No More Arguing About What It Means To Have A "Problem!"


Addressing substance use without getting derailed by denial and misinformation.


"Understanding Substance Use Disorder"

An online course from Jim Savage, LCDC


A valuable new resource for:


  • Loved one in treatment
  • Concerned about a potential problem


  • Schools
  • Truancy courts
  • Juvenile justice


  • Mental health/substance use
  • Continuing education
  • Affiliate program

The biggest barrier to effective substance use prevention, intervention, and treatment is denial. In other words, not understanding what the problem is. And denial leads to power struggles, arguments, and ongoing conflict:

 Parents with kids:

  • “Pot doesn't cause me any problems”

  • “Everybody does it”

  • “Other parents let their kids do it”

Spouses with each other:

  • “I promise I'll quit”

  • “Get off my back”

  • “You don't know what you're talking about”

Treatment clients:

  • “I'm not as bad as everybody else here”

  • “I'll quit the hard stuff, but I can still smoke pot”


More than just making some "bad decisions"

The consequences of NOT “Understanding Substance Use Disorder”

• Failed treatment: Treatment clients are taught what it means to have a substance use disorder, but if they don't like what they're hearing, they may not want to follow treatment recommendations. And if those around the client haven't learned what the client is learning, they have no idea if the client is really following recommendations or not. This creates a gap between the client, the family and the treatment team—where important information can fall through the cracks and lead to treatment failure. Families are devastated, thousands of dollars are wasted, and the public perception of rehab becomes tainted—as in, “rehab doesn't work.”

• Impact on the family: A substance use issue can have devasting effects within a family system.

  • Fear
  • Hurt
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Embarrassment
  • Anger

Many family members know all-too-well the emotional turmoil and strained relationships that come with having to address a drug or alcohol problem with a loved one.

• Personal impairment: Needless to say, the individual suffering from a substance use disorder is the one who is most impacted. The resulting consequences of an unaddressed problem can touch virtually every area of the substance user's life with devastating impact:

  •  Family
  •  Physical health
  •  School or job performance
  •  Legal problems
  •  Social


The solution to denial is simply being informed. And that's exactly what “Understanding Substance Use Disorder” course about: Moving out of denial and into being informed.

And yes, it's obviously important that the actual substance user not be in denial, but it starts with those around the substance user being informed, including family members as well as professionals—therapists, school personnel, and any other social service providers.

The more informed you are, the more effective you'll be in dealing with denial on the part of the substance user—whether it's a loved one or someone you work with on a professional basis, such as a client or a student. 

The key to effective substance use prevention, intervention, and treatment starts with understanding what the problem is. And that's exactly what you'll get from this course.



Loved one in treatment?

  • Understand what your loved one is going through and what they are learning in treatment.

  • Support your loved one's treatment more effectively

  • Relief: Helps make sense of what you've been through and validates your experience of living with someone who suffers from a  substance use disorder

  • Healing: Understanding their condition and  having your own experience validated leads to a more effective treatment experience  and greater chances for treatment success.


 Concerned about a potential problem?

   Learn the difference between social use versus having a “problem”

   Know how to respond to resistance or denial

  • Validate your concerns and confirm your gut feeling that the issue should be addressed

  • Empower you to take effective action if needed



  • Convenient solution for providing supportive education to clients for addressing substance use issues

  • Continuing education: Enhance your own competency for addressing substance use in your practice

  • Professional Affiliate Program: Certification for offering your own evaluation or prevention program using the “Understanding Substance Use Disorder” course material


Social use? Or Symptoms of addiction?

The first step in addressing a substance use issue is to get clear about what it is that we're even talking about!

“Understanding Substance Use Disorder” sorts out all the different terms used for referring to various patterns of substance use, and clears up the all the confusion that becomes the basis for misperceptions and denial when it comes to identifying a “problem.”

Diagnosis: Where Do You Fit?

An extremely valuable aspect of Understanding Substance Use Disorder is the in-depth examination it provides into the history of identifying Substance Use Disorder as a diagnosable medical condition. This takes any 'finger pointing” out of it and makes it much easier to understand and accept the implications for treating it.

Characteristics Of Substance Use Disorder

“Motivation to overcome a substance use disorder begins with being clear about the nature of the condition.”

Changes in the brain that occur as a result of repeated substance use lead to characteristic traits associated with a substance use disorder. Understanding Substance Use Disorder spells this all out, including the implications each of these hold for treatment and recovery.



Here's what leading professionals in the addiction field are saying about "Understanding Substance Use Disorder":

Cherye Callegan, MD


"This is the best presentation on addiction I've ever seen." "Cutting edge."                                                                                                                 

John Talmadge, MD

UT Southwestern Medical School

"A wonderfully effective tool for delivering fundamental educational material upon which any responsible substance use treatment should be founded."

Sherry Young, PhD

Right Fit Consulting

"Not only is this material SO valuable and needed, what really impressed me is what a marvelous teacher Jim is. A consummate educator!"

"What did you find most helpful about this course?"

Responses from family members of treatment clients: (From treatment facilities that provide the course directly to family members of their clients)

More from course users…

“Turns out, my gut was right…”

My son was living on his own, but my gut was telling me he was in trouble, and he hid it very well.  Building on what I have learned through this course, I was able to recognize the symptoms and confront my son.  Turns out, my gut was right, he had become addicted to marijuana and cocaine, and was considering “heavier” drugs.  Without the information I got from this course, I don't think I would have seen the danger signs, and surely would not have had the fortitude to confront my son, and make the hard choices to get him into an excellent rehab facility, and then a sober home.

Michelle C.

Parent of a 21-year-old male


“Life-changing for all involved”

My husband and I had many fretful years trying to “do the right thing” for our child with drugs and alcohol struggles. But we never even knew what “the right thing” should look like! The information we got from this course was extremely eye-opening and gave us an entirely new view on the importance of addressing her issue. The results were life-changing for all involved.

Ellen G

Mother of a 35-year-old female


“Solved the exact problem we've been arguing about since the day we checked him into rehab”

“We were introduced to the course Understanding Substance Use Disorder after our son had returned home from 4 months at a residential drug rehab. He agreed he needed to quit using his drug of choice (opiates) but he never really believed he needed to quit using marijuana. This course solved the exact problem that we'd been arguing about since the day we checked him into rehab. And that's whether or not he need to stop smoking pot, whether he could be an opiate addict and not be addicted to pot—a big mess that we argued about for months. This course cleared it all up in one sitting, and we were able to finally begin making some progress towards his recovery.”

Don R

Father of a 17-year-old male


“Helped us avoid a potential problem”

“We went through this course with our son after we first discovered he had been using marijuana. The explanation of substance use disorder, and that it's a spectrum from mild, to moderate to severe, was especially helpful not only for my husband  and myself, but to our son as well. He was able to see that it was something he needed to stop now instead of allowing it to progress. I feel this course definitely helped us avoid a potential problem.”

Linda S

Mother of a 15-year-old male


Been around the addiction treatment field for a long time...

Field research                      >    >    >            Young drug counselor               >    >    >             Today        

A message from Jim Savage, LCDC

I've worked in the addiction field for a long time—like over 30 years. But I've actually been around the addiction field longer than I've been a professional in it. You see, I was one of those “early bloomers,” and my first introduction to the addiction field was when my parents put me in drug rehab when I was 17. That was the first time I learned about the disease of addiction. But I wasn't ready to hear the message, and it took me five more years to find out that what they were saying was true: It doesn't go away, it gets worse over time, and so on

So I ended up checking myself into rehab, and that began my own personal journey of recovery.

Fast forward 32 years and I'm a seasoned addiction professional who has helped thousands of young people recover from Substance Use Disorder. I've even written my own book about how to treat addiction! And despite having enjoyed a reputation for being somewhat of a maverick in the addiction field due to my creative approach using music, creative drama,  and storytelling, the one thing I keep coming back to is the importance of paying attention to the basics of substance use disorder education. And that's why I created this course.

Because when it comes down it, this is where any successful prevention or intervention must begin:

  Substance user: Understanding the nature of the condition is where one becomes motivated to change.

  Those around the substance user: Things fall through the cracks when everybody's not on the same page with regard to understanding what the problem is, and that's how treatment efforts end up being sabotaged.

Truth be told, I was little hesitant about creating this course—I thought it might be a little too basic given all the incredible advancements we have made in the substance use field. However, the response has been just the opposite. From the moment I started previewing this with colleagues, and then using it with my own clients, there was a resounding “This is SO needed!”. I am glad now to be sharing this in the hope that it will have a positive impact in many people's lives.   

Get UNDERSTANDING SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER now and get out in front of a substance use issue!




  • 11 fun and engaging videos
  • Quizzes: Retention of material
  • Approx 1 hr to complete          







  • BASIC Online Course
  • In-depth study of course topics
  • Apply course material
  • Q and A