Substance Abuse

Substance abuse refers to the use of legal or illegal drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol in a way that is harmful to oneself or others.  It is not necessary for a substance to be illegal for it to be abused.  Alcohol and cigarettes are legal for adults but are often abused.  Over the counter medications including diet aids and decongestants can be addictive and harmful.  Even household substances such as paint or glue are abused, causing injury and death.

You may be in a position to observe the signs of substance abuse in your clients, their children, or other family members.  Report these signs to your supervisor.  You can report your observations without accusing anyone of abuse.  Simply report what you see, not what you think the cause may be.  Always report any of the following:

  • changes in personality, moodiness, strange behavior, disruption of routines
  • changes in physical appearance (red eyes, dilated pupils, weight loss)
  • odor of cigarettes, liquor, or other substances on breath or clothes
  • diminished sense of smell
  • loss of appetite
  • inability to function normally at school or work
  • need for money, or money missing from the home
  • alcohol or cigarettes missing from the home
  • new friends or companions, strange phone calls