Substance Abuse


Substance abuse continues to be an important social problem that contributes significantly to mortality and morbidity rates. Many cases of anti-social or criminal by people under the influence of illicit drugs have been reported. Long-term changes in personality of individuals may take place, as well. Substance abuse includes dependency, but may be used in a similar manner in nonmedical contexts. The core area of concerns as relates to the use of drugs is the risk of dependence. The abuse of prescription drugs can inflict serious damages to the abuser, the family, and the society. Early interventions are both important and effective in dealing with the problem of substance abuse.

Keywords: substance abuse, social problem, illicit drugs, dependency, family, society


Substance Abuse


Substance abuse, also known as drug abuse, can be defined as the pattern of injurious use of a substance for the purposes altering the moods of an individual. Problems occasioned by psychoactive drugs can be classified broadly into two categories. The first problem relates directly to the taking of the drug and includes the risk of overdose. The other group of problems relates to the use and abuse of certain drugs, as well as the attendant social harms such as drug dependency and the associated costs of treating it or the incarceration of offenders. Substance abuse involves the consumption of substances in amounts or through methods that are harmful to an individual or others. The term “substance abuse” does not leave out dependency, but is used in a similar way in nonmedical contexts. The key area of concern as regards the use of drugs relates to the risk of dependence (Ruiz, Strain & Lowinson, 2011, p. 255). Drug dependence is connected to three fundamental processes, which include tolerance, physical dependence, and psychological dependence. Tolerance refers to a situation in which the continued use occasions a diminished effect because the user’s body develops mechanisms to compensate for the bodily chemical imbalances resulting from the drug use. Physical dependence is characterized by the incidence of withdrawal symptoms in the event that the use is discontinued while psychological dependence is typified by an increased use of the drug, yearning, and a tendency to return to use after discontinuation. While it is apparent that a number of complicated reasons exist for the abuse of substances such as tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamine, as well as other hard drugs, it is clear that the society pays a considerable cost.

Substance Abuse as a Social Problem

People abuse substances such as tobacco, alcohol, and drugs for diverse and complex reasons. However, it is obvious that the society pays a considerable cost. With respect to illicit substances, the society has established that their use is detrimental, and has placed legal proscriptions on their use to protect individuals and the society from the cost associated with crime, homelessness, the proliferation of diseases, lost productivity, and healthcare resources (Kuhar, 2012, p. 8). The toll for substance abuse is visible in hospitals, as well as in emergency departments through the direct harm to health occasioned by drug abuse and its connection to physical trauma. Prisons and correctional facilities are a pointer to the strong connection between crime and substance dependence and abuse. The possible connection between crime and drug use is a major social concern. Whole the notion that marijuana and opioid drugs can occasion violent criminality in those who use them has been largely discredited, opioid users appear to engage in criminal actions mainly to get money but not because the consumption of such drugs make them more criminal. However, alcohol is among the drugs that are broadly accepted as contributing to violence and crime. Even though the use of some substances such as cocaine is on the decline, the use of others such as “club drugs” and heroin has increased.

In the United States, and indeed in most parts of the world, the abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs has proven to be a serious health problem, burdening the health care system, straining the economy, and leading to health complications and deaths of millions of people. Presently, substance abuse causes more disabilities, illnesses, and fatalities than any other avertable health condition. Social and economic crimes, such as premature deaths, the spread of diseases, the significant loss of productivity, are affected by alcohol and substance abuse. Juveniles and young people are experimenting with alcohol, tobacco, and drugs at very tender ages. Indeed, attitudes towards the use of drugs, as well as patterns of alcohol, drug, and tobacco use are frequently established during the formative years (Kuhar, 2012, p. 8). Considerable changes in the awareness of drugs occur between the ages of twelve and thirteen. Abused substances often produce some kind of intoxication, which alters perception, attention, judgment, or physical control. The addicts are often not able to function as normal societal members and, therefore, abuse or neglect their families, and eventually require costly medication or hospitalization.

Implications of Substance Abuse

The abuse of prescription drugs, as well as illicit drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana can inflict serious damages to both the abuser and the society. Domestic violence, crime, accidents, illnesses, reduced productivity, and lost opportunity are some direct consequences of drug abuse. Alcohol and drug abuse by juveniles is frequently associated with other kinds of unproductive, unhealthy behavior such as high-risk sexual activity and delinquency. The greatest cost of substance abuse arises from the loss of human lives, either through direct overdose, or through diseases related to drug abuse such as hepatitis, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS. IDUs (injection drug users) are the most exposed group in acquiring STIs. Each IDU individual infected with hepatitis C is likely to infect twenty people. In the United States, of the 17,000 new hepatitis C infections in 2010, more than fifty-three percent occurred among IDUs (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014, p. 1). Moreover, crimes committed by drug addicts to sustain their addiction, traffic accidents occasioned by drug-impaired and alcohol-impaired drivers, and the resources used in the apprehension, sentencing, incarcerating, and treating addicts are a burden that the society must meet.

Individual Implications of Substance Abuse

Close to 12.8 million people (six percent) in the United States aged twelve and older are using illicit drugs (Chambliss, 2011, p. 172). Drug use grinds down human potential and is often associated with antisocial behavior that may act to limit children from the early years of their lives. Juveniles who start using marijuana during early stages of their lives are likely to drop out of school and engage in vandalism, violence, theft, and other high-risk activities compared to children who do not use marijuana. In addition, adult addicts of marijuana are likely to progress to harder drugs such as the later use of heroin and cocaine. Health problems may impair the individual’s life and preclude any productive or gainful employment, lead to a diminished quality of life, and may endanger survival. Disease, dysfunction, and disability are obviously other possible individual implications of substance abuse. By the time IDUs would have engaged in drug injections for five years, they would have increased their possibility of being infected with HIV or hepatitis C by between fifty and eighty percent (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014, p. 1). Moreover, deaths resulting from drug abuse are also a concern. Substances frequently associated with deaths related to drug abuse include heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, and barbiturates. However, hallucinogens, benzodiazepines, and cannabis are less often implicated. Chronic use of other drugs such as tobacco presents greater risks of damage to the lungs.

Societal Implications of Substance Abuse

The family has often been viewed as the primary source of strength offering nurturance and support to its members, as well as guaranteeing generational continuity and stability for the society. The fast-paced social, technological, and economic changes provide significant challenges to the influence and stability of the family. Women who do not use drugs can be affected by crises related to drug addicted men. The problems with drug using partners may affect women through violence, economic insecurity, difficulties in interpersonal relationships, child abuse, the risk of STIs, instability, and deprivation of schooling (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014, p. 1). Addictive substances such as solvents, alcohol, and tobacco are among the most crucial health-related decisions that the society must undertake collectively. In many cases, prolonged use of tobacco is already among the greatest causes of premature deaths. In addition, alcohol and drugs are also among the causes of disability and disease. The negative effects of substance abuse does not stop with the individuals involved; the society also suffer indirectly  due to passive smoking, drunk driving, fires, as well as drug related violence and crime.

The formative years in life are especially a vulnerable time. The effects of substance abuse on the development of the fetus, as well as the degree of maternal drug abuse are associated with developmental attributes and obstetric complications for the fetus. The impacts of an unsound fetal life can projected over into childhood. Children damaged by maternal substance abuse place immense burden on the already stretched systems of public education and pediatric health care (Van & Thyer, 2010, p. 3). Some forms of damage, especially to impulse control and cognitive function, will tend to heighten crime rates as the children approach adolescence and young adulthood. The future workmates, schoolmates, and the neighbors of the damaged child will bear some of the cost of the maternal substance abuse. Aside from the express consequences, the children taken from, or deserted by, drug-addicted parents also imply a substantial social cost. The most extensively used addictive substances such as tobacco; alcohol, marijuana, as well as other hard drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin are detrimental and cause far-reaching consequences to the family, individual, and the society.

Interventions for Preventing Substance Use

Interventions for Preventing Substance Use

Interventions for Preventing Substance Use

Interventions in Preventing Substance Abuse

Considerable progress has been attained in developing prevention intervention programs for drug addicts. Current terminology for cataloguing interventions incorporates a range of care that comprises prevention, treatment, and maintenance.

Interventions for Preventing Substance Use

Interventions for Preventing Substance Use

Interventions for Preventing Substance Use

Interventions for Preventing Substance Use

School-Based Interventions

Schools have often been the focus of interventions to prevent adolescent drug abuse. School-based efforts are adequate because they provide access to more students. Moreover, substance abuse is viewed as incompatible with the objectives of educating the youth. Nonetheless, a number of initial attempts had previously been ineffective because they focused principally on lecturing students on the perils and long-term consequences of drug abuse. Some programs employed fear-arousal techniques meant to sensationalize the dangers of substance abuse. Contemporary methods of school-based prevention include social resistance training skills, competence enhancement skills training, and social resistance skills. Social resistance training refer to interventions structured with the aim of improving the awareness of adolescents of the different social influences that sustain substance use, as well as imparting specific skills for resisting media and peer pressure to drink, smoke, or use other illicit drugs (Leukefeld, Gullotta & Staton-Tindall, 2010, p. 198). Competence enhancement programs acknowledge the importance of social learning processes in the advancement of drug use in teenagers and adolescents. In addition, such programs acknowledge that youth with poor social and personal skills are more vulnerable to influences that encourage drug use. Normative education approaches comprise activities and content aimed at correcting erroneous perceptions with respect to the high occurrence of substance abuse.

Students who have been exposed to school-based interventions reveal a significantly reduced tendency to drink, use tobacco, marijuana, methamphetamine, and other drugs.

Alternative Development

In responding to poor people producing plants for drugs, infrastructure development is necessary. However, by itself, improvement of infrastructure is not adequate for successful alternative development. Projects aimed at eliminating illicit drug crops such as marijuana and opium poppy, as well as other plants from which drugs are derived assist farmers in finding alternatives. Following the expansion of infrastructure, development will depend upon the suppressing of drug production and the enhancement of productivity and sustained income for the farmers. The access to productive resources and such as inputs, services, and markets can be facilitated through coordinated agricultural development. Credit facilities, training, and extension services to farmers are important. The promotion of alternative development helps in reducing or purging the dependence by farmers on illicit crops. A negative consequence of this alternative response includes recurrence of production in areas where it had been purged, as well as the emergence of illicit growing in neighboring areas through opportunistic expansion of production.


It is imperative to reduce the growing trend in production and abuse of psychotropic substances. People engage in substance abuse to alter their feelings, thoughts, or behavior. Addicts range from college students, to street children, white-collar professionals, the homeless, suburban teenagers, and even rural farmers. Substance abuse can cause harm in a number of ways, including the immediate effects, as well as the long-term damage to health. The use of psychoactive substances affects the normal functioning of body, which can cause serious damage in the long term.



Chambliss, W. J. (2011). Crime and Criminal Behavior. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE         Publications.

Kuhar, M. J. (2012). The Addicted Brain: Why we Abuse Drugs, Alcohol, and Nicotine. Upper       Saddle River, NJ: FT Press.

Leukefeld, C. G., Gullotta, T. P., & Staton-Tindall, M. (2010). Adolescent Substance Abuse:         Evidence-Based Approaches to Prevention and Treatment. New York, NY: Springer.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Why does Heroin use Create Special risk for      Contracting HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B and C?. Retrieved from          special-risk-contracting-hivaids-hepatitis-b-c

Ruiz, P., Strain, E. C., & Lowinson, J. H. (2011). Lowinson and Ruiz’s Substance Abuse: A           Comprehensive Textbook. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams     & Wilkins.

Van, W. K. S., & Thyer, B. A. (2010). Evidence-Based Practice in the Field of Substance Abuse: A Book of Readings. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.