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Substance Abuse

Substance use, other than that prescribed by a doctor, can occur for many reasons. Some people use drugs to relieve pain, escape reality, deal with life’s challenges, and/or try to fit in. Those are just a few of the reasons people use drugs. Even if people are aware of the negative effects recurrent drug use can have on their health, they may struggle to stop using drugs. Recurrent drug use can lead to changes in the brain that makes it extremely difficult to stop using, even if a person wants to. When this happens, the person is experiencing a substance use disorder.

Substance Abuse Support

Community, State, and National Agencies

School Support

Bellevue School District partners with Youth Eastside Services (YES) to place fee-based (Medicaid/insurance-billable) therapists in BSD schools to provide counseling to students with significant barriers to accessing services in the community. This year, we have a Substance Abuse Specialist (SAS) from YES who provides substance abuse education, prevention services, screening and assessment, individual and group interventions, as well as consultation for staff and parents. Please contact your child’s school counselor to discuss concerns and potential substance abuse services.

Basic Definitions


Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is the use of illegal drugs, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs, and/or alcohol for purposes other than those for which they are meant to be used, or in excessive amounts.


Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. It is considered both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness. Addition is the most severe form of a substance use disorder.


Withdrawal is defined as stress, anxiety, depression, and/or physical symptoms of sweating, vomiting, and pain a people experience when they do not have access to a drug they use frequently.

Warning Signs

These are behaviors that often looks or sounds like a sudden, significant change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. The new or changed behavior can be related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who abuse substances exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.

Co-occurring Disorders

Also known as comorbidity. Terms used to describe two or more disorders that occur in the same person, either at the same time or one after the other. To find out more how substance use and mental health disorders impact each other as well as the person they occur in, please visit the National Institute of Drug Abuse’s Mental Health webpage.

Warning Signs at Home:

Warning Signs at School:

  • Sudden change in behavior such as acting withdrawn, frequently tired, or hostile

  • A change in peer group

  • Carelessness with grooming

  • Decline in academic performance

  • Missing classes or skipping school

  • Loss of interest in favorite activities

  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits

  • Deteriorating relationships with family members and friends

  • Finding substances (drug or alcohol) in youth’s room or personal effects

  • Physical or mental changes (memory lapses, poor concentration, lack of coordination, slurred speech, etc.)