Treatment Substance Abuse Is a Problem Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2329 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Drugs


Substance abuse is a problem whose prevalence contributes to significant effects for both individuals and the societies within which they live. IN 2003, more than 19 million residents of the United States were using drugs illegally. This number represents more than 8% of the population of the country (SAMHSA, 2003, p. 10). These people abused a variety of drugs with marijuana use the most common (over 6%). Another 2.3 million people (about 1%) were using cocaine, including its derivative "crack," and 1 million people used various hallucinogens (SAMHSA, 2003, p. 10). In addition over 31 million Americans abused prescription pain relievers such as Vicodin and OxyContin (SAMHSA, 2003, p. 10).

While those figures are alarming by themselves, the numbers regarding young people are particularly alarming. Nearly 11% of those aged 14 to 15 had used some illegal drug in the month previous to the survey cited here (SAMHSA, 2003, p. 11). Of even more concern, nearly 4% of those only 12 to 13 years old reported use in the same time period (SAMHSA, 2003, p. 11). These statistics demonstrate not only that drug abuse has a significant hold on society, but also that drug abuse can begin at an alarmingly young age.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Drug abuse is not only a personal problem; its negative effects impact family, friends, the business community and government agencies. Some agencies estimate that the economic impact of drug abuse cost the United States over $180 billion in 2002 alone (USDOJ, 2006). Drug abuse can have significantly negative effects on an individual's health, particularly when needles are used, because they can spread both hepatitis and HIV / AIDS. It was estimated in 2004 that over 3.5 million Americans had used a needle to inject an illegal drug sometime during their lives. The Centers for Disease Control reported that nearly 125,000 people with AIDS in 2003 contracted the disease via drug-related needle use (USDOJ, 2006). Other effects may not be as obvious. The children of parents who abuse drugs often neglect their children. Alarmingly, over 4% of pregnant women in the United States admitted abusing drugs during their pregnancies. The number was even higher for mothers who had recently given birth - over 8%. The children of parents who abuse drugs often lack even such basic things as food and water (USDOJ, 2006).

Workplaces are also affected. One company that provides drug testing for businesses reported that nearly 6% of employees tested after a work-related accident showed evidence of drug use. In addition, businesses report that employees who abuse drugs sometimes steal from their employers - sometimes cash, and sometimes items that can be sold for cash. Drug abuse contributes to absences, lowered productivity, and increased use of medical benefits (USDOJ, 2006).

The destructive nature of Substance abuse causes many people to wonder why it is that some people are drawn to the practice. A variety of psychological philosophies might be applied to explain substance abuse. Behaviorists, who look at stimulus and response, might argue that the drug abuser tries a drug once, likes its affects, and so uses it again. The feelings the user gets from taking the drug are reinforcing and encourage the person to use them again. However, others note that humans are too complex for behaviors to be simplified to the level of cause and effect, because humans can form ideas, set goals, and exert their will over their behaviors. However, they felt that an approach that completely ignored behaviorism also ignored part of what it is to be human. "Social Learning Theory" developed out of efforts to fit knowledge about stimulus and response with developing ideas regarding human psychological development.

Social Learning Theory evolved into some basic principles to explain why people do what they do. First, Social Learning Theory acknowledges that stimulus and response can change human behavior. Second, Social Learning Theory recognizes that human behavior can be affected in other ways as well, and specifically, that humans can learn new behavior by observation, or what is called "vicarious learning." Third, people tend to notice that they are more similar to some people than others, and individuals are more likely to imitate or model behavior they observe in those people they perceive as "like themselves." People also tend to form emotional ties to people they connect with in this way (Tracy & Whittaker, 1989, p. 47).

Social Learning Theory argues that a person's psychological makeup is expressed through his or her behavior. Purists view children as born as more or less of a blank slate, something many psychologists today would not agree with, but recognize that both cognitive processes and behavioral principles affect how a person grows and develops (Tracy & Whittaker, 1989, p. 42). The view of the individual as explained by Social Learning Theory is simpler than how psychoanalytic theory explanations, suggesting that an individual is a reflection of his or her environment and behavior as interpreted by the person's thinking processes. Social Learning Theory does not focus on drives or inner states and views environmental experiences as paramount in an individual's psychological development (Tracy & Whittaker, 1989, p. 43).

While Social Learning Theory may not explain everything that is significant about a person's psychological functioning, it does provide a way of looking in particular at those who are still moving through important stages of growth and development. In particular, adolescents are particularly affected by the environment around them. Teenagers have to adjust to a variety of changes: the physical effects of puberty, changing relationships with their parents, increased influence of peers and the need to establish themselves as individuals within their peer groups (Trad, 1994). In addition, brain development means that they think in different ways, in particularly developing increased ability to reason and predict the result of behaviors. They can consider alternatives and make decisions based on these predictions. These changes in ability to think encourage independent decision-making, and the decisions they make may not always be the ones adults would choose for them (Gallione et. al., 2005). These facts mean that the environment has many opportunities to influence their development and growth as argued in Social Learning Theory.

One of the effects of these changes can be conflict. When adolescents find themselves in conflict with their parents over issues important to them, they may turn to their peers for support, and they may attempt to feel in control of their own lives through making decisions that their parents might not approve of. Such behaviors can include the use of illegal drugs (Trad, 1994). Thus, Social Learning Theory can be one way to explain how adolescents begin experimenting with drug abuse.

According to Social Learning Theory, the environment plays an important role in how people develop, and this is certainly true of adolescents. One of the most profound influences on teenagers is that of their parents. Research has demonstrated that effect when it comes to behaviors often correlated with substance abuse. While smoking tobacco may be viewed as a low level of substance abuse, it is also tied to poor levels of monitoring the teens' behavior by the parents. When this pattern is established by seventh grade, two years later in ninth grade, these youth often demonstrate antisocial behavior that often includes more serious substance abuse (Kandel, 2002, p. 170). This pattern can be excaberated by parents who use coercion in their attempts to control their children. Teens are especially vulnerable to being drawn into substance abuse when they develop friends whose parents also fail to supervise their activities and who also tend toward behaviors that break established societal rules of behavior (Kandel, 2002, pp. 176-177).

Social Learning Theory supports the idea that each person is an individual. In drug treatment, experts often find that individuals have idiosyncratic needs as they attempt to change their habits. The difficulties presented in treatment of substance abusers was demonstrated by some researchers when they described a program for adults addicted to cocaine. Although adults have more fully developed abilities to make decisions than adolescents, participants in the program struggled to make decisions that would help them stay free of cocaine over time. For instance, one man reacted to his wife's efforts to keep him away by drugs by reporting that it made him feel like a prisoner. He managed to find an opportunity where he was not at work or with his family and sought out an opportunity to use cocaine as soon as he could get away on his own (Carroll, et. al., 1997). The authors also note that drug abuse can be a way for a person to attempt to solve personal problems. They may feel that the illegal drugs they use help them cope with feelings of depression, or disappointments in life, or even anger. The drugs may cause them to feel happier. In an example that reminds one of the behavioral aspects of Social Learning Theory, some actively used drugs as a personal reward (Carroll, et. al., 1997). Social Learning Theory successfully explains these combinations of conditioning… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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