Understanding Substance Abuse to Save Lives

Understanding Substance Abuse to Save Lives

Graphic Design by Andre Davis.

As EyeGage’s Substance Abuse Advisor, Dr. Jasmine U. Jones’ expertise in substance abuse, trauma and depression influences how EyeGage can save lives. As the current Chief Psychologist at the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Founder of Unique Choice Psychological Services LLC, Jones’ distinct experience in substance abuse assists the EyeGage team in understanding how the application can be utilized for individuals experiencing substance abuse and professionals who work within the field.

We spoke with Dr. Jones to better understand substance abuse, its effects, and how EyeGage can increase accountability within our communities and workplaces in real time.

EyeGage: Let’s get started! How would you define substance abuse? What are some short and long term effects it could have on an individual?

Jones: Substance abuse is the misuse of alcohol and/or drugs to the degree that an individual experiences significant adverse effects. Substances can have varying effects on individuals in the short and long term.

  1. Short Term: Commonly, alcohol and/or drug use results in changes to appetite, energy, body temperature, hypervigilance, mental state, decision making, and the autonomic nervous system.
  2. Long Term: Long term effects ordinarily contribute to the development of a substance use disorder and/or significant health concerns. Based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5), substance use disorders involve the following symptoms: cravings, dependency/withdrawal, impaired social relationships, impaired impulse control/decision making, inability to complete life tasks (i.e. work, home, etc.), and increased risky use behaviors.

The severity of experienced symptoms can fluctuate based on the severity of the addiction.   Oftentimes, individuals will continue to use substances despite the negative consequences they suffer.

EyeGage: How does substance abuse affect an individual and their ability to make decisions when under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or opioids?

Jones: Operating a motor vehicle requires an ability to focus on various stimuli while driving, as well as a normative reaction time to novel and routine changes on the road.

  1. Alcohol: Alcohol intoxication symptoms could include impaired speech, impaired consciousness, incoordination, impaired motor skills, impaired vision, and impaired attention/memory. As such, driving under the influence of alcohol significantly impairs an individual’s ability to successfully navigate the road.
  2. Marijuana: Driving under the influence of marijuana may affect motor coordination, slowed reaction time and an increase in anxiety/paranoia.
  3. Opioids: Like marijuana, driving under the influence of opioids may affect motor coordination, impair judgment/decision making, slowed reaction time and increase sleepiness/drowsiness.

EyeGage: Now that we have a better understanding of what substance abuse is and the effects of alcohol, marijuana, and opioids on impaired driving, could you discuss your current role as Chief Psychologist at the Federal Bureau of Prisons?

Jones: As Chief Psychologist, substance abuse is a significant concern for my participants in treatment, as well as individuals in mental health treatment with dual diagnoses of mental health and substance use disorders.

I am responsible for the greater oversight of the following programs: Sex Offender Management Program, Internship Program; two, 500 hour Residential Drug Abuse Programs (RDAP); three, 12-24 week Non-residential Drug Abuse Programs (NRDAP); three, 12-15 hour Drug Education Programs; one Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program; and an advance mental health care level mission.

Substance usage can often exasperate mental health symptoms and complicate an individual’s long-term recovery. Providing the necessary tools to achieve and maintain sobriety is a priority for an individual’s treatment planning.

EyeGage: Wow, that’s important work! Can you expound on how EyeGage could assist in someone experiencing substance abuse?

Jones: Poor insight and awareness are two significant barriers to increasing one’s motivation for change. Oftentimes, individuals struggling with substance abuse minimize or deny the severity of their usage and its impact on their functioning. EyeGage has the potential of being an immediate antagonist to minimization and help individuals confront their impairment.

This type of quick and reliable feedback could mean the difference between driving impaired or choosing a more appropriate, safer alternative.

EyeGage: With the proper training, how could EyeGage be used for professionals in the field?

Jones: One of the critical components of substance abuse treatment is accountability. EyeGage can provide real-time accountability to aid with preserving the fidelity of substance abuse programs. In addition, effective drug screening can help ensure an individual is compliant with treatment recommendations.  

EyeGage: Thank you for these thoughtful answers! Last question, As EyeGage’s Substance Abuse Advisor, could you provide your expertise on why you decided to join the team and where you see EyeGage in the future of this field?

Jones: As substance abuse is on the rise in the United States, ways to circumvent traditional accountability measures in an attempt to become undetectable by current drug screening technologies are becoming prevalent amongst users. The ability to avoid accountability can be attractive to new or routine users and increases their likelihood to try new substances that they may not ordinarily be drawn to.

It was my pleasure to join the EyeGage team because of the mission. EyeGage provides another tool for drug screening that builds off of the limitations of its predecessors at a time when it is needed the most.

Dr. Jasmine U. Jones holds a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology and Doctorate of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Clinical Psychology from Adler University in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Jones has been with the Federal Bureau of Prisons since 2013.

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