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Costs and Effects of Substance Abuse


There are a number of factors of social, economic, environmental, biological and psychological factors that are recognized as the most common determinants of substance abuse. Among them, there are homelessness, incarceration, the level of income and education, gender, age and sexual orientation (Substance Abuse across the Life Stages, 2015). Besides, the internal atmosphere of households and communities is known to contribute to the rates of substance abuse. Drugs of various kinds are widely used by both adults and youth. For example, daily use of marijuana among middle and high school students has increased by over 6 % in 2009 and 2010 (Substance Abuse across the Life Stages, 2015). Marijuana use is especially widespread among young adults (18 to 25 years old), over 40% of whom also report binge drinking. Alcohol abuse is also a serious issue for people of 26 to 34 years old (36% of heavy drinkers), and for people older than 35 (19% of drinkers). Drug abuse is not only a public health and criminal issue; it is also an economic problem. By 2011 the financial cost of illicit drug abuse was estimated at over 193 billion dollars (The Economic Impact of Illicit Drug Use on American Society, 2011). The components of the economic cost of substance abuse include the funding of rehabilitation centers and hospitals, work directed at the investigation of drug abuse and trafficking, the support of incarcerated individuals, and general loss of productivity due to addictions. Moreover, substance abuse is extremely costly to addicted individuals. For example, among the psychological effects of drug abuse, there is an obsession with the substances and cravings that are accompanied by hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia and depression, dissatisfaction with one’s life, risky behaviors (Tracy, 2014). Among the physical effects of substance abuse, there is exposure to HIV, cancer and hepatitis, vomiting and diarrhea, excessive pressure on the liver and kidneys, brain damage, heart diseases to name a few (Tracy, 2014). In addition, substance abuse leads to criminal activity, provoking aggression and violence. In fact, in the United States, 80% of all arrested criminals are known to be drug and alcohol abusers, 60% of whom were under the influence of various substances while arrested. Finally, substance abuse has an immensely negative effect on interpersonal relationships breaking up marriages, leading to domestic violence and child abuse. One substance abuser in a family causes a ripple effect that directly affects the other family members (a spouse or a partner, children, parents). Besides, drug and alcohol abuse increases the likeliness of suicidal behavior by six times affecting females more seriously than males.

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Defense Mechanisms


Denial is the kind of defense mechanism that is associated with rejection of the existing problem or unwillingness to admit that it is present. Substance abusers who are in denial tend to disagree with those who attempt to confront them about their issues. Denial occurs when an individual is psychologically incapable of coping with particular problems; this is why it becomes easier and more convenient for them to reject the mere fact of the presence of this issue. Substance abusers in denial tend to become aggressive and angry when directly told about their addiction. The aggression often has to do with the fear that the discussed issue may actually be real.


Defense mechanism known as repression is very widespread. Repression occurs when an individual who has a particular issue will not admit its existence by forcing the evidence of its presence out of their conscious awareness. Staying unaware of a serious issue is safer for the psychological wellbeing of an individual, this is why repression appears. Repression is similar to denial, yet it is believed that repression may happen unconsciously when unwanted or traumatic memories are removed from an individual’s memory.


Projection is similar to denial. This defense mechanism makes an individual ignore their own issues and at the same time recognize them in other people. Often, a projecting individual will ascribe their own behaviors to those who do not practice them. For example, an alcoholic father would punish his son for binge drinking which in reality does not occur.


Displacement is an individual’s method of coping with painful frustration caused by negative experiences or emotions. In a case of displacement, the outburst of negative emotions is transferred to an area different from where they actually belong (Niolon, 2011). For example, an individual displacing his frustration about a substance addiction may be unreasonably aggressive at their workplace or mistreating their close ones such as family members and friends.


Sublimation is the deliberate alteration of problematic behavior that helps an individual to stay within socially acceptable situations. For example, in substance and drug abuse, the individuals may direct the effects of the substances they use to the areas of work or entertainment. This way, a person influenced by a drug who dances around alone in the street will be noticeable, while the same individual dancing in a club is within a socially acceptable frame.

Reference List

Niolon, R. (2011). Defenses. Web.

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Substance Abuse across the Life Stages. (2015). Healthy People. Web.

The Economic Impact of Illicit Drug Use on American Society. (2011). U. S. Department of Justice. Web.

Tracy, N. (2014). Effects of Drug Addiction (physical and psychological). Web.

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