Waiting is death.

Because the longer you wait, the greater the risk you have for overdose. Because the longer you put off treatment, the more likely you are not to follow through with your treatment1. Because waiting too long to get treatment only increases the damage to your future health and life, damage that may not be reversible.

More than 23 million Americans are struggling with some kind of substance addiction. Less than 10 percent of them are getting any kind of treatment for it.

What reasons could they possibly have for waiting?

  • To Hit Rock bottom? Waiting for an addict to reach their lowest or most desperate point is a dangerous game. And it’s a foolish one. Waiting at the bottom can be jail, lost relationships, destroyed jobs and careers, serious injury, irreversible damage to health, and death. The waiting can make you sicker. And if you’ve already suffered some losses and had to face sacrifices in your life, how do you know exactly where rock bottom is?Studies have shown1 that people who are coerced into treatment, whether by family or the legal system, have an equal chance of doing well as do those who make the choice of being there on their own.
  • Avoiding Withdrawal Symptoms? Withdrawal can bring a sickness that is bone deep. With time and chronic use, the only “pleasure” left in the drug experience will be the avoidance of that sickness. Often, the fear of withdrawal can be worse than the actual feelings. The mental withdrawal can be severe, causing depression, anxiety, panic, and hopelessness. Depending on your poison of choice, the physical symptoms can go from high discomfort – heroin, cocaine – to life-threatening – benzodiazepines, alcohol. On the extreme end, withdrawal symptoms can include hallucinations, delirium tremens, and seizures. Cold turkey under these circumstances can be dangerous. The safest and least painful way to detox is to do so in a medically-assisted program.
  • Ashamed of the Stigma? No one wants to be labeled an “addict” for life. The image of the addict – morally compromised, selfish, weak, miserable, criminal, and antisocial – is hard to shake. The perception blinds us to the truth of what addiction really is – a health crisis. And because of it, many addicts won’t seek the lifesaving help that they need.

Drug overdose factoids have been circulating like memes: Drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States, more than even motor vehicle crashes or firearms. The DEA ranks prescription drugs and heroin as the most significant drug threats in the United States. Drug and alcohol abuse is a health epidemic.

And the threat is increasing: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since 2000 the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137 percent, including a 200 percent increase in overdoses involving opioids. More than a 100 people die every day in the US from a drug overdose.

In addition to the vomiting, seizures, and troubles with breathing, alcohol poisoning can have the nasty effect of dulling the gag reflex – which prevents choking – a reason why so many die from suffocating. Heroin and opioid overdose can lead to unconsciousness and very depressed central nervous system. This can have the effect of making the body forget to breathe, the most significant risk of opiate and opioid overdose. A lack of oxygen to the brain causes damage to happen quickly, even for a matter of seconds can have serious consequences.

But even if you manage to cheat death and survive an overdose, your risk of permanent bodily or brain damage is still alarmingly high.

So, What If You Don’t Overdose?

Let’s say you also avoid injuring yourself, getting behind the wheel, and escape any encounters with the law. The shadow of chronic and long-term drug and alcohol use is long: It can cause brain damage, have a catastrophic effect on your liver, kidneys, lungs, heart, stomach, pancreas, increase the risk of certain kinds of cancers, stroke, nerve damage, increase blood-pressure and other heart-related diseases. Though this could be the least of your worries, substance abuse can wreak havoc on your sexual function as well. Addicts have a diminished sense of self-preservation and otherwise take poor care of themselves, this can lead to malnutrition, poor hygiene, and other health consequences.

Long-term use of heroin and opioids can change the physical structure and physiology of the brain. Studies have shown that it can cause deterioration to the brain’s white matter. This can effect decision-making abilities, the ability to regulate behavior, and responses to stress. Also affected are imbalances to the neuronal and hormonal systems. These can affect the way you think, the ability to speak, memory, attention, and even how you sense time and space.

Dangerous Combinations

Polydrug abuse: This is when you mix various drugs or combine them with alcohol. Doing so can have dangerously unpredictable and deadly results – interaction can magnify or diminish the effects of each substance, produce side effects, or create new toxic chemicals. Worst is a mix of painkillers and booze. As depressants, both slow breathing – or stop it altogether – by different mechanisms and inhibit the coughing/choking reflex. Alcohol also interacts with anti-anxiety drugs (like Xanax), antipsychotics, antidepressants, sleep medications and muscle relaxants. These combinations proved fatal for such noted celebrities as Anna Nicole Smith, Heath Ledger, Whitney Houston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Michael Jackson.


Addiction is a condition with deadly consequences, clearly. But it is also one for which there are effective treatments. On a social scale, treating addiction reduces crime, disease, improves productivity and the economy. For the individual, a complete treatment program can address not only the addiction to substances but also the medical, psychological, and social challenges that underlie it. Most often, drugs and alcohol are merely symptoms of a deeper underlying issue.

Treatment doesn’t even need to be voluntary to be effective. The value of treatment has been most dramatically demonstrated with prison inmates. As a population, inmates have a substance abuse rate of 60–80 percent. Studies show that appropriately treating addicts reduces their later drug use by 50-70 percent. Without treatment, prisoners have higher probability of continuing to be a threat to their communities. The best estimates are that for every $1 spent on drug treatment, there is a $4-$7 return in cost savings to society3.

The rewards to the life of the individual are nearly incalculable.

If you or a loved one have an addiction to alcohol, contact BLVD Treatment Centers. At BLVD Treatment Centers we custom tailor our recovery programs within the safe and nurturing confines of our rehab treatment centers. Located throughout California, in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and in Portland, OR, our mission is to assess the severity of your addiction to help you achieve true recovery within 30 days. Call us now at 1-866.582.9844.

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2396562/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14698797
  3. https://archives.drugabuse.gov/Published_Articles/Solutions.html

What Are the Dangers of Waiting Too Long to Get Treatment?