Substance Misuse & Abuse

Many substances, such as alcohol, drugs and even medications can be used improperly. When these substances are misused or abused, they poison the body. Some people may unfortunately be exposed to these chemicals while attempting to help, as many illicit substances can be absorbed through your skin. As medical technology advances so does our ability to counteract these situations, consult your local medical centers for information on “Rehabilitation, Addiction and local protocols on medications that can help counteract drugs.

“Never attempt to help a casualty of substance misuse & abuse with your “bare hands“, always ensure your Personal Protection Equipment is on before you help. Avoid secondary exposure as you may suffer adverse effects if you come into contact with the substance”

Common illicit Substances:

  1. Stimulants
  2. Hallucinogens
  3. Depressants
  4. Designer Drugs
  • STIMULANTS – Stimulants affect your brain and nervous system to speed up physical and mental activity “Speed” Many stimulants are taken as pills, but some can be absorbed or inhaled.
  • HALLUCINOGENS – Hallucinogens cause changes in mood, sensation, thought, emotion, and self-awareness “Shrooms, Fentanyl” They can cause intense fear, panic, paranoid delusions, vivid hallucinations, deep depression, tension and anxiety.
  • DEPRESSANTS – Depressants send signals to your brain and nerves that slow down physical and mental activity. “Alcohol, THC” They make you drowsy and impair your coordination and judgment, alcohol is the most widely used and abused depressant in Canada.
  • DESIGNER DRUGS – Designer drugs do not fit into any of the categories mentioned above, they are chemically altered versions of medical drugs, such as “narcotics” and “amphetamines”. The effects can be unpredictable and dangerous. One of the more commonly used designer drugs is “Ectasy“.
  • ALCOHOL POISONING – Alcohol impairs your judgment, slows down your reflexes, and makes driving unsafe. Just two drinks in less than an hour can create unsafe levels of alcohol in the blood of an average 72.5 kilo / 160 lb person. “Don’t Drink & Drive

What to watch for:

Like other poisons, the general signs and symptoms of substance misuse and abuse are similar to those of other medical emergencies.

  • Moist or flushed skin, Sweating, chills or fever, nausea or vomiting, changes in breathing, seizures, changes in level of consciousness, altered mental status, hallucinations, low body temperature


Many people trapped within the world of substance misuse and abuse are seeking shelter within the sensation they achieve after they use. The temporary relief they get from their current situations is what drives them to continue to use, they see it often as a way to alleviate the symptoms of their “pain, anxiety, depression, past trauma” or even to blend in with the crowd “Peer pressure” is also a common reason why some may be trapped within the use of illicit substances.

Drug prevention programs are readily available in all country’s around the world and offer a wide range of help for those who may be affected. The Naloxone Project is a project sponsored by Health Canada to help stem the flow of overdoses associated with “Fentanyl“, for more information on how to help visit your local medical center or drugs and addictions counseling center.

How to help with Substance Misuse & Abuse:

  1. Check the area, once the area is safe, Check the person and ensure the persons ABC’s are present “Airway / Breathing / CirculationREMEMBER – Wear gloves if available to avoid bodily fluids or powdered chemical on their clothing / skin.
  2. Call 911 and get an AED if you are alone, you suspect a Head / Neck or Spine injury, there is a motor vehicle collision, the person is allergic or the injured persons life could be at risk. “911 will link you to the Poison Control Center if you do not have the number.”
  3. Care for the Substance Misuse & Abuse by:

Always follow recommendations by your Emergency Response professionals and 911 Dispatch personnel. “Never endanger yourself or the victim, you may “not” need to move or roll the injured person

  • If there are other life threatening injuries, treat those first as quickly as possible with as little movement to the injured person.
  • While you wait for an Ambulance:
  • a) You do not need to know exactly what substance the person has taken, just keep an eye on “Breathing / Skin Color / Temperature / Sweating / Behavior.
  • b) Provide continual care and “Never” endanger yourself, some victims of substance misuse & abuse may become combative and will be unaware of who you are even if they know you well.

While you wait for an Ambulance:

RECOVERY Position:

  1. Kneel Beside the victim and place the victims furthest arm from you above their head.
  2. Place the arm closest to you across the victims chest as a protector arm.
  3. The Key is in their Knee, bend the nearest leg up at the knee.
  4. Carefully slip your hand under the hollow of the victims neck to support the Head Neck & Spine, at the same time use your forearm by slipping it carefully under the shoulder for leverage.
  5. Place your free hand on the Key Knee and gently roll the victim away from you by applying steady pressure against the knee and shoulder at the same time. The victims head should rest on their raised arm.
  6. To secure the position pull the key knee further up and bring their protector arm out to use the elbow to stabilize the position.
  7. Check the Airway to make sure their still breathing.

In any emergency just remember to Protect Yourself!!! Call 911!!! Don’t Waste Time!!!

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