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Substance Abuse Disorders – what to look for and how to seek help

“In 2016, 28.6 million people aged 12 or older used an illicit drug in the past 30 days, which corresponds to about 1 in 10 Americans overall (10.6 percent) but ranges as high as 1 in 4 for young adults aged 18 to 25.” (SAMHSA, 2016)

With the prevalence of substance abuse in today’s society, it is important to be able to identify the signs that are present of someone who struggles with addiction.  Similarly, as it is important to know the signs, where to turn for help is just as important.

Signs of addiction can be displayed in 3 main categories:

1) Physical

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden changes in weight (either weight loss or gain)
  • Decline of physical appearance, personal grooming
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination

2) Behavioral

  • Decline in attendance and performance at work or school
  • Financial problems; borrowing or stealing
  • Secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)

3) Psychological

  • Changes in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out”
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid

If you suspect that someone you know has a problem with drugs or alcohol and you want to address the issue, this should be done in a non-confrontational, non-judgmental manner while expressing support and concern for the person’s well-being.

If you or someone you know is interested in getting help, the Sober Support Unit (SSU) can be reached at 248-456-8144, 24/7.  The SSU is designed to assist in facilitating the referral process to detoxification and/or residential substance abuse services for Oakland County individuals with Medicaid or no insurance.  SSU can assist in locating placement for someone with Medicare or private insurance as well.

If someone is seeking substance abuse services, an individual can walk in to Common Ground where they will be welcomed and see a triage clinician who, if the individual meets criteria, will alert the Sober Support Unit (SSU) staff that someone is seeking services.  SSU will welcome the individual and complete a short intake process.  Access, who authorizes the detox and/or residential services, will be notified of the individual’s request, will come directly to the SSU and complete a brief assessment to match the individual with appropriate services.  Throughout time in the SSU, the person will be able to relax, have access to food and television, and given a warm and clean place to sleep while awaiting placement.  The SSU is staffed with paramedics to monitor for any acute medical concerns and recovery coaches that have lived experience in recovery from substances.  After a placement is found, the arranged treatment facility will pick up the individual directly from Common Ground’s SSU.  Barring any unusual circumstances, all of this will take place in less than 23 hours from intake to arrival at the treatment facility.



Author: Brian Nicholson, Program Manager of Sober Support Unit at Common Ground