5. Staying Safe and Managing Crises

What is a crisis?


A crisis is any serious deterioration of a person’s ability to cope. People in crisis may experience extreme despair, sorrow or anger. Crises such as a relative experiencing an overdose, self-harming behaviour or severe symptoms of withdrawal may require emergency care. Situations involving housing, financial losses or child welfare can also become crises. These situations can be extremely stressful for families.

A person with a substance use problem may experience the following types of crises:

    serious medical problems due to the effects of substance use (e.g., seizures, overdoses)
    serious mental health problems (e.g. self-harming behaviour, psychotic episodes, severe depression, suicide attempts)
    serious legal problems (e.g., arrest warrant, criminal charge)

    serious behavioural problems (e.g., violence, stealing, drug dealing, drunk driving)
    serious problems of living (e.g., loss of housing, loss of job, loss of children, debt)
    serious relational problems (e.g., interpersonal violence, threats of violence from drug dealers).

Family members may experience the following types of crises:

    serious medical problems related to stress (e.g., heart attack, eating disorder)
    serious mental health problems (e.g., depression, acute anxiety, suicide attempts)
    serious legal problems

    safety concerns related to the behaviour of the person with a substance use problem (e.g., threats of violence, stolen or destroyed property)
    financial problems
    involvement of child welfare authorities.