Chemical dependency or substance abuse refers to a consistent pattern of using drugs that have a physical, psychological, and psychoactive influence on the human body. In most instances, substance abuse implies the use of narcotics, nicotine, or alcohol. The addiction to substances and the subsequent physical dependency implies repetitive use, which is followed by the increase of an organism’s tolerance to higher doses.
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Eventually, an individual will consume larger quantities of a drug to achieve the desired effects, most of which are linked to the reduction of stress and anxiety and the induction of temporary euphoria. The issue lies in the fact that chemical dependency increases the need for addicted individuals to take higher dosages of a substance to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Large quantities of drugs have been shown to lead to adverse health consequences, including lethal outcomes.
The problem of substance abuse is persistent and affects both adults and adolescents. According to the findings of American Addiction Centers, in 2017, around 4% of the American population of adolescent individuals (aged 12 to 17) had substance abuse disorder, which equals to one in twenty-five teens in this group. It is important to note that 1.8% of the adolescent population suffered from an alcohol use disorder while around 3% used illicit drugs (American Addiction Centers).
The statistics of substance abuse are highest for the population of young adults aged between 18 and 25. 14.8% of the young adult population suffered from substance abuse in 2017, with 10% showing high rates of alcohol abuse and 7.3% using illicit drugs (American Addiction Centers). In the past decade, the use of heroin doubled within this population group. In regards to the adult population aged 26 and over, 6.4% of them struggled with substance abuse in 2017. Around 5% of the age group had a problem with alcohol abuse while 2% used illicit substances (American Addiction Centers).
Several statistics are worth noting in regards to other demographic variables. For instance, men show higher rates of substance use disorder compared to women. Around 9.4% of men and 5.2% of women aged 12 and older experienced the adverse consequences of using addictive substances. The likelihood of illicit drug use is also higher among men than women; however, women can experience the same level of addiction to substances as men when they abuse them regularly (American Addiction Centers).
Significant developments in the statistics of substance abuse have taken place in regards to ethnicity and race, with American Islanders and Alaskan Natives aged 12 and older exhibited the highest rate of illicit drug abuse – 12.8% in 2017 (American Addiction Centers). Lastly, it is important to mention the trends of the most common drugs. According to Loesche’s findings, cannabis is the most commonly used drug globally (60%), with cocaine and MDMA sharing the second spot in the ranking (19.1% and 19%). They are followed by amphetamines (12.2%), LSD (11.4%), and magic mushrooms (10.4%). Crack is the less common substance as reported from a survey of 115,000 respondents (Loesche).
Dynamics of Addiction
The dynamics of addiction is a complex process that involves several stages during which addiction to substances is formed. It begins with compulsion, which is the loss of control over one’s behavior. Then, continued use starts taking place; despite the adverse consequences, an individual chooses to use substances ad a method of coping (American Addiction Centers). The next aspect of addiction, craving, takes place regularly and causes substance users to binge due to the uncomfortable feeling that the desire to use drugs brings. Denial is an essential part of the dynamics of addiction and implies a distortion of perception that has been caused by craving. A person feels intense pressure to use the drug and is irresponsive to the dangerous risks and consequences of doing so.
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Interventions for addressing the severe impact of drug abuse include behavioral counseling, medication, medical treatment of withdrawal symptoms, and long-term follow-up for preventing relapse. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, multidimensional family therapy, and motivational incentives are the main behavior-advancing interventions to address substance abuse disorder (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
In terms of pharmacological treatment, effective medications have not been developed to address stimulants (methamphetamine and cocaine) and cannabis addiction. However, to treat opioid abuse, patients have often been prescribed methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone, which act on the same targets on the brain as the drugs and relieve cravings without any withdrawal symptoms. It is worth noting that the use of medication is more effective after the detoxification of an organism from substances. In addition, individuals diagnosed with substance abuse disorder are prescribed medications to treat co-occurring conditions such as anxiety or depression.
To conclude, the abuse of illicit drugs is a challenge that the modern healthcare sphere remains to address to its fullest. Substance addiction is a complex issue that involves multiple variables such as social status or race and requires a systematic approach to its addressing. The education of the public along with the persistent efforts to eliminate substance abuse should be implemented in every jurisdiction regardless of the problem’s scope.
American Addiction Centers. “Statistics on Drug Addiction.” American Addiction Centers, 2017. Web.
Loesche, Dyfed. “Which Drugs Are Most Popular?” Statista, 2017. Web.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.” NIH. 2019. Web.