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Drug Addiction and Society

Drug addiction continues to be a major concern for society, and the concern grows with every passing year. As drug and alcohol addiction ruin lives of those most closely affected, but society at large suffers from addiction's rippling effects. The following article explains the effects of drug addiction on individuals, families, neighborhoods, and society overall.  Drug addiction's debilitating effects range from financial, to functional, to emotional and should by no means be taken lightly.

Drug Addiction and Society

Drug addiction and alcoholism are diseases that damage addicts, their families, communities, the economy, and society. Drug addiction has a dreadfully widespread reach: from dealing with unpredictable and often dangerous addicts at home to the staggering expenses incurred by individuals and societies as a whole. With the population of addicts rising and younger average age of addicts, society’s is grappling with a grave matter. Drug addiction is no longer limited to the poor and underprivileged; society can no longer choose to look away.

Nowadays, drug addiction is much discussed thanks to legally prescribed and over-the-counter medications being administered to society’s brightest, richest, and most respected icons. These drugs, however, show up on the nightlife scene, on school campuses, and at PTA meetings and soccer games — picked from the medicine cabinet at home, not dealt a street corner. The legality and acceptability of these drugs have turned their abuse into a devastating epidemic, not to mention the millions of people already addicted to alcohol and other illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines.

According to the National Library of Medicine, an estimated 20% of Americans have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons.(1) NLM also attributes the rise of prescription drug abuse to doctors overly prescribing these medications and online pharmacies as culprits. This kind of drug addiction is a major contributor to the rising costs of emergency department admissions from overdoses and complications: The Drug Abuse Warning Network recently reported that benzodiazepines (Alprazolam, Lorazepam, Clonazepam, and Diazepam) and pain killers (Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and Morphine) are the two most frequently reported prescription medications in ER cases.(2) When these statistics are added to those of the already staggeringly high numbers from heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine abuse in society, we are faced with overwhelming facts that only begin to illustrate the power of addiction.

Why is Drug Addiction So Devastating?

Drug and alcohol addiction is a progressive and insidious disease that creeps up on individuals; unfortunately most addicts don’t recognize the problem until addiction has completely taken over. The signs are so subtle and easily overlooked that millions of people today are struggling with addictions and don’t even realize that they are on a dangerously slippery slope. An addict is not only “that other guy” who’s lost everything in his life because of addiction.

  • Addicts are also the people who have a drink everyday, even though they never get drunk.
  • Addicts are people who use drugs everyday but still manage to work and carry on with their lives, maintaining a “nice buzz.”
  • Addicts are not only those who use cocaine everyday, but also those who vacillate between cocaine, pills, ecstasy, tranquilizers, marijuana, alcohol, and any other drug.

Addiction is a very clever brain disease that convinces addicts that they need drugs and alcohol to function, despite negative consequences. Addiction is a disease that turns the human brain into a dangerous killer, constantly giving excuses and justification for drug and alcohol abuse. For this reason, addiction is one of the most devastating diseases plaguing our society. Addicts can’t see it until they’ve lost control, and even then, addiction continues to drive the destructive behavior associated with the disease. Despite trips to the emergency department for alcohol poisoning, complications from multiple drug interactions, drug overdoses, and drug and alcohol related-accidents, addicts will continue their abuse because while they remain unaware addiction has already taken hold.

In many social circles, drug and alcohol abuse are not only acceptable, but encouraged, giving addiction a huge window of opportunity. It's impossible to know when recreational drug and alcohol use will become an addiction, since its onset is not immediate. The progression of addiction in itself is subtle and grows with each individual’s tolerance and continued use of one or multiple substances. Although many who use drugs and alcohol recreationally do not become addicts, millions more do, and a large majority of those people never see it coming. With the socially acceptable nature of alcohol and many drugs in our society, the availability and abuse of these substances has grown to alarming rates. From prescriptions for almost any real or made-up condition to club drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, GHB, and Katamine, drugs have become a permanent fixture in our world.

The more an unsuspecting addict gets away with drug and alcohol abuse, the more indestructible they feel, thinking they will never be caught or get a DUI. These things never happen to anyone – until they happen. The Bureau of Justice reports an estimated 1,841,200 drug-related arrests for adults 18 years and older in 2007, up from 1,008,300 in 1990.(3) These numbers have been on a steady incline since 1970 and will more than likely continue to do so with the wide availability of both legal and illegal drugs. Addiction is a very serious problem and the most disturbing of all facts associated with addiction is that the disease is subtly progressive and more often than not, undetectable by its victims until life is completely out of control, riddled with disparity, financial hardships, arrests, instability — a deep dark hole with a hard climb ahead.

With such devastating consequences, it would seem logical to not take the risk for addiction in the first place. However, despite the vast amounts of information available about addiction and the dangers therein, our society remains disturbingly more focused on the temporary enjoyment of drug and alcohol abuse rather than the permanently devastating depression and damage caused by drug and alcohol addiction.

The Impact of Drug Addiction on Society

According to NIDA, drug and alcohol addiction has an economic impact on society of $67 billion per year. NIDA also states that getting treatment can reduce these costs as addiction treatment centers and programs help addicts to learn to live a sober life, freeing them from the behavioral problems associated with drug addiction and alcoholism. Drug and alcohol addiction-related costs include:

  • Crimes and incarceration
  • Drug addiction treatment
  • Medical costs from overdoses
  • Drug-related injuries and complications
  • Time lost from work
  • Social welfare programs.

Because drug addiction and alcoholism are diseases of the brain, which is the center of judgment and behavioral patterns, drug addicts and alcoholics have a disturbingly high propensity to commit unlawful and immoral acts to obtain these substances. Moreover, once under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the addict’s inhibitions are drastically lowered with a sense of indestructibility, which leads to aggressive and irresponsible behavior. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 17,941 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2006, a 2.4% increase from 2005.(4)

Drug addiction is also one of the fastest ways to spread the HIV virus, through the sharing of needles and other drug paraphernalia. It is also spread through just using drugs, because the drug impairs a person's judgment. This can cause people to make bad decisions and participate in dangerous sexual activities with an infected individual. According to the NIDA, drug abuse is now the single-largest factor in the spread of HIV in the United States. NIDA states that from 1998 to 2003, an estimated 240,000+ AIDS diagnoses were due to the use of injecting drugs. There is evidence to suggest that drug treatment programs can help reduce the spread of this and other blood-borne infections through successful rehabilitation for addicts to abstain from drug use, thus reducing reckless behavior leading to the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Although many organizations have amassed countless survey results and miles of pages of data relating to the effects of drug addiction and alcoholism on society, this information cannot even begin to scratch the surface of the devastation and hopelessness felt by addicts and their families on a daily bases. When a family is struck with addiction, the effects go far beyond numbers and statistics. The emotions of failure, depression, anger, disparity, confusion, and sheer terror that addiction inflicts on its victims and their families is not something any statistic can accurately describe. Every day, millions of people struggle with addiction and millions more watch with feelings of hopelessness, as addiction coldly and systematically destroys lives. With informative websites like Treatment Centers and others, we do all we can to educate the public on addiction. But most will tell you that until you go through it, or watch a loved one go through it, there is no way to fully encompass the true effects of drug addiction and alcoholism.

Other Helpful Resources:

Alcoholics Victorious
The Impact of Alcohol Abuse on Society

American Council for Drug Education
The American Council for Drug Education is a substance-abuse prevention and education agency that develops programs and materials based on the most current scientific research on drug use and its impact on society.

PAD Treatment
Treatment for PAD

HIV and Drug Use
NIDA Infofacts on HIV/AIDS

Genetics and Health
Drug Addiction and Blog of the Week: US Drug Rehab Centers By Hsien Hsien Lei, PhD, Harvard.edu

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