Earlier this month, at the 200 Block of East Tropicana Avenue, a shooting occurred leaving a man with a shoulder wound. Lieutenant Carlos Hank with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department was on the scene. He said: “It appears to be a drug deal gone bad.”
The shooting suspect is still at large, but the victim is in stable condition. Detectives are investigating.
This is not an uncommon occurrence – not in Las Vegas or in any situation in which drugs play a role, no matter the locale. Violence as a means to settle arguments is standard, and too often, those who are living with an active addiction finds themselves pulled into a world that is terrifying and deadly, not just because of the toll that drug use can take on the body but also because of the risks inherent to interacting with people who are comfortable making their living by selling toxic, illegal substances to vulnerable people.
Getting shot is one of the extreme risks of living a life of addiction, but like drug overdose, it happens frequently. In addition, smaller, less explosive events commonly occur in the course of an addiction, and these events that can be even more life-altering and devastating, including:
- Sleep disruption: Whether you take stimulant drugs that force you to stay awake even when you desperately want to sleep or depressants that cause you to pass out, providing you with nonrestorative rest, the inability to get a good night’s sleep every night can have a huge impact on your life. It can negatively impact your ability to manage stress, lower your immune system, and decrease your mood and energy levels. This, in turn, may contribute to cravings for your drug of choice and perpetuate addictive use of substances.
- Lack of nutrition: Different drugs have different effects on appetite. Some make you want to eat more (e.g., marijuana) while others remove your appetite completely (e.g., stimulant substances like cocaine). Other drugs disrupt the gastrointestinal system, disturbing the ability of the body to extract needed vitamins and nutrients from food, which in turns means that organ systems do not have the tools necessary to repair and heal the damage caused by drug use.
- Degraded appearance: It may seem like a little thing, but when you are not bathing and taking care of yourself properly and it is apparent that it is due to substance abuse, it can make social situations more difficult, which in turn can cause a sense of isolation that can contribute to drug use and abuse.
- Health decline: When you aren’t eating right, sleeping well, or taking care of yourself, your health will start to deteriorate under any circumstances. When drug and alcohol use is the cause of those issues, it only makes the health issues more extreme and frequent.
- Mental health decline: Similarly, when you are regularly using mind-altering drugs that are depressant in nature or dealing with the high highs and low lows of stimulant use in addition to a lack of good sleep and healthy food, mental health symptoms are unavoidable. For many, it means anxiety and depression, but for those who are living with a co-occurring mental health disorder, it can mean an increase in the severity, length, and frequency of episodes.
- Relationship problems: It is not easy to get along well with others and prioritize their needs when you are incapable of prioritizing your own needs beyond satiating cravings for your drug of choice. It is not possible to have a healthy relationship with people at home, at work, or out in the world when you do not have a healthy relationship with yourself; thus, the little interactions with others that are difficult will begin to add up, often increasing a sense of isolation and loneliness that can further contribute to the compulsive use of substances.
- Financial loss: When you do not get along well with others and are not taking care of yourself, it is difficult if not impossible to get or hold a job. This can mean missed days at work and/or job loss, which in turn means no financial stability – an issue that can trigger increased cravings.
The bottom line is that there is more at risk during active drug use than loss of freedom or loss of life. Along the way, quality of life is significantly depleted, making it steadily more difficult to pull out of the rut of addiction.
The good news is that these issues are red flags that substance use has morphed into substance abuse, and that treatment and immediate intervention are necessary. You do not have to wait until you are arrested, lose your children, destroy your marriage or your career, or end up in the hospital to stop the downward spiral that is inevitable with continued drug use.
Is today the day you make the change for the better and connect with treatment services?