Substance abuse is excessive use of an addictive substance mainly drugs and alcohol. Overindulgence induces abnormal physiological, behavioral and cognitive tendencies characterized by a strong desire to take the drug or alcohol. It is not easy to understand why people become addicted to drugs or alcohol. The assumption is always that the person who has a substance abuse problem is one who does not have the principles or the moral inclination to resist. They will be often judged that they cannot make the decisions to quit the habit or change the behavior that is detrimental to their well being (Feldman, 1969). This paper seeks to closely examine motivations for substance and drug abuse; and the physiological and psychological effects.
The reality is that the effects of drug or alcohol abuse are very severe and one develops a complex problem of drugs or alcohol dependency such that they are not able to quit without help from those around them. The effects of drugs is that they alter the normal functioning of the brain and this in turn makes it hard for the person addicted to them to quit. Advances in medical sciences have now shown that it is possible for the person to get help and be cured of drug and/or alcohol addictions and go on to lead normal and productive lives (Feldman, 1969).
Feldman (1969) points out that it is possible for people to use drugs and consume alcohol without having a negative consequence especially when taken in moderation. For others this is not the situation. This is especially when they use drugs or alcohol as a remedy to an underlying problems in their lives. The numbness they get from these substances is only temporary and in many cases it makes the situation worse. The use of drugs or alcohol as a means to escape from other underlying problems will only serve to temporarily make the person forget their problems but they will still be there. Instead of solving their issues, drugs or alcohol abuse will only add on new feelings of hopelessness, isolation, shame and guilt.
Bellenir (2002) argues that people who try out drugs for the first time, do so for recreation, curiosity, and peer pressure from their friends or those around their environment, to enhaunce performance in their places of work, ease stressful situations, and a number of other reasons. First use of the drugs does not automatically lead to one becoming addicted. The process of addiction is less about the frequency that one is consuming the drugs or the amount of drugs being taken. If the reasons for which one is consuming the drugs that will bring on the consequences and subsequent addiction
It is notable that some people will be addicted to drugs and others may not. The reasons for this include; family history of addiction, traumatic experiences such as abuse and neglect may lead the victim to rely on drugs for comfort, mental anxiety and method of administration has also be seen to increase the likelihood of addiction (Bellenir, 2002).
Drug abuse and alcoholism can sneak up on a person without them realizing that they have become reliant on it. It is important to look out for the warning signs and cut back on the consumption. The warning signs include hiding your drinking habits, experiencing blackouts and not recalling what you did the day or the night before, drinking more than you unusually do, feelings of shame after drinking. Substance and alcohol use is wide spread in many cultures and the effects will differ from one person to the next (Feldman, 1969).
Substance and alcohol abuse have various Psychological and Physiological effects on users. One of the most common impacts of substance abuse is the emerging health problems associated with it. Drugs are essentially chemicals being introduced not our bodies and unlike prescribed medication illegal drugs are used for recreation purposes and many times are consumed in dangerously high doses. Prolonged use of these drugs will weaken the immune system of the user and it renders them susceptible to all manner of infections (Bellenir, 2002).
Substance abuse can also cause cardiovascular ailments such as heart attacks and abnormal heart rates. This is brought about by collapsed veins and infections to the blood vessels especially for those who use drugs by injecting themselves. The liver in the body has the function of cleaning out toxins and persons who consume drugs and alcohol in high doses will make it hard for the liver to work to rid the body of these toxins and it may eventually lead to liver damage or overall failure (Feldman, 1969).
Substance abuse will lead to users suffering from seizures, stroke, and brain damage. Many users are likely to suffer from episodes of overdose and this has adverse effects on the brain, affecting their decision making capacity. The brain damage is either permanent or temporal (Bellenir, 2002).
Pregnant mothers who overconsume alcohol or abuse drugs pose a risk to their unborn children. Nearly 4% of the pregnant women in the United States use substances such as marijuana, ecstasy, heroine, amphetamines and cocaine. Many who use these drugs are also alcoholics. These drugs are absorbed into the mothers blood vessels and by extension will find themselves making way to the babys blood vessels. Babies who are exposed to this environment are likely to be born with defects such as severe brain damage or will be underdeveloped. Some of them will be born prematurely and will have chronic problem throughout their lives. Many babies when born suffer from withdrawal symptoms, and if you think seeing an adult addict undergo withdrawal is agonizing, just imagine a helpless baby who has no idea what is going on (Bellenir, 2002).
According to Feldman (1969), substance abuse impairs the ability of the user to make good judgment calls and for this reason pregnant mothers are likely to engage in activities that may put their lives and that of their unborn babies at risk. They may be engaging in unsafe sex exposing them to sexually transmitted infections, and most cases they will not be able to take care of their hygiene or nutritional concerns. The babies will be starved while in the womb as they are not getting the proper nutrition needed and so will be undeveloped and have problems such as stunted growth and other health concerns throughout their lives. It is possible for these children to become addicts themselves later on in life. In severe cases, the unborn babies will die in the womb of their mothers or the pregnancy will be carried to full term but the babes do not survive a day or two.
Substance and Alcohol also causes various psychological disorders to the user. First, substance abusers will exhibit strange behavior such as being increasingly anxious about everything and they are always on the lookout. They will be aggressive to those around them and more so when questioned about their lifestyle choices; they will also be aggressive when they feel frustrated about anything. Many suffer from hallucinations while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and if not looked after, they are likely to cause serious accidents which could be fatal. As seen before, proper judgment is severely affected and this could also lead to them making silly mistakes to more serious ones. We have often heard of cases where a suspected user killed a person(s), or robbed an establishment, stole a car, and assaulted an innocent bystander and so on (Bellenir, 2002).
Most of the automobile accidents deaths have been blamed on the driver being intoxicated at the time. Substance dependants have a high chance of all bad outcomes in many situations such as unintentional accidents or simply falling down staircases, from balconies, on the side walk; to more serious accidents such as car collisions, getting into fights at the slightest provocation, they are also at a higher risk of domestic abuse where husbands will assault their wives and children while drunk or under the influence of drugs. Mothers who are users are also susceptible to violent behavior towards their children and spouses; today, one in four deaths is blamed on alcohol and substance abuse (Bellenir, 2002).
In conclusion, Substance and alcohol abuse leads to addiction, that is prone to relapse and this is the reason a user will continue to be dependent and seek out the drugs or alcohol. All this is despite the harmful consequences that these substances have; they will continue to use them. While the initial decision to take drugs and alcohol is a choice made by the individual, the addiction happens as the normal functioning of the brain are altered and they cannot be able to coherently resist the temptations to purchase and use the drugs.
When suspected of being addicts to drugs or alcohol, family members or those around the user who have the best intentions for them need to check them into a rehab facility. When one is in danger of substance addiction, he or she needs to seek help from those they trust and have their best interests at heart. They need to get out of the situation that had them addicted to drugs and alcohol as this is the only way to ensure they do not fall off the path once they begin their journey to recovery.
It is likely that the friends they had before are also addicts and remaining in their circle will be detrimental to the recovery process, they need to make new friends who are sober and who will be ready to offer the right assistance. People tend to be influenced by those they hang out with and the same goes for addicts.
Feldman, R. (1969). Drug addiction and drug abuse. Boulder, CO: Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.
Bellenir, K. (2002). Drug information for teens: Health tips about the physical and mental effects of substance abuse. Detroit: Omnigraphics
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