have any genuine control over what they do because they make these choices when they are not in control of their senses.
- The high takes precedence. Addiction is defined by cravings to get and stay high, and the nature of the disorder is such that this goal takes priority over everything else in life. Loss of a marriage, child custody, a job, and even freedom is nothing compared to loss of the ability to get high. For someone living in active addiction, negative consequences of ongoing drug use mean little compared to what they perceive to be the negative consequences of not getting high.
- The ability to stay sober is inhibited. In some cases, the person struggling with their addiction is aware and genuinely concerned about the problem. In response, they may try to stop drinking or using drugs, or they may try to moderate their use in some way, limiting the dosage, timing their use, or using some other arbitrary measure. However, because long-term and regular use of substances alters how the brain functions, it is almost impossible for them to stay sober or continue with moderate use without the negative consequences they formerly experienced for any substantial length of time.
Turning the Tide
In the face of an altered brain function and feeling a lack of control over one’s own choices, it is no wonder that many people living with addiction feel that their use of drugs and alcohol – and all that comes with it, whatever that may be – is a foregone conclusion. Many cannot even imagine living without the substances, much less what life would look like in sobriety. As a result, family members who would like to help their loved one enter treatment must first:
- Help their loved one to understand that addiction is a medical disorder.
- Assist their family member in recognizing that they are living with an addiction disorder.
- Identify treatment as the best possible solution.
- Help their loved one to understand that treatment is their necessary next step and that they have a network of people supporting them in that process who will not continue to support them in active addiction.
Though this may be accomplished informally with conversations, it may also take a formal intervention to get the point across that now is the time for change. Are you and your loved ones ready to stage an intervention for your family member living in addiction?