Substance Misuse Issues Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2518 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Drugs

Substance Misuse Issues

Substance Misuse: A Multifaceted Human Issue

There are few nations, both developed and developing, that are not affected by some facet of substance misuse. Substance misuse represents a widespread medical, psychological, and human issue that is defined as the misuse of illicit and licit drugs (Stark & Payne-James, 2003). Drugs that are legally prescribed and illegally obtained, as well as alcohol, have the opportunity to be misused, create dependency and cause addictive behaviors. Although substance misuse and addictive behavior have plagued societies for centuries, the development and distribution of prescription pain relievers within the last sixty years has marked a new era of substance misuse. In the United States alone, 120 million prescriptions were written between 2005 and 2006; Americans represent only 4.6% of the world population, yet they expend 80% of all opioids and 99% of all hydrocodone (Fishbain et al., 2010). While some individuals try to use drugs occasionally and for "recreational" purposes, others develop addictive and dependent behaviors towards their substance of choice. Substance misuse has the potential to negatively impact work, home, and school performance, as well as physical and mental health (Stark & Payne-James, 2003). The overuse of prescription drugs, alcohol, and illegal substances is relevant to almost every country due to medical, economical, and societal implications.

The incidence of substance misuse signifies several concerns for communities, societies, and the human population. When examining the prevalence of substance misuse, several questions arise concerning its increase in incidence, the associated economic impacts, influences on the medical community, and its influence on society, namely with younger generations. The first question: why do individuals misuse drugs and substances? This question speaks to both a psychological and medical need for drugs. The second question: what are the economic implications of substance misuse? Substance misuse is a source of economic wealth for pharmaceutical companies, but a financial burden on healthcare providers and patients. The economical concern segues into the third question; how has substance misuse affected the medical community? Substance misuse is not only a health concern for adults; youth and adolescents are also presenting with problems associated with substance misuse. How has substance misuse impacted adolescents and what implications does this have for society? Substance misuse carries interdisciplinary matters that are complexly intertwined and influence one another. The growing incidence of substance abuse affects the economy, which influences healthcare providers, and its prevalence impacts society. The multifactorial nature of substance misuse creates a global health issue with multifaceted implications.

The high prevalence of substance misuse begs the question: why do individuals misuse drugs and substances? Defining the logic behind substance misuse requires an interdisciplinary approach between historical and medical perspectives. Although the increasing use of drugs and substances has recently become media mainstays, the misuse of drugs has been common occurrence since ancient times. Historical evidence suggests that the use and absorption of drugs and psychoactive substances is part of the nature of human existence (Rassool, 1998). There seems to be an intrinsic human desire to engage with an altered state of consciousness. The consumption of tea, coffee, alcohol, opiates, marijuana, tobacco, and other substances have been exploited by cultures across the globe for centuries. The historical use of addictive substances has become part of the collective psychological and cultural consciousness of the human species (Rassool, 1998). Across a vast number of cultures, societies, and communities individuals have been using drugs and substances for their personal benefit. Whether the benefit is to ward off sleepiness, for medicinal purposes, reduce pain, or to experience an altered state of mind, substances have been used by humans to elevate their physiological experience.

The historical perspective into why individuals misuse substances offers insight into the longstanding human need to experience an altered state within our physiology. This viewpoint, however, does not explain the increasing prevalence of substance abuse that is evolving in the 21st century. In the last sixty years, the development, distribution, and marketing of prescription pain medications allowed prescription medications to be available and in abundance like never before in medical history. Prescription pain medications have become standard in pain management therapy, and the overuse of these substances can lead to addictive behaviors. One of the most common reasons patients seek healthcare is to treat pain; in the United States, approximately 130 million people report experiencing chronic pain (Fishbain et al., 2010). Pain medicine specialists often provide opioid therapy, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, as an essential element to treating patients with chronic pain (Fishbain et al., 2010). Within the last two decades, the increases of opioid prescriptions have been met with increasing reports of opioid misuse and abuse (Fishbain et al., 2010).

Opioid therapy is regarded as a customary pain management treatment, and the crux of the pain management plan is to provide appropriate pain relief for patients while simultaneously reducing drug-related addictive behavior (Fishbain et al., 2010). Individuals complaining of legitimate chronic pain who receive opioid drugs often develop drug dependency behavior as an unintended consequence. The direct relationship between the increases of opioid prescriptions coincides and the increase in opioid misuse suggests the greater incidence of substance misuse is, in part, due to overmedication (Fishbain et al., 2010). Understanding why individuals misuse substances is meaningful to the substance misuse issue as it provides insights into the root of the problem. Substance abuse is a historical and relevant problem, with a long, complex history and a medically demanding present. The overmedication of patients with opioid therapy and other pain medications is a large contributor to the increasing incidence of substance misuse.

The second question emerging from the examination of the substance misuse issue involves its economic relevance; what are the economic implications of substance misuse? Who financially benefits and who financially suffers? The economic aspect of the substance misuse issue consistently reappears within human history, as the distribution and trade of drugs has supported the economic wealth of various cultures and nations over time. For example, some historians accredit the development of the European market for tobacco in the 17th century and England's exploitation of the market for England's emergence as a colonial power (Rassool, 1998). The Opium Wars of the 19th century provide another example of the economic power of drugs, as the Opium Wars were a means to protect the opium trade and its benefactors (Rassool, 1998).

In the 21st century, the economic effects of substance misuse breeds wealth for pharmaceutical companies and burden for healthcare providers. The development, overuse, and cost of prescription drugs are conducive to large financial profits for pharmaceutical companies. Opioid therapy is common for pain management, and in the U.S., the rate of patient reported pain is approximated with $100-$150 billion in yearly economic costs (Fishbain et al., 2010). The overuse of prescription drugs induces profits for the pharmaceutical component of healthcare, yet is associated with significant costs to healthcare providers and patients. The addictive properties of drugs and substances cause individuals severe economic backlash, as those suffering from addiction often forego other financial responsibilities to maintain their substance habit. The paradoxical component of the economic argument is economic hardships can influence an individual's substance misuse. Economic hardships have been associated as one explanation for substance misuse due to some individual's need to escape their reality with the assistance of psychoactive drugs (Rassool, 1998). The substance misuse issue cannot be a medical problem without also being an economic problem. Again the interdisciplinary nature of substance misuse emerges as two vastly different fields intersect within the confines of the substance misuse problem. The medical component of substance misuse cannot be considered without its associated economic implications.

Examining the relationship between economic factors and medical impacts inspire a third question about the substance misuse issue; how has substance misuse affected the medical community? In 2006, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) accredited 741,425 emergency room visits to the non-medical use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs, which represents almost half of the emergency room visits attributed with drug misuse or abuse for the year (Fishbain et al., 2010). The high incidence of substance misuse exploits the resources of the medical community. Nurses and healthcare providers are expected to promptly identify any patient presenting with symptoms of substance misuse, and the recognition and treatment of substance misuse and abuse has become common practice within the healthcare field. Addressing the growing number of substance misusers has prompted medical professionals to apply multiple strategies to identify misuse, and create effective diagnosing techniques for patient pain to prevent future misuse.

Healthcare providers are being encouraged to fully examine underlying causes of pain, use valid screening tools to recognize patients who are at risk for misuse, regularly monitor these patients, and to participate in prescription drug monitoring programs to inhibit the incidence of misuse (Fishbain et al., 2010). The medical community has been compelled to utilize multiple resources to address substance misuse and to hopefully lessen its prevalence. Substance misuse and abuse causes strain on the medical community due to its increasing incidence and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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