Recognizing Substance Abuse

By Doug Mayberry

October 15, 2018 5 min read

Q: I was shocked to read an article recently about the problems my state is having with prescription drug abuse. I know that it's been on the rise in other places, but I didn't realize how close it is to me!

This is clearly a bigger problem, and I don't see it being solved quickly. That said, I want to learn more about the problem to keep myself safe, especially in already stressful traffic.

What are some ways to recognize prescription drug abuse around me?

A: A common stereotype of substance abusers is they're young and living on the margins of society, but that isn't necessarily the case. This is especially true for prescription drug users.

The first warning sign is when a person starts using a substance for nonmedical purposes. This can be using a drug not prescribed to him, or taking a medicine more often than intended or at higher doses.

Nonmedical use often leads to misuse, abuse and finally addiction. Individuals show different reactions to substances, and this process can be quicker than you would expect.

Some symptoms include extended use of prescribed drugs after pain has ceased; complaints about vague symptoms; lack of interest in other treatment options; using other people's prescriptions or otherwise gaming the system; inexplicable financial problems; or higher tolerance to medications.

Extended use also affects behavior strongly, making it easy to identify. Look for people who act extremely energetic or sedated and zoned out, show poor general decision-making, or have mood and behavior changes. Common changes are increased hostility, agitation, anxiety or volatility.

There are also physical dependency issues. If the person abruptly stops drug use, you often see joint and muscle aches, night sweats and insomnia. Many people withdraw from friends, family and society, especially if they are confronted about a problem.

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 11.8 million people drove under the influence of illicit drugs in the preceding year, and 20.7 million drove under the influence of alcohol.

While driving, you can look for cars that show difficulty regulating speed, swerve in their lane or react slowly to outside events. For your own safety, avoid driving around these cars and call 911.

Staying informed can help you protect yourself! — Doug


Q: It's finally time for me to hang up the keys. I smashed into another car in a parking lot after misjudging how close it was. I'd blame the other driver, but unfortunately, the other car was parked!

Even though I know I can't drive, I still want to be able to live my life. Do you know of some good alternatives to driving myself around town?

A: Isolation is a big problem for seniors, especially when they lose their mobility. Feeling like you can't get around leads many people to withdraw from society.

There are many transportation options now, but some of them can be hard for seniors to operate. Luckily, you can choose what works best for you.

Some popular smart phone transportation apps are Uber or Lyft, but many seniors don't enjoy using them. Luckily, there are some companies like GoGoGrandparent that will do the work to arrange rides for you for a small fee. This usually ends up being less expensive than a traditional taxi — but calling a cab is still an option.

Your health insurance may also cover transportation resources for nonemergency medical transportation. This will make getting to health appointments much easier. One such service is Veyo. You can ask your insurance provider if it covers anything similar.

Senior centers often offer and inform you of other options, or have their own resources. There are also many county-level public transportation services for seniors.

On a more interpersonal note, you can talk with the people around you and make plans with your friends and neighbors. Other seniors may be interested in arranging a carpool.

We are living in a time of so many options that it can be hard to know all of them. Luckily for you, hanging up the keys shouldn't keep you from getting out there. — Emma, Doug's granddaughter

Doug Mayberry makes the most of life in a Southern California retirement community. Contact him at [email protected] Emma, Doug's granddaughter, helps write this column. To find out more about Doug Mayberry and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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