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Chemical Dependency: The Crisis of Addiction

Chemical dependency, also known as substance abuse, is one of the world’s leading death causes. Addiction to substances does not only pose a threat to the individual’s physical and mental well-being but also deteriorates one’s social connections. A brief overview of the essence of chemical dependency and current statistics rates provides a sustainable basis to argue that the most commonly abused drugs are alcohol and tobacco.

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The addiction crisis in the United States today has adverse effects on the country’s socio-economic state. As defined by the US Department of Health and Human Services (2016), substance addiction is a chronic brain disease, associated with recurrent and uncontrolled misuse of one or more chemicals. An individual is diagnosed with chemical dependency if he uses drugs in the quantity, frequency, or manner which inflicts the person himself or those around him. When coping with substance abuse, individuals and their families have to address such issues as physical and mental health decay, declined productivity, child neglect, and increased crime rates (HHS, 2016). In other words, the scope of the problems associated with chemical dependency extends past the abuser’s close social group, impacting the nation’s overall stability.

One of the most commonly abused drugs worldwide now is alcohol. According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2016), approximately 2.3 billion people currently consume alcohol regularly. In the US, in particular, more than 50% of the population is current drinkers (WHO, 2016). Though not all individuals who consume alcohol develop substance addiction, HHS (2016) reported that one in ten working adults die annually from the drug’s misuse. As estimated by WHO (2016), the number of individuals dying from alcoholism yearly adds up to three million in America alone. This mortality rate is higher than that caused by diabetes, HIV, and tuberculosis (WHO, 2016). The earlier findings regarding the severity of alcohol dependency are supported by Peacock et al. (2018), who claimed that one in five adults engage in heavy episodic drinking over one month. In this context, heavy episodic drinking refers to the cases of one-day alcohol misuse, which leads to veisalgia, more frequently known as “hangover,” on the next day.

The range of the negative consequences alcohol abuse has on the individual’s wellness is immense. As followed by WHO (2016), almost one-quarter of all alcohol addicts suffer from digestive, and cardiovascular diseases, whereas one-sixth develops related cancers. Furthermore, approximately 50% of the individuals with this chemical dependency suffer from mental impairments and other noncommunicable diseases. The devastating effects of alcohol abuse on the person’s health call for urgent actions, aimed at the prevention of chemical dependency.

Another widely abused narcotic both worldwide and in the United States is tobacco. Peacock et al. (2018) stated that approximately one in seven adults smokes cigarettes daily. According to Russell, nicotine addiction develops so quickly that there is a 70% chance for those who smoked twice or thrice to continue using tobacco for the next 40 years (as cited in DiFranza, 2015). DiFranza (2015) also noted that the severity of the withdrawal symptoms is similar both for regular and non-regular smokers, meaning that there is an increased risk of developing tobacco addiction after the first tries.

Health complications associated with smoking tobacco are no less significant than those related with alcohol misuse. Peacock et al. (2018) highlighted that this chemical dependency has the highest absolute burden for disease among alcohol, nicotine, and illicit drug addiction. In particular, nicotine addiction accounts for 170 million DALYs, followed by alcohol and illicit drugs with 85 and 27 million, respectively (Peacock et al., 2018). As followed by Peacock (2018), daily smoking leads to an increased risk of related cancers, respiratory, and cardiovascular illnesses. To minimize the number of regular smokers, governmental institutions should strengthen policies regarding the distribution of tobacco and continue educating people on the adverse effects of nicotine.


DiFranza, J. R. (2015). An overview of tobacco addiction for tobacco regulatory scientists. Tobacco Regulatory Science, 1(1), 10-23. Web.

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Peacock, A., Leung, J., Larney, S., Colledge, S., Hickman, M., Rehm, J., … Degenhardt, L. (2018). Global statistics on alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use: 2017 status report. Addiction, 113(10), 1905-1926. Web.

US Department of Health and Human Services. (2016). Introduction and overview of the report. In Facing addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s report on alcohol, drugs, and health. Web.

World Health Organization. (2018). Global status report on alcohol and health 2018. Geneva: World Health Organization.

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