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(Enlarge) Michael Gimbel, director of substance abuse education for the Sheppard Pratt Health System in Baltimore, uses a funnel as a prop to illustrate the negative impact of alcohol abuse during the garrison's Federal Drug-Free Workplace Training on June 21 at McGill Training Center. (Photo by Marine Pvt. Coby Smith)

When dealing with someone who has a substance or alcohol abuse problem, the best way to convince the person to seek help is to document the problem.

These words of advice were provided by Michael Gimbel, director of Substance Abuse Education for the Sheppard Pratt Health System in Baltimore. Gimbel shared this advice as well as other information about the dangers of drugs and alcohol during the final session of the garrison's Federal Drug-Free Workplace Training held June 21 at McGill Training Center.

"Document the behavior so we can say, 'We care about you,' " Gimbel said. "Use behavior as a tool because the person can't deny behavior."

Gimbel, a recovering addict with nearly 40 years of sobriety, talked about the negative impact that substance abuse can have on an individual's life and the challenges and problems often faced by the family, friends and co-workers of an alcoholic or addict.

His presentation was part of the Army Substance Abuse Program's annual training for civilian employees. In addition to educating civilian employees about substance abuse, the training was designed to help civilian managers and supervisors better understand their roles and responsibilities in the intervention process.

Gimbel, who has an extensive background as a speaker and subject matter expert on substance abuse, provides substance abuse education and consultation services to schools, universities, community organizations, businesses, faith organizations, parents and youth groups. He also has provided NCAA-certified substance abuse education programs to college athletic programs throughout the United States and is often consulted by media outlets to provide insight on substance abuse program.

"The greatest threat to the quality of life can be tied to the use of drugs and alcohol, "Gimbel said. "It not only affects the individual abuser, it affects their family and their friends and co-workers. ... We all pay for their abuse."

Gimbel's presentation ranged from providing straightforward information about commonly used illegal drugs (marijuana and cocaine) and alcohol, to warnings about new drugs and stimulants (legal and illegal) that are now altering the country's drug scene.

Gimbel began his presentation talking about alcohol abuse.

Alcohol is the single most used and abused drug in America, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Nearly 14 million Americans -- one in every 13 adults -- abuse alcohol or are alcoholics.

Alcoholism not only affects the individuals who drink but also those who have to live and work in the same environment as the alcoholic, Gimbel said.

Gimbel also discussed prescription drug abuse, calling it the nation's fastest-growing drug problem.

Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that nearly one-third of people ages 12 and older who used drugs for the first time in 2009 began by taking a prescription drug nonmedically.

Gimbel referred to the drug Adderall as an example of a prescription drug used illegally. Adderall was developed to help youths control symptoms associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one in five students has abused Adderall. For youths who do not have ADHD, the drug, like other powerful amphetamines, causes euphoria, increasing the risk of addiction.

Gimbel also discussed concerns raised by energy drinks such as Red Bull and diet supplements that mimic caffeine.

"The government does not regulate the health food world," he said. "You need to be careful when you use these products. This stuff can be harmful."

A popular concoction among young people is adding Adderall to Red Bull, Gimbel said. He also expressed concerned about individuals who combine an alcoholic drink such as vodka to an energy drink.

"The alcohol puts you to sleep and the energy drink wakes you up," he said. "There's nothing worse than a wide-awake drunk."

Gimbel also warned about marijuana substitutes such "Spice" or K2. These products are sold in local stores and online as incense, Gimbel said. He warned participants that these products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

"People have no idea what they are really getting when they use this stuff," Gimbel said.

The Army has banned Soldiers from using Spice. In February, Army Secretary John McHugh issued a memorandum that established an Armywide policy prohibiting the use and possession of synthetic cannabis and other substitutes for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to as THC, the primary psychoactive constituent of marijuana.

Gimbel ended his presentation by reminding participants that every week, problems with substance and alcohol abuse increase. However, he believes everyone is obligated to find ways to help people struggling with addiction.

"There is hope," Gimbel said. "We can help people who have a problem with pain killers. We can help people who have a problem with alcohol. Education is our biggest weapon."

Editor's note: For more information about the Fort Meade's Army Substance Abuse Program, call Samson Robinson at 301-677-7983.

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