Available on this web site

Measuring Powerlessness

Your journey through this book thus far has been an attempt to help you measure the level of Powerlessness you may be experiencing due to your use of a chemical.  It is important for you to realize that powerlessness quickly transfers from one substance to another.  Powerlessness and dependency in one drug of a class means powerlessness and dependency in all drugs of that class.  Powerlessness over stimulants like Cocaine would also mean powerlessness over Meth-Amphetamine as well as all the pill forms of stimulants.  Powerlessness over alcohol means powerlessness over the entire class of sedative hypnotics; including all the tranquilizers, sedatives and all the benzodiazepines (Valium Xanax Ativan etc…) Powerlessness and physical dependency over one member of the opiate family means powerlessness over all opiates: It does not matter if they are bought in a pharmacy with your name on them or purchased on the street corner.

Meth and Opiate powerlessness and dependency are two of the most insidious forms of powerlessness because both of these addictions bring along with them some of the worst levels of self-deception known to the treatment world.  This is a depth of self-deception that does not allow the user to even see what is happening in the mirror, at least not while under the influence.

Powerlessness is most simply defined as a loss of control and an increase in the level of unmanageability one experiences in regards to important aspects of their life.  Powerlessness is the loss of choice of when to use, how much or how often.  True powerlessness is when behaviors and reactions present that are not the true nature of, or choice of, the chemical user when not being influenced by the chemical.

The following set of symptoms outlines some of the warning signs that are a part of a “Powerlessness Syndrome.”  You may find that just a few or perhaps all of the symptoms are present however each is a warning sign of a serious chemical problem.

Powerlessness Syndrome symptoms include;

  • Over commitment to, or overindulgence in the use of a mood altering chemical
  • Loss of control over choice in how much to use, for how long and  how often
  • There is often an increase in tolerance and there maybe evidence of withdrawal symptoms
  • The presentation and repetition of behaviors and choices are atypical of the individual when not under the influence of, or experience withdrawal symptoms from the chemical
  • There is a personal diminished capacity when compared to prior functioning levels in any area of personal, social and professional life
  • There is a belief that the use of the chemical is important to having a fulfilling life
  • Use of a chemical has become “second” nature
  • There is regular use of the substance or the reluctance to participate in events where the chemical cannot be used or consumed as desired
  • There exists a level of behavioral conditioning that leaves the individual convinced that the chemical is essential to their emotional well being
  • There is an inability to abstain for significant periods of time without a sense of loss
  • There is evidence of Self-deception in regards to the seriousness of the problem
  • There is denial regarding the cost verses benefit of using the chemical,
  • There is discomfort in discussing the issues of use
  • A chemical is used medicinally, used to resolve stress
  • A belief by the individual that they feel better or more normal when using
  • The chemical is used as a means to feel in control of one’s emotions and feelings
  • There is a loss of control over behavior and an increase in unmanageability
  • There are negative behaviors and interactions often as a response to perceived threats to the chemical use

I repeat; the presence or existence of any of the above symptoms suggests a degree of powerlessness and each should be considered a major warning sign of the onset of an addictive issue.  Since powerlessness is a measure of a problem, a continuum outlining the progression of an illness, all symptoms should be seen as evidence of a problem.

Emmanuel S. John, MA, MSW, LCSW


Available on this web site


Addiction and Mental Illness, Dual Diagnosis – Addiction in the Family

No mental defense Addiction


The following is from the book; (Available on this page)

Addiction: Why They Use (A handbook for anyone who loves an alcoholic or addict)

Addiction and Mental Illness

Dual Diagnosis

If you love an addict struggling with both addiction and another mental health disorder like Bi-Polar I or II, you have most certainly heard the term Dual Diagnosis.  This term is sometimes misinterpreted to suggest that there are two different addictions in place.  This is erroneous.  This term does not refer to an alcoholic with a cocaine problem: The confusion arises because that state is most often termed Dual Addicted.

The term Dual Diagnosis suggests that an Addiction Diagnosis is present as well as another mental health diagnosis.  For example, an alcohol dependent may also be suffering from Bi-Polar or s/he may have an underlying Personality Disorder.  Whichever the combination this greatly complicates the treatment needs of the individual and unfortunately it lessens their success rate when it comes to achieving abstinence.

Where to Start When Both States Exist

There are two perspectives that we should consider when diagnosing a person with a “Dual Diagnosis.” Awareness of these 2 states may help many laypersons and professionals alike better understand their loved one’s/clients’ needs.

  • The first scenario is that there are people who have a primary mental illness that has lead to an addiction issue.  We categorize this type as a person with a mental illness who has a substance abuse/dependency problem.”  This is often a result of their attempts to self medicate a problem like depression or mania as well as many others.  For example the person who suffers with depression may resort to stimulants to lift their mood or a person with ADD or ADHD may develop a marijuana or alcohol dependency to slow their mind, etc…
  • The second category or type; is the substance user that uses for a long enough period of time that a mental illness is brought on by their extended use and the long term practice of unhealthy behaviors.  This is often referred to as “a substance dependent with another mental health issue or mental illness.”  Quite simple, if a person is using a depressant drug like alcohol for a long enough period of time they may (and often do) meet the criteria for depression and therefore may need to be treated accordingly.

This may seem like merely semantics but it has everything to do with WHY THEY USE as well as how they need to be treated if they are to ever successfully arrive at the state of being “clean and sober.”  Simply put the two types are as follows;

  1. A mental health problem that leads to an addiction issue/s
  2. An addiction issue that leads to a mental health problem

Under either of the above circumstance the first and primary objective is to get the individual detoxed and stabilized before trying to determine the primary and secondary problems to be treated.  I have a simple suggestion to consider when determining which category or condition is presenting.  If your loved one has a history of mental illness then get them back on their meds with their prior doctor’s direction but be absolutely sure that their doctor is informed (by you) that an addiction issue precipitated the visit.

Emmanuel S. John


You can also visit the companion site