This is the story of a math teacher from Winnipeg, who became addicted at age 51, which destroyed not only 5 years of his life, but many more years of his health. Usually, we relate this kind of stories to people who have many visible social problems, problems with the law, who live on the street. But is it like that? Can we see the problems of people who call to get help from free alcohol treatment centers at first sight? Is meth addiction something that happens only to young people? Well, of course not.
When we hear of a story related to substance abuse, we have the prejudice that this is about a young person leading a difficult and reckless life, with a great number of problems, which is very often inaccurate. Among the addicts are our relatives, friends, neighbors, respectable members of the community, people we see every day. According to Jobb Arnold, a professor at Menno Simons University, the general opinion that all people using meth experience psychoses and similar visible clues of drug use is completely incorrect. Addiction can be hidden for a long time, even years.
Mario Chaput is an excellent opposition to the stereotype that drug addiction happens only to young people. He was a meth user who developed an addiction at age 51 and struggled with it for the next 5 years. An exemplary member of the community, father of two adult children and husband.
Mr. Chaput is a microbiologist who worked in high school as a professor of math and science. You could always hear kind words about him from his students and colleagues. In his spare time, he used to paint as a hobby.
At the time, he was taking care of his wife who was suffering from multiple sclerosis. As her illness progressed, taking care of her became more difficult, the whole situation was a great burden and a source of stress and anxiety for this high school teacher. That’s when he first tried meth even though he was a man in fifties. It helped him at that moment to fell some relief.
Initially, he used meth once a week, which was enough to let him relax and forget his problems. But the need for one dose a week grew into two and quickly became his daily routine.
He did not even notice when addiction so overwhelmed him that he began to neglect all his obligations. He started taking time off from work, and he took care of his wife’s health poorly. He stopped painting. When his addiction became apparent, all the relationships with friends and family got broken. He left his job, broke up his marriage, had less and less contact with children who took over care of their mother.
Now, he had new excuses for using meth, loneliness and the circumstances under which his life and all relationships fell apart. Looking back at this part of his life, he can only say that it is amazing how quickly meth took over his life. He remembers that some days he was not able to make a simple phone call to order food. He couldn’t get himself to read an email for a few days or to do anything that was a part of his daily routine earlier.
Things started to crumble in April 2018. Using meth has now made his loneliness a lot bigger. Mario’s children tried to help him on several occasions by offering him a choice to apply to a free drug rehabilitation center, but after a series of unsuccessful attempts, they stopped contacting him. It all culminated in June when Chaput ran a stop sign and crashed his car while he was under the influence. He was taken to the hospital without much recollection about what happened.
After that situation, he tried to detox a few times but kept falling and always blaming the addiction programs he attended rather than himself. In October, he finally decided that he had had enough, so he applied for a free drug treatment program. After 28 days of detox, he checked in to the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba with a bed and after that moved to Morberg House, a 12-bed transitional home for people overcoming homelessness, addiction, and mental health challenges. After every successful step in overcoming the crisis, he was given more responsibility for his own life.
Although at that moment he was broke, without his apartment, and he didn’t have contact with the people he cared about, he was determined to get back on track. Being a teacher, provided him with a pension from which he could afford to get on his feet, duly paying bills and taking care of his health again. Step by step, he dealt with problems and now is still working on putting his life back together.
The number of people over 50 with addiction problems (alcoholism, drug addiction…) is steadily increasing. Estimates say that the number of addicts in America will increase from 2.8 million to 5.7 million by 2020. The most concerning thing is the “hidden epidemic” that often goes unnoticed by doctors and family. Research shows that about 40% of Americans over the age of 65 become addicted to alcohol, despite the body’s ability to “handle the alcohol” decreases with age and that alcohol can have a dangerous relationship with medications, and medications are commonly used by people older than 50-60 years.
To help someone and refer them to free rehab centers, it is important to learn how to recognize opiate abuse.
Signs of opiate abuse are:
- slowness, drowsiness,
- narrow pupils,
- a distinct face whiteness,
- slurred speech,
- visible traces of needle stitching in a row, on arms/hands and other parts of the body,
- noticeable weight loss,
- neglected appearance,
- narrowing interest in all but drugs,
- frequent borrowing of money or theft,
- change of character (lying, deceit, selfishness),
- sudden changes in mood and behavior depending on whether or not the person is under the influence of drugs,
- manifestations of abstinence crisis: pain, sweating, shivering, nausea, diarrhea, agitation.
Referring someone to a free substance abuse program could mean saving someone’s lives.
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