Essay On Substance Abuse
Substance abuse has become a major problem for society. Substance abuse crosses over ethnic, economic and cultural lines. Addiction to legal drugs, illegal drugs and alcohol affects millions of people in the United States. The costs of addiction are economic, psychological and physical, not only to the individual but to society as a whole. Substance abuse destroys individuals and their familial relationships. The dynamics of addiction on the individual are varied and complex. Many do recover from addiction with intense interventions and go on to live a normal life.
Substance abuse is a set of behaviors that involve the use of drugs (legal and illegal) and/or alcohol. Substance abuse affects people of all ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Substances that are abused include but are not limited to: alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, prescription drugs, crack and heroin. The signs of substance abuse include: Addiction affects people of all ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.
The signs of a substance abuse problem include both physical, mental and emotional problems. Daily use of the substance and strong cravings for the substance occur. An abuser will spend all of their money on their drug of choice and will have an inability to meet work and personal obligations. An abuser will participate in behaviors that they normally would not participate in such as stealing and risky sexual behaviors. A person with a substance abuse problem will go to any lengths to obtain the drug they crave. Attempts to stop using the substance can result in physical withdrawal from the substance (Mayo Clinic).
According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse, in 2012, 9.2% of Americans abuse an illegal drug. This is up from 8.3% in 2002. Marijuana has seen a steady increase in the number of users, cocaine use has dropped and methamphetamine has remained steady over this time period. Drug abuse is most popular in young adults ages 18-25. In an interesting statistic people in their fifties are abusing drugs at higher rates than ever. Approximately 19% of the population is considered alcoholic. Statistics demonstrate minor fluctuations in drug and alcohol abuse across races and ethnicities.
Professionals in the medical, psychological and law enforcement communities argue on what constitutes a “substance abuser”. Research in the last twenty years has grown exponentially to
study the causes of addiction. Attempts to define terms such as “addiction” and “substance abuse” are cause for argument and disagreement among professionals. It is generally agreed that if a substance interferes with one’s ability to live a healthy life, physically, mentally and emotionally, then there is a substance abuse problem.
Generally statistics are very difficult to read when it comes to addiction. Many people in the general public simply don’t understand what addiction and abuse are. In general people perceive alcoholics as Skid Row bums and drug addicts as homeless people or criminals that live in the ghettos. Many people have multiple addictions or their habits may vary. Many people with an addiction or abuse problem simply are in denial or do not recognize their use as a problem. The definition “addiction” is still debated among doctors, psychologists and addiction counselors. Many who may have had an addiction at one time have recovered and are now living free from the addiction after intervention and treatment.
The financial burden of substance abuse is great. It is estimated that substance abuse costs the government $484 billion dollars each year. Diabetes costs society only $131 billion and cancer, $171 billion. These figures include health care costs, accidents, crime and courts (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
Financial costs to both employers and employees with a substance abuse problem are also great. People with addictions often call in sick to work because they are high or hung-over. If
they do show up for work they are not as productive or effective as they would be if they were sober. On the job accidents from substance abuse cost employers millions every year through workers’ compensation claims. Health insurance rates are on the rise since most companies now
offer coverage for the treatment of substance abuse. For those without health insurance coverage, the government also offers assistance to get treatment which costs taxpayers more money.
The mortality rate of those with an addiction is astonishing. The rates for alcoholics who die from liver disease and related alcoholic diseases was 88,000 people in 2012. The number of alcohol related accidents that took a life was 31% of all fatalities. The hidden cause of death from alcoholism is harder to determine: heart attacks, murders and accidents in the home. Deaths from drug overdoses numbers over 40,000, this includes both prescription and illegal drugs. Again, deaths that occurred due to intoxication on drugs but not directly attributed, such as car accidents, murder and suicides is unaccounted (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
Many addicts are abusing prescription drugs which are much easier to obtain than illegal drugs. Doctors are generally unaware of their patients who may have a prescription drug abuse problem and will continue to prescribe pain killers and benzodiazepines. Often prescription drugs are taken for bona fide reasons at first but for those with a predisposition to addiction abuse can occur quickly and unnoticed. Many with a prescription abuse problem rationalize the addiction because the drugs are legal and were prescribed for a physical ailment, so taking them, even excessively is alright. Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing type of substance abuse in the United States (Simoni-Wastila & Strickler).
Alcohol is a leading choice of addicts. Alcohol is socially accepted and completely legal. It is generally the first substance teenagers abuse when they embark on a career of substance abuse.
Millions of adults who begin as social drinkers eventually begin to abuse alcohol and become full blown alcoholics (Moos, Finney & Cronkite). Much research has been done on this topic over the years. According to Alcoholics Anonymous, alcoholism is both a disease of the mind
and body. They describe the alcoholic as suffering from a physical “allergy” to alcohol. Many researcher describe a similar phenomenon in that alcoholics simply cannot stop drinking once they begin.
In recent years, the use of cocaine and crack are on the decline. The new drug of choice for many addicts is heroin and methamphetamine. Both have been on the rise over the last ten years. Heroin no longer has to be injected which is appealing to many drug abusers who refuse to use a needle. Meth can be smoked, sniffed or injected and provides an “up” for addicts. Addicts on meth could stay awake for days at a time (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
According to the Justice Department, 18% of prisoners have been incarcerated because they committed crimes to obtain money for drugs. 5% of homicides were directly related to drugs. A survey of inmates found that 30% of them admitted to being under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they committed their crime. Sixty percent of children who experience abuse were victims of someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In domestic violence cases nearly 80% were preceded by alcohol or drug abuse.
The war on drugs that the United States began in the 1980’s has been ineffective. Drugs are still coming across our borders, many are now produced within this country. Marijuana is now being grown internally and drugs such as methamphetamine is created within our borders. The $15 billion that has been spent in combatting the drug problem has not worked.
There are many reasons for addiction. Many drug addicts and alcoholics have at least one person in their family that has also faced addiction Addiction occurs with any substance because of the way alcohol and drugs affect the production of dopamine in the brain. Drugs increase the production of this natural chemical. This is what produces the high effect of drugs. In order to
achieve this high, an addict must consume more and more of their substance. Addiction is also coupled with mental disorders. Most abusers suffer from depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety. Addicts are generally devoted to a particular drug that seems to work best for them. Different people due to their personality and physical chemistry tend to prefer one type of drug over another. Once they have found their drug of choice, most addict remain faithful to that one. Addicts also tend to engage in specific behaviors or rituals when using their drug of choice, thus cementing the addiction (Sandra D., personal communication, 10 January 2015).
Substance abuse in teenagers is at a record high. Causes for the use of alcohol and drugs are often identified as physical, emotional or sexual abuse and bullying. Teenagers use drugs and alcohol as a way to escape from the painful traumas. They often observe family members or friends that seem to successfully use substances to alter their moods. Peer pressure also ranks as a leading cause for substance abuse. Many adult addicts claim that their addictions began as teenagers and once they started abusing substances they simply could not stop (Whitesell, Bachand, Peel and Brown, 2-4).
Substance abusers use complex psychological mechanisms to justify and defend their use of drugs or alcohol. They may deny that they have a problem altogether (denial). Often the abuser uses drugs and alcohol as an escape from life’s pressures and burdens and they give themselves
permission to do so (rationalization). The prescription drug abuser may intellectualize the abuse by claiming that the drug is a legal prescription for a real medical problem. Family members may also be unaware of the severity of a substance abuse problem. Often spouses or other family members unwittingly cover up the problems of substance abuse by making excuses or covering up for the abuser.
There is hope for those that are suffering with a substance abuse problem. Rehabilitation centers for those that suffer from addiction have sprung up all over the country in the last thirty years. Addicts and alcoholics have the options of admitting themselves into residential or outpatient facilities for treatment. Many companies offer employee assistance programs that can guide an employee to the right place for treatment. Alcoholics Anonymous has been instrumental in helping alcoholics to achieve recovery. This 12 step program has also given rise to similar programs such as Narcotics Anonymous that help those with drug problems. These programs have met tremendous success with long term sobriety for alcoholics and drug addicts alike.
Substance abuse is a serious problem that was once hidden in the closet. It takes on many forms and levels of severity. In the last thirty years new light has been shed upon the subject. Research in the field to understand the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the disease has opened doors of opportunity for understanding and successful treatment of people who suffer from addiction. Substance abuse affects not only the individual, but their family and friends as well. There are financial implications for businesses who employ people with a substance abuse problem. The judicial system is overwhelmed with criminals who committed crimes to obtain money for drugs or directly acquiring the drugs. Domestic abuse and child abuse and neglect cases are often rooted in substance abuse problems. The important thing to understand that there is now hope for a person who suffers a substance abuse problem. Treatment centers and a better understanding by the public through education is slowly removing the stigma attached to addiction which can lead to treatment.
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