The consumption of illegal substances and the development of addiction to them remains one of the primary health-related concerns in the American healthcare setting. The problem has grown particularly noticeably among high-school students, as the recent report by the National Institute of Health (2020) has indicated. Apart from the traditional list of illicit drugs, alcohol, and smoking, the 2020 report has also included more recent trends such as vaping (National Institute of Health, 2020).
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Overall, the tendency for American citizens to abuse substances appears to be growing, which is a dangerous trend that must be curbed. Due to a drop in the efficacy of the immune system performance, increased strain on essential organs such as the liver, and the high probability of developing multiple types of cancer, drug addiction represents one of the most threatening and complicated conditions, which must be prevented with the help of appropriate programs.
Notably, the effects of drug addiction vary in severity and range depending on the type of drug that an individual chooses to consume. However, most illicit substances, namely, nicotine, cannabis, and opioids, affect the brain’s limbic system, particularly, the part of it that defines the production of dopamine (Berman et al., 2016). As a result, drugs cause an individual to experience a state of bliss. However, as an individual continues to consume drugs, the development of a habit causes the experience of pleasure to subside and the sense of dissatisfaction increases. Consequently, one experiences a severe need to increase the drug dose, which will eventually result in overdosing (Berman et al., 2016).
In addition to the described effect, illicit substances lead to the disruption and eventual destruction of the brain communication pathways. The described effect I especially prominent in patients abusing alcohol (Ray et al., 2017). However, the continuous consumption of other substances, especially opioids, will ultimately entail the same effects (Ray et al., 2017). Namely, the process of brain damage occurs once the amount of oxygen delivered to the brain is insufficient.
Apart from the brain, other organs are also severely affected by long-term drug abuse. For example, the liver suffers significantly due to exposure to toxic metabolic products resulting from processing illicit substances (Weissman et al., 2020). For the same reason, the stomach and the pancreas are also affected very often. Furthermore, the increase in blood pressure is caused by changes in the metabolism processes, as well as shifts in mood, which drugs cause, increase exposure to heart diseases, as well as severe problems with the nervous system (Weissman et al., 2020).
The threat of cancer also increases exponentially with the rise in the levels of illicit drug use. The described outcomes are particularly common for smoking, yet other drugs may also create an environment in which the cells of different body organs may experience unchecked growth and mutate, thus creating cancerous tumors in patients (Jett et al., 2018). Therefore, the threat of cancer is not to be underestimated as one of the crucial effects of illicit drug use, either.
In people abusing illicit drugs by injecting them, infectious diseases become a highly probable threat (Medina-Perucha et al., 2019). Moreover, in the instances of long-term drug injections, a patient’s veins may ultimately collapse, causing severe health outcomes (Medina-Perucha et al., 2019).
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Namely, the disruption of the blood flow, which the specified phenomenon entails, is likely to cause severe complications. In turn, the openness to infections, which the use of a syringe suggests, may lead to the development of STIs, as well as a multitude of other infectious diseases, which will pose a major threat to a patient’s health. Moreover, being infected via sharing needles may entail the contraction of HIV and AIDS, which, in turn, will most likely lead to a patient’s death 9). Therefore, the use of illicit drugs, particularly, opioids, will inevitably lead to fatal outcomes, even if the initial dose is minimal. Moreover, the development of lesions, sores, and other skin conditions becomes a probable outcome as a result of long-term exposure to illicit drugs.
To develop a viable solution to the issue of drug addiction among U.S. citizens, one must take the social aspect into account apart from the health-related one. Namely, the fact that an individual is likely to be coerced into continuing drug abuse by a drug dealer even after a successful intervention needs to be taken into consideration. For this reason, a program aimed at assisting people with drug misuse problems must include social protection and, particularly, the opportunity to restrict their access to a drug dealer to them.
Additionally, the problem of severe legal repercussions that one may face due to drug possession and consumption must be handled accordingly. Presently, extraordinarily severe legal implications for people possessing drugs may prevent individuals from seeking help. Therefore, it is crucial to introduce changes to the current legal system so that the emphasis should be placed on the correction of behaviors and the possibility of recovery rather than the punishment of people with drug addiction issues.
The problem of illegal drug use remains a major health issue in the United States. Affecting thousands of people, the specified concern must be handled on the level of state policies and by developing appropriate public health programs. Thus, one will be able to create an effective strategy for preventing drug abuse, as well as encourage the victims of drug misuse to address healthcare services and seek help.
Berman, M., Paran, D., & Elkayam, O. (2016). Cocaine-induced vasculitis. Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal, 7(4), pp. 1-12.
Cherobin, T. Z., Stefenon, L., & Wiethölter, P. (2019). Oral lesions in crack and cocaine user patients: Literature review. Oral Health and Dental Science, 3(1), 1-5.
Jett, J., Stone, E., Warren, G., & Cummings, K. M. (2018). Cannabis use, lung cancer, and related issues. Journal of Thoracic Oncology, 13(4), 480-487.
Medina-Perucha, L., Family, H., Scott, J., Chapman, S., & Dack, C. (2019). Factors associated with sexual risks and risk of STIs, HIV and other blood-borne viruses among women using heroin and other drugs: a systematic literature review. AIDS and Behavior, 23(1), 222-251.
National Institute of Health (2020). Monitoring the future study: Trends in prevalence of various drugs. Web.
Ray, S., Biswal, B. B., Aya, A., Gohel, S., Srinagesh, A., Hanson, C., & Hanson, S. J. (2017). Modeling causal relationships among brain areas in the mesocorticolimbic system during resting-state in cocaine users utilizing a graph theoretic approach. Journal of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 5(4), pp. 1-8.
Weissman, S., Aziz, M., Perumpail, R. B., Mehta, T. I., Patel, R., & Tabibian, J. H. (2020). Ever-increasing diversity of drug-induced pancreatitis. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 26(22), 2902.