First steps for drug addiction recovery?
September 10, 2018 6:39 AM   Subscribe

My friend just confided in me that he is a drug addict and suicidal. He says he wants help but doesn't know where to start. I don't either, to be honest. Can anyone help with SPECIFIC recommendations for what he/we can do today, tomorrow, this week? We are both in Chicago. Thanks.
posted by ohsnapdragon to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
Address the suicidal first - call a hotline 1-800-273-8255 - go to an ER or a psych hospital if available. They will help from there.
posted by maxg94 at 6:46 AM on September 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

If your friend happens to have a relationship with a therapist or doctor already, I would say that's the first point of call. But I'm assuming that's likely not the case. So: you can help him figure out what resources are available.

A crisis hotline - local if possible, national otherwise - would be a good start for the mental health issues.

One or more of the Chicago needle exchanges is likely to be able to point you toward the specific detox/rehab resources available in your area and talk to you about pros/cons of different options with the benefit of long experience.

If he's willing to talk to other people about what's going on, you could arrange to have friends taking turns hanging out with him most or all of the time.

Also, you can and should take care of yourself right now. Your friend is going through something, and it's admirable that you want to help. It's also very easy to get so deeply involved that it can be unhealthy for you. Have someone you can talk to; attend to your own needs and obligations. Your friend is important, but so are you.
posted by Stacey at 6:53 AM on September 10, 2018

If he's suicidal you should take him to the hospital just like you would if he were having a heart attack or suffering from any other life-threatening medical emergency.

In my experience (three suicide attempts, two 5+ day hospitalizations), many/most of the other patients in the nut hut will also have substance abuse problems so the staff are well-trained to deal with it and help get him into rehab once they've stabilized the suicidal impulses.

Packing tips: At least three changes of clothes. Slip-on or velcro shoes because you can't have shoelaces or heavy boots. No belts either so pack pants that stay up comfortably on their own. Comfy gym clothes are best. Toiletries should be unopened and alcohol cannot be an ingredient (people get desperate enough to drink hand sanitizer). Coloring books and markers (not long colored pencils, too stabby) will be appreciated because those never get restocked often enough. As many paperback (not hardback) books as you can spare. Don't bring anything you're not willing to leave behind.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:57 AM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

He's sleeping right now. I'm at work but hoping to go by tonight and talk through options. I don't think he has health insurance. Is there a way to get mental health treatment/rehab without going through the ER? I suspect he won't want to go to the hospital, but might be more willing to do things like call hotlines/make emergency therapy appts/etc. Also, one more question, if he says he "is working up the courage" to commit suicide but then tells me he is not going to do it, is that something the hospital will still treat? Or does he have to be actively admitting to hospital staff that he wants to die?
posted by ohsnapdragon at 7:13 AM on September 10, 2018

The MeFi Wiki ThereIsHelp page offers information about mental health resources, including suicide crisis hotlines and information about finding a therapist.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers a free HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) with information, referrals and support for people living with a mental health condition, family members and caregivers, mental health providers and the public.

The SAMHSA National Helpline (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) 1-800-662-HELP (4357), is available 24/7 in English and Spanish for referrals to free and low-cost treatment facilities, support groups and community-based organizations, and the website also has an online mental health treatment locator, and other helplines and treatment locators.
posted by Little Dawn at 7:25 AM on September 10, 2018

If he doesn't have insurance then the ER is still likely his best bet because they have to take everyone and can't discharge him until he's stable. They will assign him a social worker to help get him into a program when he leaves. His credit may take a hit if he's not able to negotiate down his hospital bill later but that shouldn't be a priority in a life-threatening medical emergency.

Tell him the hospital psych ward isn't scary like it's too often portrayed in the movies. Everywhere I've been, they separate the relatively chill addicts and suicidal depressives into a separate wing from the truly "crazy" people. If anyone acts up too much or seems to be a potential threat to their fellow patients, they get sedated and shipped down to the extra-crazy wing.

Mostly it's just really boring. Lots of TV/reading/coloring/napping in between group therapy sessions and individual appointments with psychiatrists, doctors, social workers, etc. Usually the most exciting thing that happens all day is a fellow patient has a panic attack or people get crabby about dinner being late.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:27 AM on September 10, 2018

if he says he "is working up the courage" to commit suicide but then tells me he is not going to do it, is that something the hospital will still treat? Or does he have to be actively admitting to hospital staff that he wants to die?

Given the number of people I met inside who were annoyed about being there on a 72 hours hold when they were "just joking" or "just blowing off steam" with their suicide talk, I think hospitals tend to err on the side of admitting people who say anything indicating suicidal impulses. But that may vary depending on your state law and local hospital policies.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:40 AM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

In Chicago, consider taking him to St. Joseph's on Lake Shore - I had a friend who went there for a psych hold (and later, a suicide attempt) and concurrent addiction issues and though they're a small place, it was life changing for him. You can also call Hazelden, which is considered one of the better rehab places in the city, and they take charity cases from time to time because they are a nonprofit: 844-652-7065.
posted by juniperesque at 7:55 AM on September 10, 2018

Chicago appears to have an extensive Narcotics Anonymous community. Once he's past the suicide crisis, it may be worthwhile for him to look into NA meetings.
posted by hanov3r at 8:00 AM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

As a follow up to the hotline numbers listed above - you can call hotlines for support both for yourself and to find out more about local options for resources for your friend. In my experience, they welcome calls from people trying to support someone in crisis.

On a related note, information management may be an issue for your friend - keeping track of the appointments and services and forms and processes can be challenging. There are a variety of public benefits that may be available, so one thing to consider as part of the long-term planning is an effective organization system to help manage the process.
posted by Little Dawn at 8:13 AM on September 10, 2018

If your friend does not have insurance because he is unemployed or because his income is too low to qualify, he may qualify for County Care. Link. This may not help pay for rehab, because it takes a bit of time to do the paperwork to qualify, but help him pay for longer-term substance abuse counseling.
posted by mai at 5:19 PM on September 10, 2018

Hazeldon is considered one of the best rehab facilities in the world. There's also the Chapman Center in Evanston. It's a hospital, they'll take him at first as an in-patient then out patient. Both are pretty non-scary places. Chapman may be less expensive, if that's a concern. You should figure out the insurance. If money is really an issue, you can always take him to an AA or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting. You can also call either. They deal with requests like this all the time.
posted by xammerboy at 7:00 PM on September 10, 2018

Haymarket Center also accepts uninsured adults for detox and inpatient treatment (provided beds are available).

If it turns out he has medicaid ALL plans have behavioral health coordination line, call it.

If he's suicidal go to an ER.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:16 AM on September 11, 2018

How is your friend?
posted by Jacqueline at 6:14 AM on September 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Contact the Chicago Recovery Alliance. They are a harm reduction program and can connect your friend to treatment.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:04 PM on September 14, 2018

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