Substance Abuse - West Palm Beach VA Medical Center
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West Palm Beach VA Medical Center


Substance Abuse


Substance Abuse is defined as the excessive use of a substance, especially alcohol or a drug. There is no universally accepted definition of substance abuse.
A definition of substance abuse that is frequently used is as follows:
An abnormal pattern of substance use leading to significant stress or harm, if one (or more) of the following occur within a 12-month period:

  1. Repeated substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major duties at work, school, or home (for example, repeated absences or poor work performance related to substance use; substance-related absences, suspensions or being expelled from school; neglect of children or household).
  2. Repeated substance use in situations in which it is physically dangerous (for example, driving an automobile or operating a machine when under the influence of a substance such as alcohol or marijuana or cocaine).
  3. Repeated substance-related legal problems (for example, arrests for substance-related disorderly conduct).
  4. Continued substance use despite having recurring or continuous social or personal problems caused or increased by the effects of the substance (for example, arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication, physical fights).

One of the most common questions asked of substance abuse professionals is: “How do I know if someone close to me is abusing drugs?” There is no simple answer to these types of questions. It depends on a number of factors such as the type of substance(s) used and the way it is used such as by mouth or by needle, the length of time using, the overall health of the individual, usual personality traits of the person in question, one’s willingness to make observations and individual body chemistry.

Obvious signs of abuse include but are not limited to:

  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired motor coordination and uncommon body movements
  • Inability to speak clearly
  • Exaggerated memory loss or blackouts
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Presence of “drug works” such as pipes, spoons, needles, rolling papers, unidentified powders or pills, etc.

The following is a wide list of possible symptoms:

  • Sudden or noticeable personality changes: “They are just not acting like  themselves.”
  • Severe mood swings: Very happy and energetic at times and unable to  get out of bed at other times
  • Decreased interest in usually enjoyed fun activities
  • Unreliable about work, school, and other obligations
  • Changes in sleeping and eating habits
  • Sudden weight loss and/or eating binges
  • Less interest in personal appearance and grooming
  • Unusual smells on clothes and person
  • Spending more time alone and secluded
  • Lying and stealing (general increase in dishonesty)
  • Strained family relationships
  • Mysterious or unexplained absences or sneakiness
  • Change in friends or peer group
  • Behavior appears more forceful or violent or quieter than usual

If you are experiencing several of these symptoms and they do not go away or begin to worsen, you may have a substance abuse problem. These symptoms can cause disruption to your life and daily functioning.

Treatment Values or Beliefs

At the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center, we believe that alcohol/drug abuse is an illness that is treatable and from which Veterans and their families can recover. Sometimes it is important to treat the Substance Abuse first before other psychiatric disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Depressive and/or Anxiety Disorders.

The West Palm Beach VA Medical Center has a Substance Abuse Outpatient Program (OP) and an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) that offers the following services:

  • Medically Supervised Outpatient Detoxification And Withdrawal Management
  • Individual Therapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Dual Focused Substance Abuse Groups
  • Lectures Series
  • Pharmacotherapy (Medication Management)
  • Family Education And Counseling
  • Psychological Testing, If Indicated
  • Social Services Support
  • Availability Of Self-Help Groups
  • Nutrition And Food Service Support
  • Aftercare And Discharge Follow-Up

Patients may be self-referred or referred by other medical or mental health providers in the Medical Center. There are several resources to help Veterans who are having difficulties related to Substance Abuse. These resources include:

Substance Abuse Out Patient Clinic (OPC): 561-422-5695
Mental Health Outpatient Clinic: 561-422-8234

In an emergency, or if you feel suicidal, go to the nearest Emergency Room.

    561-585-0441 (8:30 am-5:00 pm)
    DIAL 211
    Palm Beach County Intergroup Association
    1371 Okeechobee Road
    West Palm Beach, FL 33401
    561 655-5700
    Al-Anon/Alateen Family Group Headquarters
    1-888-4-AL-ANON (8:00 am-6:00 pm, Monday - Friday)
    Miami/Palm Beach/Fort Lauderdale