Drug abuse is itself a practice that is way too far from being healthy. Another thing is that people don’t normally start doing it out of totally happy life without problems. Therefore, self-care may seem to many a weird thing to even consider. However, even though treating drug addiction is complicated and costly, it is still much better to treat addiction alone rather than addiction followed by a number of co-existing health issues.
Why is self-care during drug abuse so important and how does one care about themselves properly and efficiently?
Ways of drug use include smoking, sniffing, chewing, swallowing and injecting. While none of these is itself totally harmless, drug abuse by injecting is the most dangerous among them. Injection drug users (IDUs) are susceptible to a number of health conditions ranging from unpleasant and troublesome to potentially grave. Not mentioning the fact that minor health issues will inevitably develop into serious complications if left without treatment or treated improperly. Among conditions drug users, especially IDUs, tend to get, are
- Abscesses/skin infections. Lack of personal hygiene, particularly disinfection of the place through which a drug is injected, leads to percolation of harmful bacteria into one’s body. It then forms into a swollen red mass filled with pus right under one’s skin. According to the statistics gathered from 101 interviewed IDUs in Washington, DC, 81,2% of them have had ‘an injection-related wound’ at some point of their drug abuse and 93,9% of those people have not seeked medical help for their wounds. Self-managing of abscesses is a pretty unreliable thing that can (and does) lead to such complications as osteomyelitis, endocarditis or septicemia and, eventually, death.
- STDs. As drug users are a marginalized category of people in our society, they often suffer from mistreatment regarding their general health. People with severe addiction may also live a promiscuous sexual life not undertaking any measures to protect themselves. Thus, they are exposed to not only drug-related health damage that is likely to not be treated properly at its early stages, but also to other dangerous diseases.
- HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne diseases (Hepatitis B and C etc.). Practice of sharing injection equipment, quite common among IDUs, results into vastly spreading infections among the members of community. One infected person is able to infect a whole round of others who have shared a syringe with them even once! Taking into account the aforementioned lack of medical assistance when necessary, starting from proper diagnostics and following with treatment of the infection in question, drug users are pretty much defenceless against these grave conditions that cause fatalities way too often.
In order to reduce the number of drug users suffering from drug-related diseases, National Institute on Drug Abuse has developed a strategy of their prevention, focusing on HIV. They call for and strongly support community care, providing IDUs with sterile injection equipment, as-personalized-as-possible approach to every individual’s specific needs, psychological help and information on safe lifestyle to both ensure one’s own health and prevent infecting of others if a person already has some disease. But what can one who wants to make sure their health won’t suffer more than it already does do about it?
- Seek support of others, in any way they need it.
- Try to ensure having safe sexual life with all one’s partners.
- If one is an IDU, look for initiatives providing IDUs with sterile single-use syringes, disinfectors and other injection equipment one might use.
- Turn for medical help immediately after any health conditions have become visible/can be felt in any way.
- Do preventive health checks, if possible.
- Try to create a network of people practicing as self-caring approach as practically possible in context of drug abuse.
Of course, it is likely that many people who’ve read the list above feel hugely skeptical about it. Indeed, following the practices of self-care is an extremely hard thing itself, let alone if one is a drug user. However, it still doesn’t mean that one should give up on themselves once and for all. Try doing at least something that is possible to do. And don’t stop seeking for help, as there are programs and people who can and want to help.