Are you struggling with substance or alcohol abuse? Part 2

As we discussed in last week’s Torch, there is nothing wrong with using alcohol responsibly, taking medications as prescribed, or using legal substances as intended. It becomes a problem when it disrupts, impairs, or controls life. Addiction is a chronic, complex disease. Substance abuse can cause changes to the circuits and chemical system in the brain affecting judgment, decision making, stress, learning, and memory. Risk-taking behavior may escalate when under the influence. This increases the chance for injuries from falls, violence, car accidents, drowning, medication interactions, and unsafe sexual behavior.

Remember the Torch article on sugar addiction? In that, we discussed sugar activating the reward system of the brain. Our brain feels rewarded and tells us, “Yes, I like this, have some more!”.  Most drugs also cause a surge of dopamine that activates the reward system of the brain. This causes a euphoric high and an intense urge to get back to the euphoria as soon as possible. When the reward system is continually activated, tolerance builds, and more drug is needed to feel the same high. That may mean more drug, more frequent use, or a stronger drug, alcohol, (or sugar 😉) is needed. This dulled system may not even find pleasure in other things that used to be enjoyed, such as friends, family, food, sex, and hobbies.

The urge to get and use the substance is strong. It can be so overpowering that it consumes life. It may cause issues at work, school, in relationships, and possibly with the law. It also may cause financial problems and failure to meet responsibilities. Often someone using is aware of the negative consequences and may have a desire to quit, but it usually takes more than just willpower. Changes in the brain, body, lifestyle, and the nature of addiction, make resisting the drug, and quitting, extremely difficult.

If you or someone you know may have a substance abuse problem, ask these questions:

Are you

  • feeling guilt, embarrassment, or the need to hide your use?
  • anger when others criticized your drug/alcohol use?
  • using substances first thing in the morning?
  • consumed by thoughts of getting high/drunk?
  • concerned that getting drugs/alcohol feels more important than family, friends, and obligations?
  • spending a lot of time and money on the substance?
  • needing more substance to get the same effect?

If you answer yes to these questions, consider getting help.

Drug and alcohol addiction can be treated. The best chance of success is when the treatment is personalized and comprehensive, addressing the physical, mental, and social sides of addiction. Treatment for alcoholism, substance use, and withdrawal are covered by United Healthcare. Visit your myuhc site for information. Help is also available through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). LifeMatters operates 24/7, 365 days of the year. Call 1-800-634-6433 or visit EMPATHIA : Substance Abuse Subtopics (mylifematters.com) password: KUSD1

Alcohol use disorder | UnitedHealthcare (uhc.com)

Substance use disorder (drug abuse) | UnitedHealthcare (uhc.com)

Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (nih.gov)


For more information, check out the resources on my google classroom, Class code 5ax5amm



Set up a time to meet with KUSD’s UnitedHealthcare Health Engagement Nurse, Michelle Metallo, at michelle_metallo@uhc.com or 262-220-2671