Substance Abuse

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Most of you probably remember the television commercials warning against the dangers of substance abuse, e.g., the egg sizzling in the frying pan representing a brain on drugs. Whether it is you or someone you care about who abuses substances, many of you may relate to these advertisements.

For a clearer definition of substance abuse, it may help to break the phrase into two parts. "Substance", or drug, is anything that produces a physical, mental, emotional or behavioral change. These qualities not only apply to illegal substances, such as cocaine, marijuana and heroin, but also include alcohol and prescription drugs. "Abuse" occurs when the use of the substance is different from its accepted medical, social or legal use.

Tragically, substance abuse can lead to ADDICTION.

How do you recognize someone who is abusing substances?

While symptoms of substance abuse vary from individual to individual, there are common, observable physical and psychological symptoms. For instance, weight loss, irritability, restlessness, impaired coordination and decreased work performance may suggest substance abuse. It is especially important to recognize drastic changes from normal behavior.

Substance abuse has been prevalent for centuries, although it was not until 1956 that the American Medical Society classified Alcoholism as a disease. With the disease concept, came the understanding that a person who is addicted to a substance has an illness, not a weakness of character.

In addition to the abuser, others are impacted by substance abuse and addiction. If you are in contact with a substance abuser, it is likely that you have been affected. Generally, families and friends experience inconsistencies, broken promises, and often verbal and physical abuse.

Problems can range from embarrassing behavior in public to financial instability. Family, friends and co-workers often directly and indirectly protect the abuser from adverse consequences of his or her behavior.

This is called "enabling". Unfortunately, enabling only prevents the abuser from experiencing the consequences that would motivate him or her to want to change. It is imperative that those who are concerned, learn to allow the abuser to feel the repercussions of his or her actions.

The substance abuser's behavior also affects supervisors and co-workers. Frequent absences, habitual lateness, changes in productivity, errors and workplace accidents make working with a substance abuser not only frustrating, but costly to the entire company.

For information about the many Resources available for substance abusers and their families, friends and co-workers, please contact your Employee/Member Assistance Program at 800-292-2780.