How to Cope With a Friend’s Overdose

The Saddest Day: A Friend’s Overdose

Like many Americans, you may find you need to know how to cope with a friend’s overdose from drugs or alcohol.

Very few things are harder in life than the passing of someone for whom you care deeply.

However, with help, you can learn how to process your grief and adapt to your new reality.

Currently, more than 67,000 Americans die from substance overdoses each year.

Almost 70% of those fatalities are linked to the use of an opioid drug or medication.

The vast majority of these opioid deaths result from the use of a synthetic or man-made opioid like fentanyl.

For most of the people who die from an overdose, there are friends and family left behind.

In the aftermath, these loved ones must struggle with some of life’s most painful emotions, including shock, disbelief, and extreme sadness.

As tough as things are today, it is possible to get past these powerful feelings.

That fact holds true even for people who experience the most severe forms of grief.

Immediate Placement in Rehab

Understanding The Psychological Impact of a Friend’s Overdose Death

In some cases, overdose deaths do not come out of the blue.

Instead, someone you know who has struggled with addiction for years finally succumbs to this chronic disease.

Or maybe you know someone who has struggled with dual diagnosis, a condition that includes both substance problems and mental illness.

You may have warning that something terrible could happen to your friend.

However, that fact does not make the reality any less painful.

At other times, the death of a loved comes as a complete surprise.

You might feel this way if your friend was in an addiction treatment program and seemed to be making significant progress.

Or maybe you did not even know that your friend was abusing drugs or alcohol.

In these circumstances, you may find it extremely difficult even to process what has happened.

The death of a loved one is a traumatic experience. Learning how to cope with a friend’s overdose is not something you need to do alone.

Research shows that more people go through this experience than any other form of trauma.

Traumatic events are important psychologically because of the ways they change how you think and feel.

In addition to shock, disbelief, and sadness, things you may experience soon after your friend dies to include:

  • Mental confusion or agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Dislocation from reality
  • Dulled emotional reactions
  • Heightened anxiety

Some people also experience other, delayed reactions to the passing of a friend, including:

  • Nightmares
  • Serious disruption of a normal sleep pattern
  • Feelings of depression
  • An intense fear that someone else will die
  • Flashbacks to earlier painful feelings
Cope With a Friend’s Overdose Emerald Isle - A woman puts her arm around the shoulder of a man who is grieving after the loss of a friend to an overdose.

Effective Ways to Deal With Your Friend’s Overdose

Express Your Grief in Your Own Way

There is a collective name for the range of reactions to a loved one’s death: grief. It is important to know that grief is not an unnatural reaction to a traumatic event – quite the opposite. Grieving is our built-in way of adjusting to that trauma and adapting to a new reality.

While it may seem impossible at first, most people do adjust. However, there are some essential things to consider. First is the difference between how you react to trauma and how you feel you “should” respond.

Some people frequently cry while coping with the death of a friend. In contrast, others laugh or even make jokes. Neither response is “wrong.” In fact, mental health professionals believe that it is healthy to express all of the emotions you feel while grieving, from extreme sorrow to joy. Evidence shows that people capable of this broad range of expression may have an easier time coping with grief.

It also takes varying amounts of time to make it through the grieving process. In some cases, you may feel better in just a matter of days or weeks. In others, you may still feel the impact of grief months after your friend’s passing, or even longer. Neither timeline is “wrong,” as long as you adjust to this major life change at some point.

Take Care of Yourself

Most people successfully cope with grief without seeking professional help. You will increase your chances of adjusting on your own if you follow expert recommendations for self-care. As we have seen, one of the most important things you can do is grieve on your own terms. Other important things include:

  • Getting regular exercise
  • Starting or maintaining a healthy diet
  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Staying in touch with people you can rely on
  • Delaying big decisions until a later point in time
  • Giving yourself enough time to grieve at your own pace
Cope With a Friend’s Overdose Emerald Isle - A woman talks with a grief counselor after her friend died of an overdose.

When to Seek Treatment If You Are Grieving for a Friend Who Has Overdosed

Despite your best efforts, you may find it challenging to make it by relying solely on self-care. Learning how to cope with a friend’s overdose may feel like it is too much for you. If you find yourself in this situation, do not hesitate to seek professional help. Therapy sessions with a grief counselor may be just the thing you need to work through your feelings. If you find it difficult to maintain a productive daily routine, you can also ask your doctor for advice.

24 Hour Substance Abuse Hotline

When Grief Is Too Much

Roughly 7% to 10% of all grieving people find it extremely difficult to adjust to a loved one’s the death, even after prolonged amounts of time. Experts refer to this difficulty as complicated grief. You may be experiencing this type of grief if you:

  • Find yourself fixating on the circumstances of your friend’s death
  • Keep returning to the thought that your friend should not have died
  • Make harsh judgments about how you grieve
  • Start avoiding anything that reminds you of your friend’s death

Complicated grief is not the only potential concern for people struggling with the passing of a loved one. The psychological impact of serious trauma also increases your risks for several types of mental illness, including:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD
  • Major depression
  • Anxiety disorders

In addition, trauma increases your risk of developing your own substance problems.

There is help available for anyone struggling with complicated grief. Ask your doctor or therapist about the kinds of treatments that help you process traumatic feelings. Also talk to your doctor or mental health professional if you suspect that you are develop mental illness symptoms while grieving.

Free Insurance Verification for Rehab

Why Choose Emerald Isle for Grief Therapy and Treatment

The death of a loved one from a substance overdose may be one of the darkest events of your life.

This is true when you have long known that such a day may occur.

It is also true when a fatal overdose happens unexpectedly.

In both situations, the passing of your friend will likely trigger a period of significant grief.

Learning how to cope with a friend’s overdose is hard to do alone.

On its own, grief is not a mental health concern.

Instead, you naturally grieve, so your mind has the time to accept what has happened and adjust to the reality of your new circumstances.

Not everyone grieves in the same way. Knowledge of this fact will help you process your loss in a way that reflects how you really feel.

Healthy reactions during a period of grieving cover the full range of human emotions.

Most people recover from grief if they follow expert recommendations.

However, a small percentage of grieving people experience complicated grief.

This form of mourning can leave you feeling stuck in a place of unacceptable pain.

But rest assured that therapy from a trained mental health professional will help you recover your sense of well-being.

You may also need therapy if you experience other mental health problems will grieving.

For more information on coping with a friend’s fatal overdose, contact the professionals at Emerald Isle.

No matter where you are in the grieving process, we offer resources to help you move forward.

These resources include our own top-quality mental health assessments and programs.