General Signs of Substance Abuse
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General Signs of Substance Abuse

Signs and signals of substance abuse as well as your role as a homemaker or home health aide.

Substance abuse is the continued use of a substance despite adverse consequences that impact major life areas and alter the ability to interact in society. There are many types of substance abuse. A person can abuse drugs, alcohol, or a combination. The drugs may be prescription or illegal. Substance abuse is seen in all ages and in all economic levels. Abuse may be obvious or subtle. Some people think altering the way they feel through the use of alcohol or drugs is a way of escaping their problems; some people do it because their friends do it; others start out using drugs to help them with an illness and then are unable to stop; still others start using alcohol slowly and do not realize they are in trouble until it is too late. The term substance abuse means that a person uses a drug or alcohol to excess and that his or her behaviors alters due to the abuse. In the past, most people believed that no one could help substance abusers. We know now that is no the case. Many receive treatment and return to living useful and productive lives. The treatment is not easy and it takes a long time, but those who continue treatment may well accomplish a complete cure.


"Everyone does it"

This is not true. We read a great many stories in the newspapers about famous people who use drugs, and we read about everyday people who try them. This leads some readers to believe that everyone is doing it. Actually, nobody knows how many people really use drugs and abuse alcohol, and although the number certainly seems to be growing, not "everyone" does it!

"I can control it"

Wrong! The body becomes used to drugs and alcohol and then no longer reacts to the usual amount that is taken. Therefore, the person must increase the "dose" to achieve the same feeling. As the does increases, so does the price. There has never been an addicted person who could control it. Sooner or later, the habit controls the person.

"No one will know"

Wrong! It is entirely possible that when the user starts, no one will know. But as the body accustoms itself to the foreign substance, there are definite changes in behavior. Soon, employers know. Families can no longer deny he problem. Finally, somebody must confront the user.

"It makes me feel good"

A person who starts to use drugs or alcohol may do so to get "high". But this state does not last long. Some people may enjoy this feeling because they feel they are avoiding their real problems. When they are no longer high, however, they do not feel good, and their problems are still present.


Many signs are associated with abuse of specific substances. The most important sign is a change in the person's behavior. Some general signals are:

  1. Personality changes, such as mood swings, bizarre activities, or change of friends; disinterest in familiar activities.
  2. Change in the way money is spent.
  3. Change in employment or in the relationship with present employer.
  4. Change in school habits.
  5. Alteration in physical appearance, such as weight gain or loss, reddened eyes, dilated pupils, nausea/vomiting.
  6. Change in eating habits or consumption of fluids.
  7. Change in sleep habits.
  8. Liquor missing.
  9. Unusual breath odor, unusual smell on clothing.
  10. Change in gait; change in sense of smell, vision or hearing.
  11. Change in breathing pattern.
  12. Continued discussion about drugs or alcohol.
  13. Phone calls at odd hours.

Your  Role as a Homemaker/Home Health Aide

You may be assigned to care for a client who is in a house with a drug user or an alcoholic. First, you must be sure your client is in no danger and that the abuse cannot harm your client - or you. Discuss the situation with your supervisor so that a plan can be made to offer help to the abuser. Do not try to obtain help on your own. Offering help to a long-time abuser can be a complicated affair and must be carefully planned. It is important that the correct help be offered and that the most appropriate community resource be used. Your supervisor will know how to plan this.

Do not tell the abuser he must stop. The chances are he would if he could but is unable to do so without help. Do not make family members feel guilty that they have permitted the situation to continue. they may not know what to do.  Families of abusers need a great deal of support. Your understanding and demonstration of nonjudgmental behaviors will be important in this household.

If you are assigned to a client who is presently under treatment for having been an abuser, you should act in the manner we have already discussed. You must be observant to detect if the client has reverted back to previous habits of abuse. Report to your supervisor any actions that suggest the client is not drug or alcohol-free. Follow the care plan carefully and support the client. Recovery from drug abuse or alcoholism is not easy. With your presence and support, it can be made easier.

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Comments (1)

Very interesting . . .