Drug addiction is the chronic or habitual use of any chemical substance that alters the normal state of the body or mind. It also means use of drugs for reasonsother than that allowed medically (Heymannand Brownsberger 2). Traditional definitions of drug abuse have been altered with incorporation of increased understanding considering the integration of new drugs substances,such as cocaine. Addiction is currently being defined by the continuing nature of drug use despite the physical and psychological harm it is having to the society. Moreover, definitions of drug addiction are also inclined towards the political and moral values in the society and culture. For instance, the stimulant caffeine found in coffee and tea is a drug used by many people across the globe, but due to its moderately mind stimulatory effects as well as its inability to cause behavioral changes, drinking it is not considered as drug abuse in various contexts. According to government statistics report, the United States has the highest number of drug and substance abuse rates. The problem of drug abuse is becoming a global issue as it is affecting almost all nations in the word in one way or another by either engaging in productionor being a good market of illicit drugs that havenegative impacts. This research paper will focus on the drug abuse aspect giving special consideration to the United States.
Scope and Extent of Drug Abuse
According to the report by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCPn.p), drug abuse was prescribed as the highest growing drug problem in the United States. The report signposted that the frequently abused drugs in the United States are alcohol and marijuana, apart from descripted drugs. According to sources from the largest substance abuse survey in the nation, approximately 14.7 million people of age 12 years and above use prescribed drugs non-medically each year (Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality). This refers to the use of drugs, other than those prescribed by doctors,which have detrimental effects to an individual’s health or body. The most prevalent mind affecting drugs in the United States as indicated earlier is caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. This is true on each significant measure, that is, the number of people who have ever used the drug, the number of regular users, the number of daily users, as well as the number of hours spend under the influence of these drugs. Furthermore, the amount of harm caused by these nicotine and alcohol on human bodies exceeds the physical harm exerted by other psychoactive drugs combined.
History of Drug and Drug Abuse
Every person has used drugs in one way or another for thousands of years. Wine is known to have been used as early as the time of Early Egyptians, that is, narcotics from 4000 B.C and the famously known medicinal use of marijuana traced to the 2737 B.C in China (McGovern, Fleming and Katz 4). However, it was until the 19the century A.D that excessive use of substances of drugs was being extracted. It followed a period where the newly discovered substances, morphine, laudanum, and cocaine, were being overused due to lack of rules and regulations, and over prescription of physicians in the treatment of various ailments. These drug substances were easily accessible in patent medicines and were sold by travelling tinkers in drug stores as well as through mail. In the course of the American civil war, morphine was usedliberally by the citizens and the aggrieved veterans returned to their homes with their morphine supplies as well as hypodermic needles. That was followed by a regime when opium dens thrived and by early 1900s, there was an estimated population of about 250,000 addicts in the United States.
The problems of addiction were being realized gradually duringthis time. Legal measures targeting drug abuse in the United States wereinitially created in 1875, the period that opium dens wereprohibited in San Francisco. Accordingly, the Pure and Drug Act of 1996 was the first national drug law that required a strict labelling of patent medicines that contained opium and other drugs. In 1914, the Harrison Narcotic Act prohibited the sale of considerable doses of opiates or cocaine with the exception of licensed doctors and pharmacists. Later on, heroine was absolutely banned in the United States and also followed subsequent Supreme Court’s rulings that made it illegal for doctors and other medical practitioners to advocate any narcotics to addicts. This led to many doctors who prescribed the narcotics doses to addicts to be jailed and all the efforts to use the drugs as treatment was abandoned. In the 1920s, the use of narcotics and cocaine reduced in the United States, and the same spirit of sobriety led to the sanction of alcohol in the 18th century amendment to the constitution in 1919, but was later repealed in 1933.
In the 1930s, many states directed to have anti-drug programs incorporated in the school systems amidst fear that its knowledge will trigger experimental use by the minors, thus, being abandoned in several regions. Immediately after repealing of the prohibition of alcohol, the U.S Federal Bureau OF Narcotics, now called the Drug Enforcement Administration, began a campaign to portray marijuana as a highly addictive substance. The social confusion of the 1960s, however, increased the use of drugs, thus, making it accepted in the society.This process made some states in the 1970s to legalize marijuana and lower the drinking ages. However, the 1980s brought about a reduction in the drugs consumption apart from cocaine and marijuana use, which soared further. This led to the Panama de facto leader Manuel Noriega to be arrested after the military invaded the nationin attempt to end drug trafficking.
All through the years, however, the public perspective of the drugs and the dangers they posed began to change. The surgeons label on tobacco packaging made people to realize the addictive nature of the substance as well as the other effects of nicotine. By 1995, the Food and Administration Board had initiated several regulations as well as warning labels on alcohol products and scrutiny of addictive nature of other substances like valium and caffeine. Drug laws were enacted to keep up with the changing perceptive of dangers associated with substance abuse and strict regulations and laws set up to address the drug menace like life imprisonment and death sentence. In as much as possession of drugs was punished, severe penalties were reserved for those involved with illicit distribution and manufacture of drugs.
Drug Abuse Facts in the US
- Illicit drug abuse in the United States cost the America population about $181billion annually and alcohol costs comes to about $ 235 billion.
- The untold story about drug abuse in the United States in not only financial but also entails other negative aspects, such as broken families, destroyed careers, death, child abuse, sexual abuse, and physical violence.
- More than 30 million people of the United States population above the age of 12 years are said to have drove a car under the influence of drugs.
- Drug abuse alters the brain chemistry of human beings.
- In America, approximately over 19.9 million people use illicit drugs annually “(Our Drug Culture n. p)
Causes of Drug Abuse
Drug abuse is associated with different causes, for instance, the complex interaction with individuals, family, community, and societal factors (United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, 2010). These sources influences an individual to use drugs, and thus, become addictive.
Family and Peer practices
An individual’s immediate and early interactions in life play a significant role in his or her growth and development. From childhood to adulthood, one’s character is highly influenced by the relationship in which he/sheassociates with, for instance, family members and friends. These connection can cause one to develop addiction to drugs in several ways. In the first place, if one associated with members who are addicted to drugs, for instance, parents, siblings or friends, chances are that he or she is likely to be introduced to drugs use, and therefore, becomes addicted. Family members and peers’ attitude towards drug and drug abuse influence most youths into falling in the trap of using drugs, and thereby abusing it.
Child Physical and Sexual Abuse
Children who are abused both physically and sexually are at risk of using drugs and thereafter addiction. For instance, women who wereabused when they wereyoung face the risk of being alcoholics or other drug abusers when they become adults. Furthermore this can extend to adolescent minors. The main reason why these category of people resort to drugs and alcoholism is because it gives a self-medicate to the emotional pains that are associated with the pain abuse (Self and Staley 167).
Family Conflicts and Problems
Conflicts in family relationships is another cause that tends to enhance drug use and abuse among the American populations. According to the national household survey in the United States, adolescents who argue with their parents several times a week are likely to have used marijuana in the past or present. Practically, family conflicts and lower caring among family members enhance the risk of adolescence use of drugs in order to be used as a remedy to curb the situation. Furthermore, marital family conflicts also appear to be another cause of drug use and abuse among the couples. As a result of marital breakdown, many couples resort to drug use as way of solving their current situation that ends up making the addicted to the substances.
Policy and Regulation of Drugs in the United States
In the United States, there are several drug policies that have been initiated. These policies entail laws and regulations aimed at controlling the distribution and use of both prescriptive as well as illicit drugs in the nation. From the categorization of drugs, with regards to their potential for abuse to the legalization of certain drugs, the drug policy has witnessed several changes over the years. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, there are several measures taken in addressing drug addicts in helping rather that condemning the condition. For instance, the drug courts admit an individual to treatment instead of prison every four minutes. Approximately, the United States spend about $ 6,120 each second on healthcare aspects related to drug abuse. Drug use and abuse in the United States is generally dropping for the past 30 years according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The policies established to curb the drug menace in the United States include the drugged driving, prescription drug use, prevention methods as well as how the drugs affect specific populations. Drug abuse policies in the nations work with an aim of preventing drug abuse and inform the civic about the threats and dangers of drug use and sales. Laws relating to abuse are traced back in the 1980s where there was a hardline position war against drugs in the United States, which according to the public, the opinion towards the war has changed. Currently, a good percentage of the US citizens prefers the government to concentrate on drug rehabilitations and treatment rather that criminal penalties for drug users. Alongside the criminalization and decriminalization of certain drugs, for instance, marijuana in several states, the American population is slowly accepting the fact that addiction is a disease, which must be managed in order to treat it instead of looking at it as matter of resolve or moral corruption.
Furthermore, the Sentencing Commission of the United States in 2014 decided to reduce sentences of non-violent drug offenders through a non-disputed vote. As a way of reducing reoffending, the inmates who were set free were also initiated into solid degeneration prevention strategies with the incorporation and familiar support through a structured outpatient program. This was aimed at enhancing the recovered addicts tocontinue being robust in their established somberness.
The United States policy for controlling prescription of drug use is also significant in controlling drug use. This element contains four major categories. The first one is education, which is significant in ensuring that education is taught to parents, youths, and patients about the dangers and risks of drugs. Monitoring element entails prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPS) that are aimed at monitoring doctor shopping, whichensure doctors share files for patients who visit several doctors and get over prescription of medicines (Finklea, Sacco and Bagalman 481). Prevention use of drugs is one of the effective ways that have been applied in controlling drug use. Minors are discouraged from using drugs and it has been established that drug free children perform better in schools. Prevention programs have also enhanced people to become more productive in their work places as well as reducing sexual abuses and transmission of diseases like HIV. The United States has also set aside a budget of 1.7 billion aimed at funding the education programs to stop drug abuse before it begins. The United States drug abuse policies concentrate on the prevention, especially among the minors in the early days of their lives.
The concept of drug addiction does not recognize any ethnic or category of people in the US. It has no social boundaries as each person in the society is exposed to drug use. However, the policies are aimed at targeting specific categories of people in ensuring that they are effective. For Instance, members of the military and veterans are exposed to traumatic conditions that can make them decide to use drugs. In this regards, appropriate measures have been put in place to address their psychological and physical issues. Moreover, women, children, and other family members can be exposed to drugs due to several reasons. In identifying the conditions that can easily make someone to use drugs, special drug policies have been set up, for instance, the maternal health and health during pregnancy in addressing women problems.
Due to pressure frompeers, drug use and addiction is also likely to be prevalent in colleges and universities. The ONDCP encourages and supports policies like the college and universities drug prevention policies, interventions, and treatment as well as recovery plans in dealing with drugs in the institutions. As a matter of fact, drug use and addiction has also been predominant among the Native American and Native Alaskan populations, triggering the US government to come up with programs that are aimed at targeting drug abuse among these populations. These policies help in establishing strategies for addressing the drug menace, for instance, treatment, prevention, and law enforcement.
In conclusion, although the difficult concept of drugs may appear impossible to eradicate, there are tangible ways that can be applied to weaken the hold of drugs in society. The significant measure is addressing the real problems from the initial stages, especially among the minors. Everyone should also understand that addiction is a condition that is not easily treated and it requires an elaborate process. The war on drugs also entails everyone in society beginning from thefamilies to the government, whichshould be united. The dangers emanating from drugs are too great and cannot be ignored.
Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of national findings(HHS Publication No. SMA 12-4713, NSDUH Series H-44), 2012. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Finklea, Kristin, Lisa N. Sacco, and Erin Bagalman. “PRESCRIPTION DRUG MONITORING PROGRAMS*.” Journal of Drug Addiction, Education, and Eradication 10.4 (2014): 481.
Heymann, Philip B, and William N. Brownsberger. Drug Addiction and Drug Policy: The Struggle to Control Dependence. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2001. Internet resource.
McGovern, Patrick E., Stuart J. Fleming, and Solomon H. Katz, eds. The origins and ancient history of wine: food and nutrition in history and anthropology. Routledge, 2003.
Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Prescription Drug Abuse, n.d.Web. 31 March 2016.ONDCP Web site:.
“Our Drug Culture.”. Foundation for a Drug-Free World,2014.Web. 31 March 2016.
Self, David W, and Julie K. Staley. Behavioral Neuroscience of Drug Addiction. Heidelberg [etc.: Springer, 2010. Print.
United Nations Office on Drugs, & Crime. World drug report 2010. United Nations Publications, 2010.