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Drug and substance abuse is the use of a drug for purposes that are not medical but instead for enjoyment purposes. A drug is any substance that alters the normal functioning of the body (Singer et al., 1992). Drug and substance abuse is a social problem because it is harmful to the individuals who take the drugs, their families and friends, and to the society at large. The abuse of drugs is caused by macro factors like unemployment and micro factors like depression. Drug abuse makes the drug users dependent on the community both physically, emotionally, and mentally. When a person uses a drug for some time, they risk becoming addicted to the drug. Drug addiction is a result of changes to the brain due to the pleasure in taking the medication. The number of drug users in the world keeps increasing every day, with a majority of them being the youth. The abuse of drugs is a menace to society at large, and it should be eradicated both at an individual level and macro level.
Societal Perception of Drug Abuse
From a Micro-level perspective, drug abuse is seen as a way of coping with the problems these individuals face in their lives. The issues may include low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, not having a clear idea of their identity, and feeling that they do not fit in the society. As a result of the ‘failure,’ these individuals find themselves seeking comfort in drugs. Drug abuse is also perceived as a result of the individuals failing to achieve goals set indirectly by society for its members (Goode, 2011). Drug abusers may also object to cultural purposes, thus seek the comfort of drugs to compensate for their failure.
On a macro-level drug and substance abuse is perceived as the end product of macro factors like unemployment and inequalities in the community. Here, the influence of the rest of the society on drug abuse and the media plays a part in drug and substance abuse. When the media advertises the use of certain drugs like alcohol and tobacco, they influence society, mostly the young generation to use these drugs.
Effects of Drug Abuse
Drug and substance abuse affects not only drug users but also the ones close to them like family and friends. Different drugs alter the functioning of the body in different ways. Therefore, the effects of drug abuse depend on the type of drugs that an individual is using. Generally, drugs affect the bodies of the individuals by causing side effects like lack of sleep, chronic diseases like liver cirrhosis for addicts of alcohol, and mental disorders like depression and anxiety. Drug and alcohol abuse affects the relationships of the addicts to their families and friends. Drug abusers tend to become dependent on the people close to them. For example, children of drug abusers are more likely to take care of their young siblings due to the absenteeism of their parents. In the case where the parent is a drug abuser, they will most likely leave most of the parental roles to the parent.
Drug abuse is the leading cause of child neglect and child abuse. That is because drug addicts are more concerned about the drugs than anything else, including their children. Children of drug addicts lack emotional support from their parents and are more likely to become addicts when they become adults. Mothers who take drugs like narcotics when they are pregnant risk making their unborn children addicts of the specific drugs which they used. Families that have drug addicts are more likely to have disputes compared to the ones that do not have addicts.
The use of drugs increases the rates of poverty and homelessness in society. Addicts of drugs are more likely to get sacked from their lace of work. This is because drug addiction increases laziness, thus reducing the productivity of these individuals. Therefore, employers prefer having workers who do not use drugs. Drugs alter the judgment of people; thus, drug addicts are more likely to make mistakes in the work (Goode, 2011). These mistakes can be detrimental to them and to the organization that employs them. Inevitable mistakes will cost them their jobs. Drugs impair the judgment of users, therefore, affecting the decision-making process of these individuals. As a result of drug and alcohol abuse, the rates of crime and violence in society escalate. Increased crime in society means that more funds are needed to reduce the rates of crime by funding law enforcement agencies and collection centers.
The government has put in place laws and policies meant to reduce drug addiction. These policies have had a direct effect on the people selling, distributing, and using illicit drugs. However, the war on the use of drugs cannot be won by using law enforcement agencies only. That is because the policies criminalize the use of drugs but fail to deal with the root of the problem. However, religious organizations have put in place various strategies to help addicts become clean. They support drug addicts by financing them for rehabilitation centers. The effects of drug abuse are taught in educational institutions; that way, children and adults know the dangers of engaging in drug abuse. However, more have to be done because the rates of drug abuse continue to increase at a worrying rate.
Age and Drug Abuse
Drug abuse spreads across all age brackets from adolescents to the elderly. The age of an individual affects the drug that an individual is likely to use. In general, drug addiction begins during the adolescent stage or in the early stages of adulthood (Nachman, 1986). The young generation is expected to engage in illicit drugs like marijuana and alcohol. Most people experiment on the use of drugs at this age in their schools or at home. Most of the young people take drugs due to pressure from their peers. Others take drugs because a member of their family is also a drug user. Their parent and teachers should advise adolescents about the dangers of drug and substance abuse.
Young adulthood is a stage that is affected by drug abuse most. Young adulthood involves beginning a new chapter in life. They have just completed their studies and have left their homes and settled alone. Therefore, they are met with the challenge of starting a new life away from the people they know and with more responsibilities (Nachman, 1986). As a result of this pressure, young adults are more likely to seek the comfort of drugs and alcohol. Young adults also have more exposure to drugs and alcohol than adolescents.
In adulthood, most of the drug abusers are those people who previously used drugs or those starting to use drugs. The commonly abused drug by adults is alcohol and prescription drugs. The use of cigarettes is more common in adults than it is in adolescents. The ones who start using drugs at this stage are more likely to abuse prescription drugs more than they are likely to harm illicit drugs.
In older adults, drug abuse is less experienced. The elderly are more like to abuse alcohol, antidepressants, and prescription drugs like sedatives and pain killers. The elderly usually struggle with issues like the loss of a loved one, isolation from the rest community, and retirement. For example, men who have lost their wives are more likely to struggle with drug abuse than those who still have their wives. The elderly may abuse drugs as a result of preexisting health conditions.
Sex/Gender and Drug Abuse Although the abuse of drugs affects, both genders males are affected more than females. Not only are men more likely to engage in the trafficking of drugs, but they are also more likely to abuse drugs. Trafficking of drugs is associated with other social problems like sex trafficking and violence, all of which men are more likely to get involved than women. However, according to the UN Women Policy Brief Gender, women are equally or more likely to misuse pharmaceutical drugs (2014). However, in the younger generation, the number of women engaging in drug abuse is much higher.
The societal environment is responsible for the gap between women and men when it comes to drug abuse. The women who use drugs are judged more harshly by the people in the community compared to men. Due to the stigma, women are less likely to seek help after abusing drugs. To women, drug addiction is associated with unwanted pregnancies or child neglect. The use of some drugs affects the fertility of women negatively or even endanger the lives of an unborn child (Singer et al., 1992). Cocaine increases the chances of having preterm birth births for women.
According to the UN Women Policy Brief Gender, women are more likely to have a difficult time when trying to stop abusing drugs (2014). They are even more likely to get back to their old habits after having quit taking drugs. When it comes to drug trafficking, women take smaller roles like transporting the drugs in their bodies. The men who are the ones in higher positions in drug gangs receive less punishment than the ones who are involved in trafficking the drugs, mostly women. In the case of family disputes, female drug addicts usually carry the blame more than male addicts. Men are more likely to buy drugs for pleasure purposes, while women are more likely to use drugs for meditation.
Drug addiction is a problem affecting the whole community, and it should be dealt with regardless of gender. The first step to helping a drug addict is them, acknowledging that they need help from their addictions (NIDA, 2019). However, in men asking for help due to substance abuse is much harder. As a result, they miss out on chances for them to deal with their addictions simply because they feel that they do not need the help. Drug addicts need extra help with the recovery process. They need to be supported by the community by helping them feel wanted and giving them purpose in life. Treatment for addicts should not only focus on medications but for any disorders that they may have due to drug addiction. For recovering drug addicts facing imprisonment, they should be given the best possible treatment to help them improve.
In conclusion, drug and substance abuse is a social problem because it affects not only drug addicts but the whole community. Drug abuse is associated with other social issues like homelessness, violence, and crime. Drug abuse is caused by personal factors like low self-esteem and macro factors like unemployment and inequalities. Drug abuse is shared across all the age brackets. The most affected gender is male. However, females are more likely to get addicted to drug abuse. The society is more judgmental to female drug abusers than it is to men. Recovering drug addicts need the support of the community to help them feel wanted, thus preventing them from relapsing.
Goode, E. (2011). The Sociology of Drug Use. 21st Century sociology. 42, 415-424. Retrieved from https://edge.sagepub.com/system/files/Ballantine5e_6.2SK_0.pdf
Nachman, B., (1986). The Sociology of Moral Panics: Toward A New Synthesis. The Sociological Quarterly, 27:4, 495-513, DOI: 10.1111/j.1533-8525.1986.tb00274.x
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). 2020, (2019, June). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction Drug Facts- A Research-Based Guide. Facts. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction on 2020, July 13
Singer, L., Farkas, K., & Kliegman, R. (1992). Childhood medical and behavioral consequences of maternal cocaine use. Journal of pediatric psychology, 17(4), 389–406. https://doi.org/10.1093/jpepsy/17.4.389
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