Substance abuse is the dependence on illicit drugs that affects an individual negatively. It is a form of patterned drug intake by an individual in such a way that neither the amounts nor the intake is supervised by the health professionals (Verhoeven, Davids & Schulpen, 2007). They may cause problems to the physical as well as to the mental health of the user and also on the welfare of others. In addition, substance abuse causes adverse social consequences which are related to the drug usage. Such social effects include failure to meet family of school obligations, work and legal problems. Usually, drug addiction causes difficulty in controlling the drug usage and persist using it despite its harmful consequences.
In the recent years, illicit drug usage has been on the rise and it is not only affecting the young people but it affects everybody including the individual drug users, government, families, and the society at a large since it is a social problem. However, it has been observed that substance abuse is higher in the urban areas and mostly affects the young people. Substance abuse in urban areas has been associated with increased crimes and also the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases among the youth. It has also been found that drugs inhibit development since it damages the physiological maturation of an individual’s brain.
There are different types of drug abused such as psychoactive and mood-altering substances and also the illicit drugs such as the stimulants, narcotics and sedatives. Drug abuse causes impulsive behavior and problems with impulse control. Moreover, it may lead to penalties, social, physical and psychological harm which depend on local rules and regulations.
Different urban areas record different rates of drug abuse in various countries. Urban areas which have more idle people tend to have more drug addicts because the people have got nothing important to do. Also different rules of governing a certain metropolitan area determine the number of substance abusers present. Urban areas with very strict rules and punishments against substance abuse have less substance addicts as compared to those who have legalized some drugs.
Further, a high rate of suicide has been recorded among alcoholics due to long-term abuse and hence causing psychological distortion and social isolation. The drugs are also likely to cause suicide due to their acute intoxicating effects. Besides, alcohol increases the chances of committing crimes such as rapes, child abuse and assaults. Substance abuse is also known to cause symptomatology which is similar to a mental illness. Symptomatology can occur in the intoxicated and withdrawal state. Alcohol is known to induce anxiety and depression. Generally, drugs affect the central nervous system by inducing changes in sensations, perceptions and mood.
The urban environment has so many drug users and peddlers who may be playing a major role in initiating the youths into drugs. In urban environments, people are more exposed to psychosocial stressors and the social networks which play a major role in initiating the youth into drugs. More people abuse drugs in the urban areas than in the rural areas due to exposure from peers and social networks. People living in urban areas have a better access to drugs than those living in rural areas. Many businesses whether legal or illegal take place in urban areas and hence there is more circulation of drugs (Ragin & United States, 1999). Urban dwellers tend to have more income than rural dwellers and hence are able to use some of their income in substance abuse. Therefore, high income predisposes urban dwellers to unhealthy behavior such as substance abuse.
Behavior and health are also affected by the quality of the built environment. Different urban environments such as the abandoned buildings or living in areas with a lot of noise, crime, litter and vandalism are a threat to the people living around. These people living in the disadvantaged areas are exposed to chronic exposures which may lead to psychological responses which may impair physical and mental health and increase chances of substance abuse. Furthermore, racial and residential segregation is another known cause of substance abuse. The people who are subjected to racial segregation for example in schools are more likely to abuse drugs than the majority groups. These minority groups who are mostly segregated abuse drugs as a way of trying to deal with the stress. Cases of drug abuse have been reported among the minority groups such as the Black Americans in schools and hence giving a clear evidence of the effect of racial segregation. People who suffer from segregation use drugs in order to relieve stress.
Population density is another known cause of substance abuse in urban areas (Ragin & United States, 1999). Reliable sources suggest that collective socialization has an effect on the behavior of an individual in a group. People holding different positions in a group are bound to influence others directly or indirectly. Substance abuse in urban population is also enhanced by the communal use of the available resources. Further, people who use the same resources tend to exchange behavioral activities and hence an increased rate of drug abuse. According to Durkheim, social norms and attitudes may reinforce healthy or unhealthy behavior and contribute to better or worse mental and physical health in a community.
Sociological Concepts of Substance Abuse
Sociological theories try to explain substance abuse and how other social problems contribute to the drug abuse. These theories are involved with drugs, how involvement in drugs change over time and what causes the change. The theories are of a deviant behavior and identification. The discussed theories include social control theory and the labeling theory.
The Labeling Theory
This theory is more concerned with social reactions to drugs which influence careers and other deviances. According to interactionists, stigma or negative social reactions to drug users facilitate more drug use because they internalize the negative labels and become more persistent in deviant activities. According to Cooley, when people are labeled and assumed to possess the negative traits that accompany the drug abuser stigmas, their deviant careers expanded because they accept society’s pejorative view of them. This was known as the self-fulfilling prophecy.
The self-fulfilling prophecy make people become more entangled in deviant careers. According to Stephen, the drug addict role was a master status in a deviant substructure that featured manipulation of others, a unique street language, and an anti-social viewpoint in addition to the criminal activity. Substance abusers in some capacity are able to contain themselves to the world. They obtain the drugs legally or illegally but still maintain their relationships with their close family members.
The labeling theory has some limitations; it does not explain the reason as to why people abuse drugs. This hence makes its utility limited. Second, the theory uses under-estimation and over-estimation in stating the importance of the labeling process. It over-estimates the effects of stigma and labeling. Under-estimation comes in through the self-fulfilling prophecy which is wider than it’s supposed to be.
Social and Self-Control Theories
The theory focuses on deviant behaviors such as vandalism and drug use. It explains the original deviance but does not show transition of direct drug use to drug addict. According to Hirschi, people violate norms and break laws unless they are prevented from doing so. The best way to prevent people from committing crimes was the use of socialization starting from childhood. Families, peers and schools are the entities responsible for socialization with the most insightful impact to the lives of children and the adolescents. Parents are involved in this theory because they are supposed to raise their children morally upright. Hirschi argued that good relationships with parents, morally upright peers and teachers control the behavior of individuals. Thus, children who associate with the right people in the society are less likely to indulge themselves in immoral activities such as drug abuse. Hirschi came up with four elements of a moral bond which are commitment, attachment, belief and involvement. He suggested that adequate attachment to parents, commitment to educational work, and involvement in conventional duties and beliefs in good morals protect people from deviance.
The theory maintains that the cause of bad behavior is poor child rearing and lack of proper bonds with parents. Poor child rearing produce low self-controlled people which are not capable to manage consequences of their actions. Drug abuse and deviance is affected by the people an individual bond with. Parent should always counsel their children to enhance good morals to protect them from drug abuse. Children should also be counseled at school in order to enhance good behavior (Verhoeven, Davids & Schulpen, 2007).
Also, there are some limitations in this theory; it does not state how children are socialized for example how their relationship with other people are produced and changed. Second it fails to consider that some aspects in the society are criminogenic. Lastly, the theory does not distinguish whether delinquency creates weak bonds or vice-versa.
Social Effects of Substance Abuse
Substance abuse affects people from different perspectives such as the social and economic. Thus, substance abuse is a very big problem to the society. Almost everybody is affected by the issue of drug abuse either directly or indirectly. The social consequences can be further divided into areas such as the family and community, health, education, environment and crimes which will be discussed below.
Substance abuse is known to cause more family disintegration than poverty. Family cohesion and culture are also affected by drug abuse and later transforming them into burdens rather than assets. Parents should closely monitor their children before they are affected by peer pressure. Families with substance abusers suffer more instability than those that are drug free. Peers have a very strong influence to the children and can win the influence over parental guidance. Factors such as low income, harsh discipline, prolonged parental absence and parental use of drugs are known to cause substance abuse among the upcoming generation. Although the family can be the source of drug abuse problems, it has a key role in preventing and treating the issue accordingly. The family can also become a very powerful government ally and also join to community prevention programs as a way of fighting substance abuse.
There has been a negative impact on the health of individuals who use drugs. There are various types of diseases that people suffer from because of the drug abuse. Some are not so lucky and may die in the process of abuse. Fatal accidents have also been reported among drivers who abuse drugs. The accidents occur due to poor judgment on the road caused by the drugs. Substance abuse affects the health of the drug user directly and the society indirectly. The society is affected in that it has to take care of the patients through moral and economic support. People living close to the drug users can also be affected health-wise for example the passive smokers may suffer from bronchitis (Beschner & Friedman, 1999).
Education is supposed to be a very important point of prevention and intervention of drug abuse. Student who use drugs suffer from intellectual faculties, short-term memory, impaired tracking ability, preoccupation with drug acquisition, a general impaired class performance and an adverse emotional development. Poor academic performance and low self-esteems are caused by the reducing cognitive efficiency. The individual later suffers from the lack of stability in the sense of identity which may in turn contribute to further addiction. Preventive education may not be so effective because it is a long-term goal. Parents should form allies with educational institutions so as to form a strong force against substance abuse (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2004).
Environmental degradation related to illegal drugs is caused by clearing of forests, use of dangerous chemicals to the environment and growing crops as monocultures. Environmental degradation varies in different countries depending on the role they play in illicit drugs. Farmers clear forests in order to cultivate drugs on their farms such as coca and opium poppy. The slash –and-burn policy used in South-East Asia has led to loss of forests in an attempt to cultivate opium. Cultivation of these drugs also causes environmental degradation through destruction of the top-soil, denuding the land and silting rivers. The drug growers have less respect for land than the legal crop growers. The intense use of herbicides among the drug growers has also led to the contamination of groundwater. The other type of pollution occurs during waste disposal of the waste products obtained during processing of the drugs to a consumable form.
Crime and drugs are connected in several ways. The process of production to consumption of illicit drugs is illegal in most countries and constitutes criminal offences. Drug-related crimes occur in the form of trafficking and its related activities such as violent crimes and robbery. Prostitution and kidnapping have also been reported as a way of financing addiction. Various governments are using a lot of funds in criminal control which is caused by substance abuse. Control of drug trafficking has proved difficult because many drug traffickers have been able to win popularity and political support. Sometimes the governments are forced to submit to the pressure of drug traffickers or risk political unrests. Demonstrations have been reported in countries such as Colombia as the government was trying to solve the issue of drug trafficking.
Policies to Solve the Issue of Substance Abuse
The issue of substance abuse can be solved if only we all unite against the fight against drug abuse. This battle will involve everybody whether they abuse drugs or not. Below are some of the policies that can be used to solve the issue of substance abuse.
First, a written policy should be formulated. Written rules are more effective than the unwritten rules because they are easy to refer to and adjust ones behavior. It’s difficult to adjust the written rules and hence people adjust their behavior so as to fit and live comfortably. The rules can be used to keep the drug users out for example in institutions and hence forcing them to change. The policy should explain why the program is being implemented for example adhering to the government. Also, it should describe the prohibited drug related behaviors such as the illegal use of drugs during working hours. Lastly, it should clearly explain the expected consequences of any violation of a policy (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2004).
Second, it’s important to train some people who will be in charge of ensuring that the policies are being implemented and followed to the latter. The supervisors should clearly understand the policies before implementation so as to be successful in reducing the number of drug addicts and offering assistance. They should always be observant and confront anybody who goes against the set policies. Lastly they should be able to distinguish a person under the influence of drugs and refer them to other qualified people who can offer assistance.
Third, it’s very important to create awareness to everybody through seminars, advertisements, the media and articles. The five key objectives of creating awareness are giving information about the dangers and effects of substance abuse. Second it’s important to explain the impacts of substance abuse on areas such as health, safety and productivity. Third, explain to everyone how the formulated policies work and the consequences for the violation. Fourth, describe to everybody how the whole program work and whether they can be assisted. Lastly, explain how people can get assistance for their problems.
Fourth, provide assistance to the people struggling with the issue of substance abuse or are being affected by their personal problems. It is advisable to make this program as cheap as possible so that everybody can afford it. It is also very important to know the history of the people around and whether similar programs have existed, succeeded or failed. Lastly, consider alcohol and drug testing. According to the American Management Association (AMA), every year more people join the groups of people that conduct alcohol and drug testing. The testing should be more intensive in areas where safety is sensitive (United States 1993). It is important to have well trained personnel in order to do testing and offer assistance to people who will be found positive.
The most important action to take against this issue of drug abuse is abstinence. People should avoid using drugs because it’s very hard to stop after they are already addicted. Children should be advised on how to avoid falling for the trap and choosing friends who are not going to influence them negatively. Those already struggling with addiction should seek assistance and try to stop abusing drugs. People should develop the quality of willingness to go to rehabilitation centers for assistance against drug abuse.
The issue of substance abuse will reduce with time in the coming decades. Different governments have formed allies with parents against this fight. The issue has been prioritized so as to protect the youth against substance abuse. Rules have been formulated against drug addicts in different institutions as a way of discouraging the addicts and protecting those who have not started abusing drugs.
Substance abuse has recently been a very big problem among the youths. Abuse can have very serious consequences such as death, fatal accidents, crimes, prostitution, family disintegration and diseases such as bronchitis and HIV/AIDs. Children at a tender age should be taught and protected against drug abuse by their parents and at school. Parents should spend more time with their children so as to monitor their moves and help them choose good friends who will not affect on them negatively. The media should also create more awareness through advertisements of the effects and consequences of substance abuse. The government, on the other hand, should formulate very strict rules against drug abuse such as corporal punishments, compulsory treatments even for those people in prisons and put in place strict penalization against drug peddlers. Drug addicts should seek for assistance from rehabilitation centers or try to reduce substance use so as to reduce the impacts of drugs on their health. Lastly, those who have not fallen for the trap should strictly refrain themselves from it and try keeping themselves busy with more important things apart from substance abuse.