Substance Abuse Frequently Asked Questions
What is substance abuse?
Substance abuse is the use of a mood or behavior-altering
substance resulting in significant impairment or
distress. It includes the misuse of medications, alcohol
or other illegal substances. This abuse can affect a
person’s physical health and personal or social
functioning. Substance abuse can include regular,
excessive, compulsive drinking of alcohol, and the
habitual use of illegal drugs.
What are signs of substance abuse?
- Failure to fulfill major role obligations at work,
school, or home
- Repeated absences or poor work performance
- Neglect of children or household
- Driving an automobile or operating a machine when
- Arrests for substance-related disorderly conduct
- Interference with sleeping or eating
- Avoiding people or places
- Outbreaks of temper
- General changes in overall attitude
- Deterioration of physical appearance and grooming
- Wearing of sunglasses at inappropriate times
- Continual wearing of long-sleeved garments
particularly in hot weather or reluctance to wear short
sleeved attire when appropriate
- Association with known substance abusers
- Unusual borrowing of money from friends, co-workers
- Stealing small items from employer, home or school
- Secretive behavior regarding actions and possessions;
poorly concealed attempts to avoid attention and
suspicion such as frequent trips to storage rooms,
restroom, basement, etc.
How do I find a substance abuse treatment center in my rural area?
Family doctors, pastors, local social service agencies,
or local mental health centers may be available for
delivering substance abuse treatment or support. The
following are additional sources:
SAMHSA’S Substance Abuse Treatment Locator
Provides comprehensive information about drug and
alcohol abuse treatment programs nearest you. Select
your state for treatment facilities and support
services in your area.
Connects people with important community services and
referral agencies in their areas. This is a nationwide
program with services varying state-by-state. Many
states have implemented 2-1-1, with some operational
and others in the planning phase.
Hotline Call Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse
At 1.800.784.6776, provides accurate information about
alcohol and drug abuse and offers alternatives and
suggestions to anyone looking for answers and
assistance. Staff is on duty 24 hours a day, 7
days a week. They provide in-depth information about
court orders, family interventions, detox, treatment,
rehab programs, insurance and anything related to
alcohol and drug abuse. Services are free of charge.
By the National Alliance for Tobacco Cessation and its
partners offers information about resources that aid in
smoking cessation. Links to state and
resources and programs are available on their website.
Has a website containing phone numbers for groups and
meetings in your area.
Toll-free at 1.818.733.9999.
National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral
Toll-free at 1.800.662.4357.
National Youth Crisis Hotline
Toll-free at 1.800.422.4663.
Mother's Against Drunk
Has a 24 hour help line offering emotional support,
guidance, and referrals to victims/survivors of drunk
driving at 1.877.623.3435
- Two national suicide prevention toll free telephone
services are available 24 hours a day:
Offers a database where you can search for existing
quit smoking programs by state or ZIP code.
What effects does substance abuse have on a community?
Substance abuse can cause these problems in communities:
- Increased crime
- Increased violence, including domestic and child
- Accidents caused by drunk driving
- Increase in out-of-wedlock pregnancies
- Increased dependence on government assistance
- Family and social problems
- Deaths due to alcoholism, or overdose from drug use
- Fetal alcohol syndrome in children
- Spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, STDs,
and Hepatitis C either through sharing of drug
paraphernalia or unprotected sex
How can communities combat substance abuse?
Here are things communities can do to help control
- Holding community or town hall meetings
- Inviting speakers to talk to school-aged children
- Inviting parents into schools to meet with teachers
- Working together with law enforcement in your
- Collaborating with churches in your area
- Forming a community coalition
- Being good role models
Are there disparities in the rates of substance abuse by Native Americans vs. the general rural population?
Health disparities exist in Native American
populations. According to the January 2005 IHS
Facts on Indian Health Disparities, compared to the
general U.S. population, American Indians and Alaska
Natives die at higher rates than other Americans from
alcoholism (517%), motor vehicle crashes (203%),
unintentional injuries (150%), homicide (87%) and suicide
For further information, including statistics and data,
Does health insurance pay for substance abuse treatment?
It is best to contact your insurance plan and ask for a
description of what coverage is provided for behavioral
health treatments. SAMHSA’S
Mental Health Information Center provides information
on what mental health and substance abuse services may be
covered under insurance.
What can be done to discourage children from using drugs and alcohol?
Everyone can help educate children on the dangers of
illegal drugs and alcohol. In particular, reducing
the availability of alcohol, promoting responsible adult
behavior, holding adults accountable when providing
alcohol to minors, enforcing laws designed to stop
drinking among children and adults, and changing social
norms about what children see in their homes as well as
in the media regarding drugs and alcohol, all lend a hand
to this cause.
What are illicit drugs?
Illicit drugs are drugs which are used in an unlawful
manner for purposes other than those for which they are
indicated or in a manner or in quantities other than
directed. They can be over-the-counter medications or
prescription medication. Illicit drugs can include
sleeping pills, alcohol, heroin, marijuana, narcotics,
cocaine, steroids, inhalants, methamphetamine,
amphetamines, and hallucinogens.
Why is underage drinking and binge drinking so prevalent in rural communities?
Binge drinking is defined as drinking five or more drinks
at the same time or within a couple of hours of each
other on at least one day in the past 30 days. It
can also be defined as drinking with the intent of
getting drunk, often mixing drinks, drinking as much as
possible in a short period of time, and drinking to the
point at which one loses control.
Causes of underage and binge drinking in rural areas can
be, but not limited to: economic factors, lack of
employment, lack of involvement in school activities,
lack of community activities, no parental supervision or
have parents who drink, being predisposed to alcoholism,
media, and peer pressure.
40% of a national sample of pediatricians and family
doctors reported that they screened their adolescent
patients for alcohol use and only 52% provided alcohol
education (Marcell et al. 2002). The situation is worse
in rural areas where primary care may be less available
and the need to deliver early adolescent prevention
What is methamphetamine and what are the side effects?
Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant drug that
strongly activates the central nervous system. It can be
smoked, snorted, orally ingested, and injected. It is
available in many different forms and may be identified
by color, which can range from white to yellow to darker
colors such as red and brown. Methamphetamine comes in a
powder form that looks like granulated crystals and in a
rock form known as "ice," which is the smokeable version
Side effects of using meth include convulsions,
dangerously high body temperature, stroke, cardiac
arrhythmia, stomach cramps, and shaking. Chronic abuse
can lead to psychotic behavior including intense
paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and
out-of-control rages. Chronic users develop sores on
their bodies from scratching at "crank bugs," which
describes the common delusion that bugs are crawling
under the skin. Long-term use may result in anxiety,
insomnia, and addiction.
After methamphetamine use is stopped, several withdrawal
symptoms can occur, including depression, anxiety,
fatigue, paranoia, aggression, and an intense craving for
the drug. Psychotic symptoms can sometimes persist for
months or years after use has ceased.
Meth mouth is on the increase, particularly in jails
where prisoners who have used methamphetamines have
severe dental problems caused by this drug.
Why is methamphetamine use such a problem in rural areas?
Problems with methamphetamine use in rural areas are
- In rural areas, there are many abandoned buildings
such as farm houses and barns on remote roads. Some of
these buildings house methamphetamine labs, which operate
- Anhydrous ammonia is one of the key ingredients in
producing meth. It is readily available in rural areas as
farmers use this chemical as fertilizer. Thefts of
anhydrous ammonia storage units have prompted law
enforcement officials in some areas to urge farmers to
lock their tanks.
- Rural areas are dealing with the cleanup of toxic
methamphetamine lab sites which have a severe impact on
the environment. Each pound of methamphetamine produced
releases poisonous gas into the atmosphere and creates
five to seven pounds of toxic waste. In addition, many
meth laboratory operators dump the toxic waste down
household drains, in fields and yards, or on rural roads.
- Children are endangered by methamphetamine
production. Children that are around areas of
methamphetamine labs get exposed to toxic chemicals thus
presenting health and environmental risks. Children
removed from lab sites have been shown to have
methamphetamine in their systems. For further
Dangers to Children Living at Meth Labs.
- Meth orphans are children who are in foster care due
to one or both parents being either in jail or dead due
to methamphetamine use or children being born to mothers
addicted to the drug. A large number of grandparents
raise their grandchildren due to problems that
methamphetamine use can cause with one or both parents.
- Injury to EMS personnel can occur when first
responders arrive at a meth site and deal with hazardous
substances as well as people under the influence of meth
who may be violent, agitated, and unpredictable. The most
common symptoms suffered by meth users are respiratory
and eye irritations, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and
shortness of breath.
- Law enforcement personnel are overworked.
Methamphetamine lab manufacturers avoid police because
labs can be portable and so are easily dismantled,
stored, or moved. Those that are arrested fill up already
crowded jails and strain limited police resources.
- The ingredients that are used to make methamphetamine
can be purchased at local stores. These ingredients are
cheap. Meth can be cooked at home in kitchens and
- Methamphetamine abuse during pregnancy causes
prenatal complications such as increased rates of
premature delivery, abnormal reflexes and extreme
irritability, and may be linked to congenital
deformities. Methamphetamine abuse by those who inject
the drug and share needles can increase users' risks of
contracting HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C.
- Treatment for meth use may be hard to find in small
towns. Rural communities often have fewer health
facilities and treatment options. Meth users may find it
difficult to get the help they need.
What are states doing to help combat the rural methamphetamine problem?
Communities everywhere are attempting to stop the spread
of methamphetamine use through education programs,
increased law enforcement efforts, and addiction
treatment programs. Forming partnerships with local and
state agencies to help combat methamphetamine use is
The Meth Watch Program is designed to help stop the theft
and suspicious sales of pseudoephedrine products, as well
as other common household products used in the illicit
manufacturing of methamphetamine in small, toxic labs. A
key goal of this program is to promote cooperation
between retailers and law enforcement to prevent the
diversion of legitimate products for illegal use.
Several states have started their own Meth Watch programs
and other prevention strategies, including but not
limited to: California, Colorado, Georgia,
North Dakota, Oregon,
Many states have established Drug
Endangered Children (DEC) Programs which work to
coordinate the efforts of law enforcement, medical
services, and child welfare workers to ensure that
children found in these environments receive appropriate
attention and care.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy also has
information on drug
What is the Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act of 2008?
Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act of 2008
became law October 16, 2008. This act replaces the
Meth Act of 2005 by requiring electronic logbooks be
kept rather than written logbooks. These logbooks contain
information related to the sale of drugs commonly found
as meth ingredients, such as, pseudoephedrine.
Individuals can purchase limited amounts of this drug,
and they must present a government issued photo id and
sign the sellers logbook after they have reviewed it to
verify its accuracy.