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Top Tips 2020: Learn to Recognize Signs, Symptoms of Substance Misuse

Article provided by Community Partnership of the Ozarks

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased isolation due to physical distancing to help prevent the spread of the virus. It is natural to feel socially distant from loved ones or co-workers when we are not able to visit in person, face-to-face. In mid-August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed the results of a survey conducted in late June that shows the negative impact on individual’s emotions and how they are trying to cope. The survey shows that 13.3 percent of respondents reported starting or increasing substance use (including drugs and alcohol). There is early evidence COVID-19 may be worsening substance use problems in the U.S. In June, alcohol sales had risen 27 percent since March 7. According to an NPR article released in September, online sales of alcohol are up more than 200 percent from last year, or even higher like in the case of the Drizly app, which saw a 350 percent increase over the same time period last year.

Substance use can have negative impacts not only within families, but also in the workplace. It is important for employers to learn the signs and symptoms of substance use issues so that they can foster good physical and mental health within their businesses and for employees.

Where does drug use start? Most often, it starts during adolescence. In fact, 90 percent of U.S. addiction begins with substance misuse during adolescence. The key to preventing this problem is to delay onset of use. Begin having conversations about this topic with the young people in your life. If you visit, you will find a wide range of quick, impactful videos about a variety of different substances and how to have these critical conversations with youth. Easy accessibility is also a prominent risk factor for substance misuse. Alcohol has been even more accessible during the pandemic in part due to lightened restrictions, which vary by region. For example, restrictions on restaurants and bars in Missouri have been eased to more easily allow them to serve alcohol for off-premises consumption.

If you are concerned about someone’s increased use of substances, whether it be a co-worker, family member, or friend, there’s some considerations to keep in mind as you consider reaching out to them about your concerns. Talk about it only when you both are sober and when both are in a calm state of mind. This helps to ensure you are listening nonjudgmentally so the individual you are concerned about feels heard and understood, which in turn can make it easier and more comfortable for the person to share openly and ask for help. Have realistic expectations and do not expect a change in the person’s thinking or behavior right away. Major changes may take time to achieve and often involve the person going through a number of stages.

A critical substance use crisis to be aware of is an overdose, which means having more of a substance (or combination of substances) in the body than the body can cope with. If you suspect an overdose of any kind, call 911 immediately. In the case of opioids, which includes heroin and prescription pain medications, a drug called naloxone can temporarily reverse an overdose, potentially saving someone’s life. To encourage people to seek out medical attention for an overdose or for follow-up care after naloxone has been administered, Missouri has enacted the Good Samaritan law. This law generally provides immunity from arrest, charge or prosecution for certain controlled substance possession and paraphernalia offenses when a person who is either experiencing an overdose or observing one (this applies to any overdose, like alcohol, not just opioid overdose) calls 911 for assistance or seeks medical attention. If you are interested in attending a training about naloxone administration and to learn the overdose recovery position, email Anna Jones with Community Partnership at

Substance misuse is a community issue and is not isolated to just a school, family, or retailer problems and responsibilities. Effective prevention occurs when the community supports it and becomes engaged. So, what can you do? Learn the warning signs of someone who may be misusing alcohol or other drugs. These can include things like increased substance use and tolerance over time, difficulty controlling use, symptoms of withdrawal, preoccupation with the substance, giving up important activities (work, social, family, etc.), and continued use even after recognizing they have a problem with substance use. Share factual substance use prevention information within people in your circle of influence. Get involved with a local substance use prevention coalition. For more information on substance use  prevention, go to

Supported by Community Partnership of the Ozarks
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