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Substance Misuse and Health Issues: Policy Brief


Substance misuse is a critical public health issue. It involves the use of illegal narcotics and the abuse of substances such as prescription drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. This inappropriate use of substances causes factors detrimental to health, both physical and mental. Furthermore, it has a negative economic impact, leading to $232 billion in healthcare costs and $740 billion in overall losses. This issue is part of the Healthy People 2020 objective which seeks to “reduce substance abuse and protect health, safety, and quality of life for all, especially children” (“Substance misuse”, n.d., para. 3).

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Substance misuse is a critical issue in the United States. It affects practically every layer of the population, regardless of race or socioeconomic status. In 2015, 66.7 million people engaged in alcohol abuse, while 27.1 million reported illicit drug use or prescription drug abuse (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). Communities of racial minorities experience higher rates of substance abuse due to socio-economic and environmental risk factors. African Americans experience a 12.4% rate of drug use. These facts explain why evidence-based measures are needed in an attempt to transform the situation and support many citizens in the United States.

Problem Statement

Substance abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and both legal and illegal drugs continue to be a nationwide issue amongst all populations.


Substance abuse is a health issue that affects the lives of many citizens. Those who engage in this malpractice find it hard to participate in various economic activities. They also lead unhealthy lives. This problem explains why several strategies and initiatives should be put in place to deal with it. The first strategy entails the use of powerful policies to support existing mechanisms and systems aimed at minimizing the use and production of narcotics.

Legalized substances such as tobacco and alcohol should be controlled using superior laws (Castaño-Perez & Calderon-Vallejo, 2014). The proposed regulations should ensure that such substances are not available to underage individuals. Powerful programs can be implemented to support those who are affected by this health problem (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). The number of recovery and rehabilitation centers in the country should be increased to deal with this issue.

Different stakeholders should be involved to deal with this health predicament. These include government officials, administrators, policymakers, psychologists, and heads of existing rehabilitation centers. Professionals in the criminal justice system can be involved to identify and punish those who produce and supply illegal drugs (“Substance abuse,” n.d.). Practitioners and counselors should be part of the process to guide and support those who are affected by this issue. Several funding considerations have to be identified such as the number of citizens affected by substance abuse and the integrity or effectiveness of every existing program.

Impact on the Health Care Delivery System

The health care delivery system of the United States is characterized by different stakeholders, institutions, agencies, organizations, and associations that collaborate in an attempt to address the health needs of every citizen. The problem of substance abuse is serious since it forces the government to incur numerous expenses in monitoring the way narcotics are used and transported from one region to another (Castaño-Perez & Calderon-Vallejo, 2014).

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The country has been forced to use most of its resources to apprehend and incarcerate those who engage in narcotic business dealings (“Substance misuse,” n.d.). This situation explains why it has become impossible for the government to support or improve the existing health care delivery system.

Degenhardt, Stockings, Patton, Hall, and Lynskey (2016) indicate that many practitioners, psychotherapists, and physicians are forced to provide evidence-based or personalized medical services to individuals who abuse different substances. This practice explains why such professionals might not be in a position to meet the health needs of patients affected by diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Consequently, it has been hard to meet the demands of many people in the country.

Community members play a significant role in promoting or supporting programs that can result in quality health outcomes. However, when more citizens are affected by substance abuse, it becomes impossible for them to engage in healthy practices. For instance, they can stop keeping their surrounding environments clean (McCarty, Priest, & Korthuis, 2018). Additionally, many practitioners and caregivers have been observed to use addictive substances, including alcohol and cigarettes. Such professionals find it hard to provide quality support to those in need of medical services. There is a need for different stakeholders to come together and present powerful strategies that can deal with this issue and transform the health outcomes of many citizens in the country.


Substance abuse remains one of the major health issues affecting many individuals and communities in the United States. Those who overuse various drugs are unable to engage in economic activities or support existing health care delivery programs or services. These challenges explain why appropriate initiatives and strategies should be put in place in an attempt to transform the situation and improve the life of every citizen.


Castaño-Perez, G. A., & Calderon-Vallejo, G. A. (2014). Problems associated with alcohol consumption by university students. The Revista Latino-Americana de Enfermagem, 22(5), 739-746. Web.

Degenhardt, L., Stockings, E., Patton, G., Hall, W. D., & Lynskey, M. (2016). The increasing global health priority of substance use in young people. The Lancet, 3(3), 251-264. Web.

McCarty, D., Priest, K. C., & Korthuis, P. T. (2018). Treatment and prevention of opioid use disorder: Challenges and opportunities. Annual Review of Public Health, 39, 525-541. Web.

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Substance abuse. (n.d.). Web.

Substance misuse. (n.d.). Web.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2016). Facing addiction in America: The surgeon general’s report on alcohol, drugs, and health. Web.

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