Substance Use Disorders—Risky Use

Hi there everyone! Thanks for tuning in this week, and a big thanks to all of you who subscribed to the blog. If you would like to subscribe to the blog you can click the RSS Feed in the sidebar. You can also share posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Today we’re going to continue on with our Substance Use Disorders Series. If you would like to check out the earlier posts you can check them out by clicking the link below.

Understanding Substance Use Disorders

Today we’re going to discuss Risky Use—another measure of how substances may be affecting your life. This is a tricky topic to cover without sounding like your middle school health teacher, but I’m going to give it a shot. It’s really amazing how many accidents, injuries, and deaths are caused by substance use. Then there are the diseases caused by drugs and alcohol such as cirrhosis and lung cancer. This doesn’t mean that people can’t use drugs and alcohol responsibly. Many people do. But, when they don’t the results can be pretty awful.

This measure is described in two ways. The first is:

Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (or dangerous).

This one might seem fairly obvious. This of course includes driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It also includes people who work in dangerous situations and use drugs to stay alert. At some point there are diminishing returns. Remember, that this criteria requires you to take an honest look at your behavior. If you’re one of those people who says you drive better when you’ve been drinking or your high—stop. Stop saying that. Really. I bet you can text and drive too. Just stop. No one is buying that. Hush now sweet angel baby. It just ain’t true. Let us look at the research!

Are you one of those folks who like to drink and little, then smoke some weed and head home? A study published in 2000 showed that alcohol a blood alcohol level of .04 (half the legal limit in Texas) impaired driving significantly. Similar effects were found with 100mg and 200mg controlled doses of THC. But when you put the two together, it was similar to having a BAC of .09. These two substances magnify the effects of each other when it comes to impaired driving. (cite) End rant.

But this isn’t the only type of situation that can be dangerous. Some people like to use drugs with hypodermic needles. Sharing needles can of course cause diseases to spread. The two most common that I see in my work are HIV and Hepatitis-C. Thankfully, these diseases are more treatable than ever, but they can still wreak havoc on your health, and for some people, it can be economically difficult to get treatment.

Other examples of risky behaviors include risky sexual practices under the influence (do what ya’ do…but be safe kids!), common accidents due to not-so-great motor skills, and drunk dialing (okay this may or may not be risky depending on who you’re calling). And of course this doesn’t even scratch the surface of what drugs and alcohol can do if you have an underlying mental illness.

This is common enough that there is a whole movement dedicated to keeping those with Substance Use Disorders alive long enough to get treatment. It’s called Harm Reduction. This is where needle exchanges, free condoms, and naloxone distribution program come in to play. This is a very controversial approach that seeks to mitigate the harm that substance use can cause to a person before they are ready to get clean. We may have to tackle it more in another post.

 The other way risky use is defined is:

Substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated (made worse) by substance use.

I hinted at this earlier, but this is that scenario where your doctor tells you need to quit drinking or smoking or doing whatever because your damaging your health. This is the client I met who couldn’t get an HIV Test in jail because the medical staff couldn’t find a vein to draw blood. This is the cirrhosis patient who is still drinking, or the emphysema patient who is still smoking, or the person with bipolar disorder who is using methamphetamine. This person is being faced with death and cannot stop. Notice I said cannot. I didn’t say will not. Because “will” generally has nothing to do with it at this point.

Yep…still managed to sound like a health teacher trying to scare you straight. Sorry about that. I’ll try to be a little less preachy next time. Let me know if you have questions. Comment below, and share if you think this might be useful for someone.