In the current world, drug and alcohol abuse has become a common problem that impacts not only on the abusers, but also the society as a whole. Some of these drugs are intended to treat some diseases to improve the health of the public. Scientists spend a substantial amount of time in their laboratories to try and discover, develop, test, and manufacture new medications, which sometimes pose a threat to the society. However, most of people always think of illicit substances such as the ones that are illegally peddled and sold in many areas for recreational purposes once the word drugs come into one’s mind. Some of these illegal drugs include cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, heroin, and inhalants of different types. However, one should consider that even legal medications can be used for health purposes, but their abuse can result in devastating consequences.
When people get sick, they seek healthcare services, and providers of care prescribe the medications to treat the health conditions at hand. According to Silbergeld, it is evident that the scientists create drugs for medical reasons such as treating diseases, but consumers tend to violate the prescriptions and end up abusing medications. Substance abuse is the patterned and unwarranted consumption of any drug in a manner that is not medically approved by healthcare professionals. Addiction occurs when the problem persists to a level that an individual cannot maintain normal body functioning without the use of the medication. Drug abuse negatively influences the core structure of the society including such aspects as development of law-violating behavior, destabilization of families, reducing human productivity, and corrupting trustworthy of the government officials. When abused, the drugs affect the way people think and react to normal life situations that results in the display of the mentioned effects. Due to the adverse influence of abusing non-prescribed medications and illicit drugs, I declare that drug and substance abuse is a social problem that negatively impacts on an individual, his or her family, and the community as a whole.
Effects of Drug Abuse on Drug Users
Most abused drugs affect the brain in a manner that brings euphoria to the users motivating them to repeat the behavior over and over resulting in addiction. The drugs influence the reward circuit of the brain by flooding it with high levels of dopamine. This reward system regulates the ability of the body to feel pleasure and motivates individuals to repeat actions that enhance euphoria. Overuse of drugs overstimulates the reward circuit system with high levels of pleasure, which compels people to become drug addicts. The National Institute of Drug Abuse further explains that these drugs reduce the production of natural dopamine in the brain making individuals feel less pleasure than when they take drugs, compelling them to continue taking them so as to sustain the euphoria. The long-term use of these drugs affects individuals resulting in impairments in learning, judgment, memory, decision making, and other activities.
The use of drugs also causes poor health among the abusers. One of the main conditions associated with this unhealthy behavior is HIV/AIDS. Some of the addicts share needles to inject drugs into their blood streams, which is one of the common ways of transmitting the infection from one user to the other. Additionally, drug abuse predisposes people to engage in unsafe sex, which is risky, because it enhances HIV transmission between partners and other people, and is the most common way through which the virus is transmitted. Furthermore, the abuse of drugs results in severe mental health disorders that incapacitate the addicts. Some of the conditions are drug induced psychosis and drug dependence syndrome among many others. Although these disorders affect the abusers, their families and the entire community bear huge burden including financial aspect (paying for treating addicts), emotional elements (the loss of friends and relatives dying of the diseases caused by their addiction), and other effects.
Effects of Drug Abuse on Families
Families of the drug abusers are main victims of this unhealthy behavior. Addiction to alcohol and many other substances plunges the addicts into homelessness, poverty, crime, and finally jail. If the drug abusers are sole breadwinners, their families suffer from drug abusive behaviors to a level that they may lack even the basic needs. Children may lack the necessary resources to help them acquire a formal education resulting in increased school dropout rates, which is a major concern for the society, because the illiteracy in the community is a hub for major problems like crime and poverty. The stress the family goes through because of drug abuse is significant enough to cause unhealthy interaction and functioning of the family unit. The same families work hard to detach their loved ones from addictive behaviors through seeking and finding counseling services, trying to find them jobs, and preventing them from hanging out in social events that could exacerbate their conduct. Such a thing depletes the enormous family resources that could have been used in advancing other important family issues such as buying basic or even luxurious items, taking children to school, and opening family businesses.
On the same line, the menace of drug abuse is like a disease that affects one of the family members resulting in a ‘sick’ family, since the whole family is like a system in which if part of the system is unhealthy, then the system malfunctions. Other than being expensive to provide treatment and rehabilitation of victims against drug abusers, the emotional impact of these substances can result in depression among other mental health challenges. The family can also be affected by these mental effects resulting in depression of some of the members. Drug abuse may also predispose the victims to suicidal thoughts and attempts, something that puts at risk their lives and the emotional wellbeing of the family members. Committing suicide further results in the family loss of a loved one, which is challenging both financially and emotionally. Getting drugs is not only difficult but also expensive, which predisposes the victims to unethical behaviors such as stealing or robbing others. Such a thing is dangerous to their lives as well as those of their families. Family members of drug abusers may be arrested or even receive retaliations from the community due to the harmful behaviors of their addictive relatives.
Moreover, children and other members of the family can become victims of drug abuse once the behavior is introduced by one of the family members. In most cases, children learn through interaction and observation of individuals around them. Conyers explains that children whose parents or siblings abuse drugs and alcohol are at an increased risk of indulging in the same behavior, because they are likely to emulate it. The victims mostly come with their drugs to their homes, and their young relatives may regard substance use as something that is pleasant. Such a thing can motivate the children to use drugs so as to explore the feelings their parents or older siblings acquire. The availability of these substances in homes is also a risk factor, because children can easily access them resulting in their subsequent abuse.
Effects of Drug Abuse on the Society
Drug abuse has major negative effects on the society. First, it costs the community a lot of financial resources that could have been used to enhance economic growth and development. According to Hanson, the society pays immeasurable costs of drug abuse because it results in broken homes, increased drug-related health conditions, loss of lives, and loss of productive minds from different industries and professions. Such a thing indirectly undermines economic growth by depriving various sectors of the economy of productive individuals. The costs of buying the drugs impact on the economy to a great extent as well. The National Institute on Drug Abuse approximated that the expenditure on any typical narcotic habit per user is around $100 every day, depending on the location and availability of the narcotic among many other factors. If the abused drugs can cost about $100 in a single day, then one user requires $36,500 every year to maintain their supply, since the addicts need them every single day. This figure is huge given that the entire society has many abusers. Such amounts of wasted money negatively impact on the economy.
The sum of money that drug addicts require to sustain the supply of these harmful substances compels them to engage in criminal activities, which are equally detrimental to the society. It is hard to legally get massive amounts of money to advance addictive drug behaviors except through resorting to offenses or working for or as drug dealers. Most crimes that emanate from drugs abuse involve theft of property, especially shoplifting and burglary, assault, and robbery. Estimates show that an addict of heroin must steal between three to five times the actual costs of this drug to maintain the abusive conduct, which is approximate $100,000 every year. These criminal behaviors increase insecurity in the community, and many people may end up losing lives because of the effects of crime. Other may be injured by the criminals who abuse drugs. Therefore, other than losing massive amounts of money, drugs abuse results in the physical harm and death of many people who come in contact with addicts engaging in criminal activities.
Substance abuse also deprives the society of productive individuals through incarceration, because the behavior of drug addicts predisposes them to committing crimes resulting in their arrest and imprisonment. That notwithstanding, the costs of incarcerating them is an economic loss to the community, since it involves huge amounts of money to keep and rehabilitate the inmates. 32% of the state and more than 26% of the federal prison convicts were arrested because they committed crimes under the influence of drugs, and 44% of those incarcerated in state prisons and 32% in federal prisons committed drug-related offenses. Through the payment of taxes, the society pays for the incarceration of drug-related criminals that include drug dealers, users, and addicts, since it takes between $75 and $1500 per day to keep one such criminal in prison. Supporting programs for these inmates are equally expensive. New York officials approximate that the costs of methadone maintenance are $3,000 per year for one patient, and the society is the sole payer of this amount through paying taxes. These expenses do not include the costs of staff. Therefore, drug abusive behaviors cost the society huge amounts of money through incarceration of drug-related criminals.
Substance abuse is also associated with the rampant prostitution occurring in the society. Many crack and heroin users resort to prostitution and pimping. Dalla explains that other than predisposing individuals to prostitutions, drug abuse puts prostitutes at risk of becoming victims of crimes, since more than 60% of the commercial sex workers are sexually assaulted. Most of the street prostitutes are in this business so that they can support their drug abusive behaviors, since it is a source of income. The sex workers are also vulnerable to crimes such as rape and assaults, but due to the nature of the business, most of these criminal acts go unreported. The cost of prostitution is also high for the society. Although there are no accurate figures, the cost of drug-related prostitution is estimated to be between $10 and $20 billion annually. 75% of all the prostitutes in the main cities have severe drug dependencies. These costs are huge and stagnate economic growth and development, because these amounts of money could be spent on creating employment opportunities, starting businesses as well as financing various sectors of the economy to improve education and alleviate poverty in the society.
Drug abuse is associated with social, economic, and health problems both to the users and the community as a whole. The drugs affect the reward circuit system of the brain by enhancing the provision of dopamine to achieve high levels of euphoria. This results in addiction, which subsequently impairs the normal functions of the brain. The use of abusive drugs also increases the likelihood of developing diseases such as HIV/AIDS and mental health conditions. The negative impact on the society is immeasurable. The use of these drugs impoverishes the community, because individuals spend massive amounts of money to buy the drugs instead of using the funds on important things that can help alleviate poverty. Treating the addicts also denies the economy financial resources for growth and development yet they are unproductive to the society. Incarceration of drug-related criminals costs the society much money. Crime and prostitution are also an outcome of substance abuse.