Effects of Drug and Alcohol Addicts on Our Society Specifically Economically and Socially Thesis

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Drug and Alcohol

The effects of drug and alcohol addicts on our society, specifically economically and socially

The effects of drug and alcohol addicts on our society

The effects of drug and alcohol addicts on our society

There is little doubt that drug and alcohol addiction has become a pervasive part of our modern society. The increasing number of especially younger people in society who are addicted to narcotics and alcohol has had a profound impact on modern culture and the community. The effect of these addictions are often difficult to determine definitively as it impacts a wide range of factors; including social aspects such as the family as well as economic facets, such as work and employment loss and the amount spent on rehabilitation annually.

This paper will focus on the effects of drug and alcohol addiction in terms of two central but interrelated facets; namely, the social and the economic impact of these forms of addiction. The general thesis that will be explored is that drug and alcohol addiction is slowly undermining the structure of society and is an increasing threat to the development and advancement of the society in general. This view includes the way that it has affected the economy and the often complex interrelationship between economic factors and drug and alcohol abuse.

2. The prevalence of drug and alcohol addiction

The prevalence and significance of both drug and alcohol abuse is succinctly summarized in the following report from Howard Meitiner, President and CEO of Phoenix House, the largest non-profit alcohol and drug abuse treatment facility in the United States. He states that, "Eighty-eight percent of the population feels that drug abuse is at either serious or crisis levels today, reflecting the devastating impact that addiction is having on individuals, families, and communities" (Study reveals rise in drug, alcohol abuse during economic downturn). In other words, this implies that the impact that substance abuse, including alcohol abuse, is having on society is extremely serious and there are a number of future implications of this trend that should be taken into account.

The use of various drugs and mind or mood-altering substances is a phenomenon that is as old as human history. However, there are a number of factors that have led to an increase in the abuse of drugs and alcohol in our modern developed societies. In terms of drug abuse one of these factors is the development of chemicals and technology in the creation of mass drug production. Another factor is the ease of acquisition of these substances through modern communications and travel. Furthermore, modern technology has also introduced many new types of drugs which are "…purified forms of active biological agents, and with the synthesis of hitherto unknown substances, such as methamphetamine" (Drug addiction). These are only some of the factors that has led to an increase in the availability and addiction of various dangerous drugs.

Figure 1

(Source: Bennet, 1999, p.149)

The above chart provides some idea of the increasing number of young people who are making use of drugs like marijuana at a high school level in the United States. This is also indicative of a tendency that has emerged in the last few decades which suggests that there is a growing tolerance in society for drugs like marijuana. As one report on this issues states; "…the percentage of eighth graders who have report having used marijuana & #8230; has tripled since 1991" ( Bennet, 1999, p.150). The following diagram shows the number of young students who use illegal drugs, with the United States topping the list.

Figure 2

( Source: Bennet, 1999, p.227)

In essence, the data points to a central concern that is expressed by many experts; namely that a developed country like the United States is becoming a drug -- culture.

This trend also applies to other drugs like alcohol and cigarettes. One study researching this area suggests that"…if the use of psychoactive drugs is a constant in American history, the ways drugs and their users are perceived have varied extensively. And these variations in the perception of drug use -- from tobacco to cocaine -- tell us much about the changing nature of American society"(Tracy and Acker, 2004, p.1). The social and cultural aspects and perceptions of drug usage are therefore an important part of understanding drug trends.

3. The impact on society and the economy

As referred to above, one of the most disconcerting aspects of the trends in drug and alcohol addiction is the increasing number of young people who are becoming addicted. This does not bode well for the healthy and productive development of society in the future. An example of this is the increasing number of deaths that have been attributed to cocaine in the last few years in the United States. Research indicates that

…cocaine as well as alcohol abuse among adolescents in the United States is substantial and alarmingly high. This problem is also accompanied by the fact that drug users are also prone to other health problems and issues which can exacerbate the drug problem MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor (Mainous, Martin, Oler, Richardson & Haney, 1996. p.807)

Therefore, the first and most obvious problem that arises is the way that drug and alcohol addiction is undermining the health of young people and therefore also threatening the development of the society.

Another aspect that has been extensively researched in the literature is the effect of addiction on the family structure. One can refer to the theories of Anthony J. Guerra in this regard. He states that, "The American family has deteriorated during the second half of the twentieth century, and this has resulted in a variety of social problems such as a great increase in juvenile delinquency, drug addiction, and suicide" (Kando, 2004). What Guerra and other theorists suggest is that the family is a fundamental building block of culture and stability and drug addiction and alcoholism within the family in undermining this essential societal institution.

These views are bolstered by numerous studies of the way that drugs and alcohol abuse and addiction negatively affects the family. This includes the way that addiction affects the psychological unity and integrity of the family. One research study for example, found that a great deal of internal stress was caused when families attempted to deal with the addiction internally.

At the outset, families would try to solve the family member's drug problem alone, usually without recourse to agencies. The apparent intractability of the drug problem had a profoundly negative affect on the dynamics and functioning of most families (Drugs in the family: the impact on parents and siblings. 2005).

This would suggest that not only does addiction threaten the family unit but in most cases the addiction problem is referred to outside agencies for assistance, which in turn affects the economy.

This problem does not only apply to younger people but also includes addictions among parents and the older generation. A study in this regard notes that, "it was revealed that 40% of the addicts' fathers and 19% of their mothers were reported as having serious problems with alcohol abuse" (Nurco, Blatchley, Hanlon, O'Grady & Mccarren, 1998, p. 37). The social effects of drug and alcohol addiction are often very severe and detrimental and these addictions have also been associated with crime. For example, a 2006 report states that drug abuse can lead to sexual assault. "The study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that drugs were involved in 62% of reported sexual assaults" (Allen, 2006).

There are many case studies of the way that alcohol and drug abuse impacts on family members. In one example quoted by Schur (1965) a father loses contact and involvement with his family because of drug addiction. This continues until his addiction is the only matter of concern for him, with negative effects on the family.

….increasingly he must turn to the drug world for interpersonal support as well as for drug supplies. As the need to finance his habit occupies more and more of his time and energy, and as other worlds (such as those of work, family, and so on) recede into the background or fade away completely, addiction becomes a way of life (Schur, 1965, p. 145).

The effect on the economy is also linked to the impact of addiction on a social level. The most common affect of both drug and alcohol addiction is increased absenteeism and the consequent reduction in productivity. The impact on the economy of substance abuse has only been fully realized in the last decade. Research indicates that drug and alcohol abuse can seriously impact health and cause or exacerbate conditions like cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, HIV / AIDS, hepatitis, and lung disease (Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse). This also has a concomitant affect on the economy. Conversely, as Meitiner points out, a poor or declining economy can be a cause of increasing substance abuse. "When people lose their jobs, lose their homes, lose their savings, lose their pensions,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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