Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on the Individual and Damages They Cause Research Paper

Pages: 8 (2570 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Freshman  ·  Topic: Sports - Drugs

Substance Abuse and Society

Substance abuse represents one of the most pervasive problems in the United States. It is a problem that affects all levels and segments of the society. In terms of their effects on individuals and on society, all forms of Substance Abuse, whether it is alcohol or drugs has a similar affect on society and on the lives of individuals. It is difficult to separate the affects of various forms of substance abuse. This research will explore the harmful effects of substance abuse on the individual, their families, their relationships outside of the family and on society as a whole.

The reasons why a person engages in substance are as varied as the individuals themselves. Many do it in response to peer pressure, or to escape from the pressures of their lives. Illegal substances are easy to obtain in today's society. In the case of certain highly addictive drugs, one only has to use the drug once to become addicted. Aside from the approximately 100,000 deaths that are directly related to drug abuse in the United States every year, Many more deaths are indirectly related to substance abuse, such as AIDS and other communicable diseases that are a product of the drug culture (Abbott, 2002). Substance abuse costs nearly $164.6 billion dollars every year due to medical treatments, intervention programs and the costs involved with the justice system (Abbott, 2002). Everyone is touched in some way by the prevalence of substance abuse in the United States, making it one of the most important social problems of the new millennium.

Affects on Society

Statistics supporting the negative impacts of substance abuse on society are easy to find. Aside from the costs mentioned previously, substance abuse results in many other factors that affect society. Substance abuse leads to an increased prevalence of crime, neglect, and family problems, all of which have a dramatic impact on the quality of life in the neighborhood. Aside from these affects, substance abuse also has an impact on the legal system, overloading it with an overwhelming number of cases and bombarding it with the associated costs (Abbott, 2002).

There are many more negative affects on the society that could be included in this discussion of the negative impact of substance abuse on society. The number of negative impacts on society are almost too many to name. Of the substances being used, alcohol abuse seems to account for a larger portion of the problematic behaviors, with over 13.5 million Americans experiencing some form of problem in their lives due to alcohol abuse (Abbott, 2002). This compares to nearly 5.5 million Americans who are involved in drug related problems (Abbott, 2002). These statistics highlight the importance and scope of the problem. However, it is easy to read these statistics and forget that behind every one of these numbers are real people, with real families and real lives.

Affects on Family

When a person becomes addicted to substances, their life begins to revolve around obtaining the drug or alcohol. The person will often engage in risky behaviors, such as stealing, that they normally would not do, if they were not addicted (MayoClinic, 2009a). They begin to feel that they need the drug to solve their problems and they begin to focus more and more of their energy on obtaining the drug (MayoClinic, 2009a). As the drug demands more and more of the person's time and attention, it takes away from other activities in their life. They begin to jeopardize time with relationships outside of the household. As it worsens, it will invade increasingly deeper levels of their life. It will invade school, work, and will jeopardize relationships within the family.

One of the key problems with families where one member engages in substance abuse is that the family is not immune from the affects of the addiction. As the person's life spirals downward, they take those that they love with them. As work is affected, finances in the household may suffer. This can be compounded by the insatiable need to spend more and more of the household resources on obtaining the drug. The drug takes a higher and higher priority and the person may eventually place obtaining the drug above their family's welfare. Families can be destroyed from the inside out when substance abuse is involved.

As the conditions in the house deteriorate, often arguing and fighting between the parents occurs. Children witness these arguments and can become emotionally disturbed. In addition to the emotional trauma involved, children can learn to handle their problems using the dysfunctional skills learned from their parents. It is difficult to avoid teaching children in this situation maladaptive behaviors and coping skills. They may need therapy for may years in order to learn to cope with life's situations in a somewhat normal manner.

Families are often the first to recognize that there is a problem with the individual. The problems may first appear as problems at school. They may notice physical health issues. The person may neglect their appearance and experience a lack of grooming skills. They may notice changes in behavior, like needing an excessive amount of time alone. Signs of substance abuse may affect their ability to handle finances. They may ask to borrow amounts of money without an explanation. All of these signs or any one of these signs may signal that a person has a substance abuse problem (MayoClinic, 2009a). The signs of substance abuse may be subtle or they may be profound, depending on the person, the substance being used and the level of the addiction.

Individual Affects

Substance abuse and addiction does not only happen to those of low socioeconomic status. It happens to good people and good families. Substance abuse often begins innocently, within a casual social setting. For many people, they can stop at this point and never go beyond the point where it is anything more than a casual undertaking among friends. This type of usage is often associated with alcohol use, but those it is often different with those who experiment with harder drugs such as heroine or cocaine. Usage begins innocently, but soon the substance can become a habit and the use of the substance becomes more frequent and intense. Before long, the person's body adjusts to the drug and they need larger and larger quantities of the substance to satisfy their needs. Eventually, they must rely on the substance to feel good at all. This entire cycle repeats itself and snowballs, making it very difficult for the person to break away from the cycle without intervention from outside sources (MayoClinic, 2009b).

Substance abuse affects all areas of a person's life. It affects their physical, emotional and spiritual well being. The exact affects on the person's physical body differ according to the substance that is being used, how long it has been used, and how much is being used. In the worst case scenario, the substance can affect the person's liver and heart, causing death and long-term hospitalization in many cases (MayoClinic, 2009b).

The affects of the substance can be short-term or can cause long-term problems. They may experience short-term problems directly associated with last ingestion of the drug such as a heightened sense of perception, poor memory, increased blood pressure and heart rate, red eyes, decreased coordination, difficulty concentrating, increased appetite or slow reaction time (MayoClinic, 2009a). These symptoms often dissipate until the next ingestion of the substances. Different substances have different short-term affects on the body.

Alcoholism is one of the more difficult substance abuse problems to diagnose. This is because it is difficult to distinguish when a person has a real problem or when they are simply social drinkers who consume alcohol is the typical manner. The DSM-IV criteria for diagnosing alcohol addiction is to examine a 12-month period and to determine if excessive drinking leads to repeated failures to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home. Alcoholism will be diagnosed if the person engages in risky behaviors, such as drinking and driving, or repeated legal problems. Alcoholism is determined to be problematic if the person continues to drink despite alcohol related social and interpersonal problems (Anderson, 2004).

The long-term affects of alcoholism include decreased immune function, cardiovascular disease, cancer, liver disease, reproductive problems, and fetal alcohol syndrome (Anderson, 2004). These conditions not only affect the individual, but have an impact on the family and on the community. Society must pay for the costs of these diseases associated with alcoholism. Many of these items still apply to other substances. Hard drugs, such as meth, cocaine, and heroine can also cause these types of long-term problems. Deaths from associated diseases due to substance abuse add to the individual and societal costs of addiction.

Alcohol dependency differs from other addictions in that the person may not necessarily experience withdrawal symptoms when they do not get the substance. With other drugs, the person may experience intense physical symptoms associated with stopping the drug. Alcohol abusers often do not experience the same… [END OF PREVIEW]

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