Grief and Loss

Today’s guest blog comes to us from Chad Mosher, PhD. Chad is Director of Outpatient Clinical Services at Palo Verde Behavioral Health. The focus of the blog is on the devastating fallout that results from substance abuse and addiction. In particular, two areas that are often overlooked in the battle against this growing epidemic. Once you’ve had a chance to read what Chad has to say, we’d lover to hear your thoughts. Working together with our partners to build a healthier state is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

Substance abuse and addiction have affected us as a nation, in Arizona, and within our communities. Although opioid addiction is not a “new” addiction, the Opioid Epidemic received national and state attention from community groups, hospitals, health and human services agencies, places of faith, and schools.

Hayley Coles, Executive Director of Sonoran Prevention Works, said: “There were 1,497 overdose deaths in Arizona in 2016, of those, 790 were opioid-related. It’s not just opioids, death and illness from all drugs are increasing. From my perspective, the crisis isn’t necessarily about drug use, it’s about the negative and mostly preventable impacts of unsafe drug use.”

Efforts to address the epidemic include prevention, education, harm reduction, detoxification, treatment, and ongoing behavioral and medical interventions. However, grief and loss are rarely addressed within the array of interventions. Asking individuals with opioid addiction about loss can be a valuable intervention for anyone in contact with an opioid addiction. It is likely that the individual witnessed friends and family members die from overdose or from related health issues because of opioid addiction. Family members, treatment providers, prevention specialists, educators, faith leaders, and community organizers can all ask the simple question, “What losses have you experienced or witnessed since you started using opioids?” The epidemic has affected us all, but grief and loss, if let unaddressed, can contribute to the spiral of use and abuse for many.

Hospitals can have a dramatic impact on the health and wellness of its patients and communities by exploring how to integrate grief and loss into current practices for addiction. Find out how to integrate grief and loss into your work by searching for harm reduction resources such as Naloxone distribution, syringe access or exchange programs, and behavioral health hospitals that can manage addiction/substance abuse. Health and wellness is possible when we work as a community to address addiction of all types.


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