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PARC Branches Out to the West Coast: Guest contributor to "Banana Moments"

I'm pleased to share with you that I've been asked to be a guest contributor to Banana Moments, a website devoted to helping parents cope more effectively with family life in the "network culture".

My first blog post as a guest contributor is one that originally was posted on PARC last month: How Do I Know If It's a Problem?

Banana Moments also publishes Family Business Quarterly, whose objectives according to founder Joanna Jullien, is "to help parents rise above the noise and the fray of the daily, weekly, monthly press of information and life's stresses of family business. Banana Moments offers insights and inspiration to reinforce your own family values and help you lead children in this network culture..."

What's exciting for me is that Banana Moments' focus is on prevention, as opposed to my normal focus on actual treatment or counseling. Contributing to Joanna's site gives me the opportunity to reach an audience and be proactive, educating readers about parenting before problems reach the stage when they need to see someone like me.

How Do I Know If My Child Has A Drug Or Alcohol Problem?

The answer isn't the most important thing...

As an addictions specialist, I get lots of calls from worried parents. It’s usually a bad news/good news scenario. The bad news is that most of the parents calling are beyond the point of wanting to know if their child is getting high--they’ve known it for a while by the time they finally pick up the phone to call.

The good news is that even though addiction is a progressive and chronic problem, without a commitment by the addict to maintaining a sober lifestyle, it can be a very treatable problem, especially with early intervention. And that initial call inquiring about a problem is a very important and necessary step in the process of getting help.

I use the word “process” because people come for help for a substance abuse problem with varying levels of motivation and ambivalence. Most people I see initially are being prodded or coerced to attend treatment: by a parent, spouse/partner, friend, doctor, or a lawyer.

How Do I Know If It's A Problem?

by Barry Lessin

December 8th, 2010

People come for help with a substance abuse problem at varying levels of motivation. However, almost all my clients want to know very early on, usually in the first session, if their use or their family member’s use of a substance is really a problem.

A full evaluation of a potential addiction generally requires a thorough evaluation, but I’ll often use a tool in the first session that will quickly give the person some measuring sticks to help begin to explore their use in more detail. It’s really a quick screening tool, but it almost always opens the door for opportunity to explore their behavior in more detail.

They’re easy to remember, because they all begin with the letter “C”:

1) Control

People without an abuse problem always have control over the amount they drink or use; if they say they're going to have 2 drinks, that's all they ever have.

People with a problem will often go over a self-imposed limit, often with consequences (see #2 below). This is often a "Russian-roulette" pattern: you can stay under a limit for many months, and then "boom", you go over (and you're not happy about it).

2) Consequences

People without an abuse problem rarely will experience negative consequences. If they do, they will make an adjustment in their behavior or lifestyle and the consequence won't occur again.

People with an abuse problem, when experiencing a negative consequence, will often make an adjustment, which is short-lived. In fact their attempts to make adjustments often fail, and consequences continue and often get worse.

Consequences can be related to:

  • physical health
  • legal situations
  • emotional well-being (feelings of guilt, remorse, lowered self-esteem, depression)
  • anger management
  • family conflicts
  • interpersonal conflicts
  • job performance

3) Compulsivity

Compulsivity refers to behaviors that are repetitive and feel driven to be performed. The behaviors are disruptive to a person's productivity or well-being.

People without an abuse problem, when thinking about drinking or getting high, can take it or leave it. Their daily lives move forward without much thought about whether getting high is in the picture.

People with an abuse problem spend a lot of time thinking about and planning activities where they can drink or get high. Many of their life activities are focused on whether getting high will occur. And if there is beer in the refrigerator, it will be hard to let it sit there unused.

The "Three C's" is not just a handy screening tool. It's a great way for my clients to begin to explore some of the specific issues related to their substance abuse behavior and to help them make their own mind up about the issue. 

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