Friday, January 19, 2018

Tom Petty: What's the Rest of the Story? Truth about His Death -- Is It Acute Chronic Alcoholism.

Alcoholism is a genetic illness.#tompetty Tom Petty is dead, but his overdose was only a dramatic symptom of his illness. Don't be fooled. There is more to the story that you are not reading about. After researching his psycho-social history, I have learned, as suspected that Tom Petty very likely had a biogenic, hereditary illness called acute chronic alcoholism.

He inherited susceptibility to this disease from his father who was an out-of-control physically abusive alcoholic who did not approve of his child's interests in the arts. His mother is what saved him, but later, as result of his illness, he became a drug addict like many alcoholics--nearly a walking medicine cabinet within him of cross tolerant, cross addictive drugs (with alcohol.) An overdose, inevitably killed him like so many other people, including rockers.

There is nothing unusual about Tom Petty's story, except his ability, like Michael Jackson and Prince, to access whatever drugs he wanted.

Don't let the media's glorification of Tom Petty allow you to miss the simple basics -- this drug death is a manifestation of an illness that about 1 out 10/11 drinkers acquire out of no fault of their own whatsoever--who start drinking for same reasons as most people do.

Unwittingly, they are sitting ducks because the earliest symptoms are nothing more than the ability to drink more than most people and feel great, not get drunk, drink more frequently, and have little effects--for years while you acquire tolerance to ethanol metabolization. You will also feel more euphoric than your light weight social drinking friends. You will therefore hang out with folks more likely to drink like you do. You will slowly acquire a definition of alcoholism that does not include yourself. And you will change that definition over time to eliminate the new symptoms you acquire. This is the nature of denial. It's insidious as hell.

There is nothing mysterious about the origin of this disease. You can't even get research dollars anymore to study genetics unless it is really unique in its focus. But proving alcoholism is genetic -- old news.

The media, myths, and misconceptions, and thousand years of competing bogus theories before effective genetic research arrived still breed horrible confusion about this disease. And all of us are victims of this confusion, much of which is linked to economics because different professions both compete for the treatment of people with alcoholism or livelihoods linked to some model of understanding of the illness.

There really is no such thing as prevention of alcoholism unless you simply do not consume alcohol, or consume it so infrequently that you do not tax your genetic susceptibility to it, if in fact your are susceptible to it. That's a tall order for a universally accepted consumer product 80% of the population enjoys. Correction, make that nearly impossible.

Are you the next Tom Petty? Take this quiz--and if you score about 10 points, you get a gold opportunity to save your life.…/…/Mast.pdf

- or give to a friend -- then print this handout: - keep them in your medicine cabinet.

For Training Employees in Substance Abuse Awareness: -

For Training Supervisors in Substance Abuse  -

For Training Supervisors (DOT Mandated Format) -

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Improve Observational Skills to Spot Workplace Substance Abuse as a DOT (or Non-DOT Supervisor)

You can learn all you need to know about signs and symptoms of substance abuse and never spot one of them in a 100 years of supervising workers.

Approximately 7% of your workforce is actively alcoholic (or in recovery completely from a prior addiction,) so the chances are pretty good that you have at least one actively drinking alcoholic if you have 20 employees under your supervision or more.

Of course, you could have one employee, and him or her be the alcoholic, but I am just saying...think 100% certainty if you have say 20-25 employees. That's because 70% of employees drink and 10% become alcoholic. Hence 7%.

These are conservative numbers. Eventually that one employee or two will experinece workplace symptoms that grow over time. Now you see the rationale for properly conducted reasonable suspicion training.

Why is it that many supervisors never report seeing the signs and symptoms of an alcoholic

dot supervisor training in reasonable suspicion observational skills blog note
or drug using employee. In fact, many EAPs are reporting fewer substance abuse employees in their statistics, even after extensive EAP Supervisor Training.

Yet, we know they are there. The answer--or at least part of it--is less than adequate observational skills.

Improving your observational skills as a DOT supervisor (or non-DOT supervisor) is not just about looking for toxic signs. Instead it is about engaging with your employees to know them as workers. DOT training courses should discuss observable performance indicators, but also educate supervisors not to remain behind closed doors.

You will simply will not find substance abusers without engaging with workers up close in a manner that allows you to grasp their unique style of behavior and communication of each one.

Mingle with your employees regularly, say hello, and you will learn subconsciously, as a result, of these interactions how employees behave, how they speak with each other, and what they look like physically. This is not a difficult task. It is quite natural. Your brain will do the work for you by registering tone of voice, appearance, dress, facial expressions, voice volume, etc. When any of these things change, you will be alerted because your brain will notify you that something is out of place.

Supervisors who do not engage with their employees are at greater risk of not spotting signs and symptoms of drug use. In some instances behavior, voice, attitude, and an accumulation of other human affected signs and symptoms that have been occurring recently or in the past that lead the supervisor to make a decision that reasonable suspicion exists.

Let's look at a couple signs and symptoms from a handout within our DOT Supervisor Training Course on substance abuse. Any of the following may be identified by the astute supervisor who engages with employees regularly, and possibly missed if a scant interactive relationship exists.

Remember, the rationale for engaging with employees is that they are indeed your most valuable resource. They must be seen as a resource in order for you to maximize their potential and workplace effectiveness, and consequently, their job satisfaction.

See employees as not just "people" but a valuable resource. It will be to their benefit more than the other way around. It will also diminish the risk of engaging in dysfunctional relationships with them, if you are at risk for such. (Some brute honesty there, but make this about putting the company first, and your employees will naturally benefit as a result.)

Drug and Alcohol Use Signs and Symptoms Spotted While Engaging with Employees

1) Stumbling, staggering. A stumble is not just a stumble. When you have been engaging with employees regularly, you will see a stumble differently, what it looks like as it is happening. People do stumble, but when, what, where, and how are worth considering are what you will document

2) Impaired fine motor skills. When you see tremulousness from drug withdrawal, it can be very subtle. If you are engaging with employees daily, you will notice these hand movements more readily. When, how, and during what activity is the basis of documentation

3) Slurred speech. Slurred speech can be extremely subtle, all words may be slurred or just a few that require finer motor coordination of the tongue. What statement did he or she attempt to articulate? When, where? Your past interactions can help you know what to do next, and whether there is more to consider in making a referral for a drug test.

4) Dramatic weight loss. What has your employees past appearance been? How is different now? Weight loss appears to be how much?

The above are just a few of the many, many symptoms of substance abuse.
In our DOT Supervisor's Training, Reasonable Suspicion Course, there are many more signs and symptoms, but I am hoping you understand the point from this short example.

This course is available free as a preview. Learn more at reasonable suspicion training free, in its entirety.

​Alcohol Awareness Training to Meet DOT: Don't Make It All about Signs and Symptoms

​Alcohol Awareness Training to Meet DOT: Don't Make It All about Signs and Symptoms: Alcohol Training for DOT Supervisor Training, What to Include

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Challenge the Myths About Alcoholism that DOT Supervisors Hold

Stigma of addiction is a roadblock in reasonable suspicion training
You've heard me harp a lot about the myths and misconceptions of DOT supervisors and non-DOT supervisors, and how these must be addressed in DOT training so they do not interfere with the goals of your reasonable suspicion training course. But,  I have not said much about the types of myths you will see among supervisory personnel in these courses and classes that you offer these people who need a DOT certificate.

Some of these myths are quite embedded psychologically. They are not acquired by reading a book or hearing someone's opinion. Instead, they are acquired by life experience from living with or being involved in a relationship with an addict.

You might as well know right now that you will definitely get hostile responses from some supervisors in your DOT training classes when you begin to educate them and provide insight and information that seeks to dispel false models addiction and alcoholism. Anticipating these reactions can help you remain on an even keel in your training efforts.

The impact of myths and false models of addiction is the maintenance of stigma. Stigma is a negative association of character flaws and shame pinned to the person afflicted with an illness that offers a less than attractive explanation for its etiology.

AIDS, for example, was originally linked to homosexual sex acts, later to IV drug users. Because these behaviors had significant societal condemnation, stigma rapidly attached itself to anyone who acquired the disease. The medical director of the hospital I worked for died of AIDS because of a blood transfusion, and until his death, he  openly educated people about it in effort to play a role in reducing stigma about the disease.

One of the most harmful results of myths associated with addiction is decreased effort on the part of supervisors to refer employees with drug and alcohol symptoms to the employee assistance program. 

The EAP referral path is interrupted because of a belief on the part of supervisors that the employee is to blame for their illness, is not treatable, or has character flaws deserving of punishment rather than treatment and the non-stigmatized recovery from addictive disease. It is important therefore to also discuss myths about troubled employees in EAP Supervisor Training Courses.

Many DOT and non-DOT Supervisors in training for substance abuse have a family member, parent, sibling or other loved one who currently possesses an alcoholism problem. These supervisors are victims of the illness and often have an extensive history of enabling, which includes doing many things and thinking and believing many things that amount to dysfunctional ways of coping with their current or past victimization.

Coping with victimization often includes includes leftover anger and and hate, and these human feeling states are not reconcilable against a belief system that says addiction is a disease and its symptoms of over-drinking, grossly disturbing behaviors, and consequent relationship dynamics just mere symptoms of the active illness. Trusting others may be a significant challenge for these people.

The disease model implies an unconditional forgiveness on the part of the enabler and victims, or at least its consideration. This is a tall order. And control issues may also be significant with these groups of supervisors.

Few victims of any abusive relationship are going to readily accept this sort of letting go. So, as you can see, the rejection of the disease or bio-genic model of alcoholism is predetermined for the many DOT Supervisors in your training class. This is made even more difficult for actively drinking alcoholics sitting in your reasonable suspicion training course, or those who are at the moment abstinent for one reason or another. 

These folks usually possess a "willpower model" to explain alcoholism, and they are also fairly guilty as a result of using this model to explain, control, and count on a future of drinking with better control...if and when they figure it out (which they will not because it does not exist.)

Blaming addicts comes with a host of enabling behaviors--from badgering the drinker to shaming him or her. Blaming is a stigma producing blast furnace. Supervisors who are hooked on this model find it difficult to not see termination as the most fitting approach for drug and alcohol problems in the workplace. 

Did you know that the when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, that it dealt away with giving actively drinking alcoholics the mandatory opportunity in the federal government personnel system to receive an offer of help before they were fired? Sure, the ADA protects recovering addicts, but an actively drinking alcoholic or actively using drug addicts can be fired with impunity now. So, guess how many addicts now try to cover up their drinking and drug problems, where before 1991 they could volunteer for treatment. Answer: A lot more. Join my twitter feed for dot and reasonable suspicion training

Get Non-DOT or DOT Supervisor Training at the following links:

1. Non-DOT Drug and Alcohol Training for Supervisors in Reasonable Suspicion
2. DOT Drug and Alcohol Training for Supervisors in Reasonable Suspicion

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Surge in Alcohol-Related Emergency-Department Visits Needs a Different Approach

Surge in Alcohol-Related Emergency-Department Visits Needs a Different Approach: While moderate drinking – up to one drink per day for women, two for men – can be part of a healthy lifestyle, excessive and chronic drinking can contribute to injury and disease. Each year, U.S. patients utilize emergency department (ED) services more than 130 million times, averaging nearly four visits per every 10 people. Alcohol-related injury and disease are commonly the cause of these visits. This study examined trends in ED visits that involved heavy and chronic drinking by age and gender between 2006 to 2014.

Many admissions to ER departments by alcohol using patients are in fact re-admissions that are related to acute chronic alcoholism that remains untreated. In many cases, family members and close friends are motivated at these moments to step in and do something useful to get an alcoholic into treatment. One answer to ER department re-admissions is therefore intervention, but let's forget about your typical and unrealistic approach to intervention that has been see on television and offered at extraordinary expensive by private intervention specialists.

It is not necessary to have a paid intervention training specialist sit with a family on a Sunday morning after a pancake breakfast to guide a planned and rehearsed intervention to motivate an alcohol to enter treatment. What's needed instead is education for family and close friends on the effective use of leverage and influence--two resource tools--that exist in all relationships. These things are why 99% or greater of hospital admissions to treatment programs occur as a result of family members or friends saying that the decision on the part of their addict was NON-NEGOTIABLE. Learn how to intervene with an alcoholic by first, not learning how to do intervention, but by motivating yourself and your family members with accurate information about the disease of drug/alcohol addiction with this video -- 

If you are business owner, you will someday get a phone call about an employee who in the hospital for some drug and alcohol abuse emergency. This individual's absence from your workplace, and sudden unavailability is what you can base a intervention upon. Has this happened before? And are you at the point yet where you would not mind firing this worker? If so, you are ready to roll with a performance-based intervention. In this instance, you are not going to be calling in family members or friends to help you do an intervention. Not at all. And your intervention will not take longer than a few minutes.

When your employee comes back to work, you use the leverage of job security to nothing more than get an employee to agree to a professional assessment with an employee assistance professional.

You can find one by contacting the - they will lead you to an EAP company that can guide you further. The intervention in actuality can be done in one minute. This is why I refer to it as the "one minute intervention." The script goes something like this:

John, you have much potential here with our company, but I am going to let you go today because you are unreliable. You are absent and unavailable to work without notice, and other issues like (fill in the blank) .....exist. But listen, there is one condition under which we are able to discuss saving your job. It is this: We would like you to visit with a professional counselor we have have hired...and by the way this is 100% totally up to you... and for the purpose of getting an assessment to see if you possibly have some sort of alcohol related problem. We are not saying you do, but this recent incident indicates that's possible. We want you to decide because we can't diagnose that sort of issue. But if you do visit with this professional, we are willing to guarantee your job if you follow through with their recommendations, if any, to get some sort of help. We will roll out the red carpet for you, guarantee that such help or treatment will not interfere with your job security or promotional opportunities, etc. So, what would you like to do? Would you like to meet with this person confidentially to see if you need some assistance, or would you like to pick up your check and be fired today. It is totally your decision.

Two points: 1) You are ready to let this employee go. And 2) you are offer completely accommodation for their potential medical situation.

Your employee will go to the assessment. If there is no question about it. It is 99% guaranteed in my experience unless they have another job lined up, can retire, or otherwise have another way of supporting themselves. In fact, if the employee does not have an alcohol problem, you could fire the employee after the assessment because there is nothing to accommodate. There is no medical issue that you were willing to support. Why keep this employee? Think about this approach. You have every right to fire the employee based upon performance related issues, but you are also willing to accommodate an active alcoholism problem if there is one. This is called performance-based intervention. We discuss this approach briefly in our Reasonable Suspicion Training program found here.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Drug and Alcohol Addiction, Substance Abuse, and Other Terms for the Use of Psychoactive Substances in the Workplace

What terms do you use to describe workplace substance when presenting to DOT supervisors in a reasonable suspicion training class? How about "alcoholism?" Maybe you use "drug addiction," "substance abuse," "addictive disease," "chemical dependency," or "alcohol and other drug users." Are you confused by these terms?
two glasses of martinis
I probably use the term addictive disease quite a bit, but no matter what terms you use, be sure to talk about the nature of the illness called alcoholism. It’s far worse than any drug use addiction with regard to its economic impact and risk to life and limb.

Frankly, I don’t have a recommendation of what term you should use to describer the workplace drug or alcohol user who presents as a possible threat to the organization. But I do recommend two teach in a DOT supervisor training course. These are recognition of addiction as a classic disease syndrome and helping learners understand tha the terms mentioned above are pretty much all the same thing.

Educate DOT supervisors to see all of these terms as interchangeable when referring to the use of psychoactive substances that are addictive and mood changing.

If they do not learn this upfront during your training, they will play a key role in enabling and confusing others with whom they interact. They will also have weaker documentation, generate diagnostic sounding documentation, and increase risk to the organization from each of these things being pretty worthless because they lack more concrete language that documents what can be seen and experienced.

Many alcoholics have used other drugs, legally prescribed or not, that are addictive. These other drugs also serve as  relapse triggers later if they ever seek treatment. And when employee relapse, typically they still look great at work even though they are at-risk for accidents and other horrible drug-related costs.

Side note: I like the terms addictive disease or chemical dependency because they help educate the general public to understand that any mood altering substance is off bounds for those recovering from addictive disease. Any mood altering substance is a relapse. Any employee in a DOT regulated position who goes to treatment for heroin addiction has relapse if they ever pick up a drink of alcohol.

Addiction is a disease process and it is primary.  Patients are therefore taught to manage their disease in order to prevent relapse in the same way diabetics are taught to manage their illness.
Use of alcohol or drugs begins with experimentation or peer pressure for almost any drinker.  Physiologic susceptibility determines from that point forward what the progression of the disease will be.  But other factors can influence severity and course of the disease.

When educating supervisors, discuss that the American Medical Association declared alcoholism a disease in 1957. Alcoholism was declared a disease in 1956 by the World Health Organization, however. This information dispels the myth that is an opinion whether alcoholism is a disease or not.
The good news is that research shows most people believe alcoholism (addiction) to be a disease, however, this belief does not contribute easily to self-diagnosis because of denial. 

Most people attempt to define alcoholism by behaviors (how much one drinks, when, or what). This is a bit misguided. Evidence of the disease on the body’s functions is what make this argument a disease more convincing. Evidence of tolerance, evidence of alcohol's harm, evidence of withdrawal symptoms.

Some occupations are characterized by more frequent opportunity to use alcohol socially or without observation by managers. These positions expose employees to more opportunities to naturally tax their susceptibility. This, and not job stress or other mysterious causes, is what contributes to the high rates of alcoholism found among these population groups. Alcoholics gravitate to these jobs as well, naturally, because they accommodate the drinking pattern

Monday, December 18, 2017

Employees Blame Drinking on Other Problems, and They Aren't Lying--But They Are Wrong

It is natural and it is normal, and it not the alcoholic trying to fool the company, his family, or the entire DOT supervisor training class when they say “other problems cause me to drink.”
slide for dot supervisors training in reasonable suspicion explaining drug tolerance

Employees with substance abuse problems are earnestly working to figure out why their drinking is problematic. Frankly, this is a good reason to do employee awareness training for alcohol and other drugs of abuse--for the self-diagnosis effect this sort of training has on workers.

As a DOT supervisor training class attendee, your best approach to understand employee substance is to realize that these individuals have years—no decades!—typically, of successful, non-problematic drug and alcohol use before these substances turn on them. The reasonable suspicion training class you are attending must briefly mention these falsehoods up front with the first few slides.

When drug and alcohol abuse education fails to discuss the phenomenon mentioned above, confusion remains for the DOT Supervisor Training participants. And alcoholic and drug addicted employees will look for any viable explanation to explain away their problems with substances. This is further fueled by the shear need to do so because living without these substances that provide instant relief, first as euphoria agents, and then as symptoms relievers is not visually possible. And it is terrifying to consider it.

It is difficult to believe that some alcoholic employees blame their use of alcohol on their personal problems. We know a lot more about alcoholism in the 21st century, and this excuse simply does not fly any longer among health and wellness professionals, no matter how ignorant they are about alcoholism.

Do these alcoholics actually believe what they are actually saying? If you are a professional counseling in the field or alcoholism or a member of some helping profession, you would find this difficult to believe, but there is good reason to accept that some alcoholics are in fact this ignorant about their disease. Enabling alcoholics, typically the work of coworkers and family members also explains these attitudes.

The truth is that some employees do believe their drug or alcohol abuse is caused by their problems. And this very real possibility is based on several factors

(Of course the truth is that these drinkers who complain about personal problems causing their alcoholism have linked relief drinking and managing stress or actual withdrawal symptoms being treated by the consumption of alcohol which makes them temporarily go away.)

The movies, false models of alcoholism, psychiatrists who don’t know any better, or friends and relatives all may explain alcohol abuse by the alcoholic as a symptom of his attempts to relieve himself of his concerns over his problems.

Mental health professionals in private practice have made millions of dollars with this psychiatric model that is completely debunked by science. So, in all the drug and alcohol courses that you might consider for use in your organization, be sure to look for this message that addictions are chronic diseases of biogenic origin.

The alcoholic that has family members and friends who buy into this model of problem drinking is not going to attempt to dissuade this misguided individuals and have them listening to a lecture about alcoholism as an acute chronic illness because they have not been educated enough to be convincing.

Go here to learn more about's non-DOT supervisor training for substance abuse or the DOT version of the reasonable suspicion training course that meets the US Department of Transportation's mandate of 60 min Alcohol, 60 Minutes Drug abuse education.