The Impact of Substance Abuse

Wednesday 30th March 2011

Did you know that studies in America have proven that for every US$1 (US dollar) spent on addictions treatment, approximately US$7 was saved through decreased crime, health and welfare costs and gainfully employed recovering people earning a living and paying tax!

This stability and increased income pulls families and communities together. Twenty years of US research has proven that substance abuse treatment is effective in reducing crime, and it improves patients health and ability to function.

A rule of thumb used by addiction treatment consultants is that there are at least 16 people who feel the impact of substance abuse for every person who actually becomes addicted to alcohol and other drugs.  Although this number isn’t backed up by specific research it does seem believable, as we’ll explore shortly. 

Society is negatively affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs in a number of ways; we can see that the impact of substance abuse occurs on the level of personal, community, and larger social environment.

Let us start by looking at the impact of substance abuse on the person who is actually taking the drugs or alcohol.  The most obvious effects are on the body.  Chronic (long-term) abuse of drugs or alcohol can lead to any number of physical problems.  In addition to the direct physical effects the lifestyle of a substance abuser can lead to indirect consequences such as sexually transmitted diseases or malnutrition.

The impact of substance abuse on the mental health of a person abusing drugs or alcohol will vary depending on the particular substance they use.  Lack of sleep and a constant stream of mind altering substances can play havoc on the mind of a person abusing drugs or alcohol.  Some cases of schizophrenia have been associated with the use of hallucinogenic drugs, but research is yet to confirm a direct link.

Alcohol and drugs have a strong effect on work or school performance.  The impact of substance abuse in these areas of life can lead to job loss, expulsion from school, and disciplinary issues.  Increased absenteeism can also result from drug or alcohol use in order to recuperate from a binge session or even to indulge in one.

Although not everyone believes in a spiritual dimension to human existence those that do note that the negative impact of substance abuse in this area of life is tremendous.  The selfish behaviour that accompanies the mental obsession and physical compulsion to get, use and obtain more drugs or alcohol can only be described as destructive to one’s spirit.  People obsess with gratifying their need to use drugs and alcohol and direct their thoughts and actions to this end. 

We’ve seen some of the impacts of substance abuse on the individual but what about the people around the person abusing alcohol or drugs? 

Children growing up in homes where a parent is alcoholic or uses drugs develop a special set of symptoms.  As they grow up they develop what is known as Adult Child of Alcoholic (ACOA) syndrome, a condition which remains with them their whole life.  Extensive therapy and ongoing support can help people living with ACOA, but often they may not know that their problems are related to this condition and so won’t seek professional help.

Living with somebody who abuses substances is difficult.  Their mood will be erratic and they may divert money intended for the household to support their drug or alcohol addiction.  The impact of substance abuse on a marriage is horrendous and is usually grounds for divorce.

There is a distinct impact of substance abuse on society in general.  There is a strain put on the medical system which has to deal with an increased rate of addiction and other diseases associated with substance abuse.  The legal system has to cope with the crimes that accompany drug and alcohol abuse.  The loss of productive members of society is another consequence of substance abuse.

If you feel that the impact of substance abuse on your life is getting out of hand then please take heart.  Independent research by the European Association for the Treatment of Addiction (EATA) has demonstrated that treatment can be effective – that you can reclaim your life from this illness. 

They also found that matching the patient to the appropriate type of treatment leads to better outcomes. If you want expert addictions advice in finding the treatment centre that will best serve your needs then contact us today.  Our intake coordinators are waiting to provide you with confidential and free advice in finding a treatment option.

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