On the 26th of June, the world marked The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. By resolution 42/112 of 7 December 1987, the General Assembly decided to observe 26 June as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking as an expression of its determination to strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse.

Supported each year by individuals, communities, and various organizations all over the world, this global observance aims to raise awareness of the major problem that illicit drugs represent to society. On our part, Suruvi – Care for Caregivers focused its attention on drug and substance abuse among caregivers. 

The things we do to avoid vulnerability end up causing us more pain than vulnerability itself” –


Statistics have it that as many as 10 – 15% of health professionals experience some form of substance abuse. For the 44 million family caregivers, the results are similar. Almost half of all family caregivers take more medication than they did prior to assuming a caregiving role.   

This article focuses on the main reasons that lead to substance abuse while caregiving, recognizing when things get overboard and finally where and how to get help. Grab your pair of glasses if you have to but keep up till the very end.


A variety of factors can contribute to a caregiver developing unwholesome coping mechanisms, such as smoking, abusing alcohol or substance abuse. A few of the more common ones include:

  • Stress from juggling so many responsibilities and relationships.
  • Sadness and even clinical depression that may result from watching a loved one’s health decline.
  • Pain from an injury caused by the physical demands of caregiving (i.e. back or neck pain)
  • Isolation as a result of the changes in the lifestyle of a care recipient.
  • Conflict and confusion with changing relationship dynamics.
  • Anger at being placed in such a difficult position.
  • Long-standing, or emerging unhealthy family dynamics.
  • Anxiety and fear about how well they are managing caregiving duties.

Sometimes we just want to do our best for the ones we care for, but we get overwhelmed by ‘it all”, and things can get out of hand pretty quick.


Because the duties of caring for a loved one often add up slowly, a caregiver might not recognize how stressed and anxious they have become. What might have started out as a glass of wine in the evening to “relax” may evolve into drinking multiple glasses throughout the day. A prescription medication prescribed at bedtime to beat insomnia turns into one that is taken several times each day.  These innocent acts then become a habit and before long, it becomes almost impossible to function without a few glasses of alcohol or a packet of cigarette.  Since these are stimulants, they have adverse effects on the body.

Here are some signs that may help you identify whether things are getting out of hand:

  • Sleepiness and lethargy that don’t go away
  • Increased feelings of agitation
  • Quick to anger
  • Unintended weight gain or loss
  • Financial problems or inability to account for missing money
  • Reliance on alcohol or drugs to make it through the day.

These are just some of the major symptoms that are associated with most of substance abuse. The rest may differ in reference to the intensity of the drug to the body. Financially, there is only one way to go and that is down. Drugs are not cheap and constant purchase of them causes financial constraints. When it comes to weight, either losing or gaining makes it difficult to carry out responsibilities as healthy is the most preferred status.  The most important thing, however, is realizing when we flop and decide to take a braver choice. No man under the sun is blameless.


Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. 

Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.

Brene Brown.

With that said, the road to recovery can take different paths but the goal is usually, to get back to the game stronger, wiser and happier. Here are a few things that can lead to that road.

  • Checking into a treatment facility and working with an outpatient addictions counsellor to help you manage your addiction and the stress of caregiver burden.
  • Check out every available option for bringing in someone else to help manage your patient’s care. Your addiction counsellor may also have resources.
  • Make intentional decisions to prioritize your health, such as exercising, eating healthily, attending support groups and picking up new hobbies.
  • Including the person in your care in your recovery plan, if appropriate.
  • Joining support groups for other caregivers so you can share your emotions with people in similar situations.

Finally, the beauty of success is from looking back at our failures and how we meandered our way through them. Move, pause, reflect and keep moving!.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *