Individuals often think that their substance abuse only impacts them. Perhaps, if you are suffering from addiction, you have sometimes thought the same way. Unfortunately, however, addiction impacts the people you love. It also affects the schools, workplaces, and communities in which we are involved, whether by geography, culture, or another characteristic. The social impact of addiction results in consequences ranging from unsafe workplaces to the spread of disease to crime. To stop drug abuse in a community, members must work together to educate people, especially those who are at a greater risk of drug abuse. The best way to avoid the social effects of drug abuse on the community is to prevent addiction altogether.
What Does it Mean to Abuse Drugs?
Substance abuse occurs when an individual uses drugs in unhealthy ways. This can include using more medication than prescribed. It may also include using someone else’s prescription. Some individuals may be abusing drugs in the form of using medications or illicit drugs in an effort to self-medicate against stress, anxiety, or depression.
Substance abuse often coincides with mental disorders. Addiction knows no economic, social, or gender limitations. Anyone can abuse drugs. However, some groups are more at risk.
Addiction may affect:
- Adolescents and young adults
- LGBTQ members
- Seniors (aged 65+)
- Medical professionals
- Pregnant women
The Effects of Drug Abuse on an Individual
Numerous health problems can occur due to substance misuse. These problems affect nearly every organ in the body and can include but are not limited to a weakened immune system, heart disease and problems, abdominal pain, strain on the liver, lung disease, mental conditions, and impaired memory, attention, and decision making.
Substance abuse also results in behavioral changes. A drug user may experience paranoia, aggressiveness, hallucinations, impaired judgment, impulsiveness, loss of self-control, self-imposed isolation, or emotional withdrawal. Heavy substance abuse can ultimately lead to addiction (i.e., needing the substance in order to function normally).
The physical and cognitive effects of addiction can cause the individual to struggle in their environment. Drug addiction can lead to decreased performance or increased absence at school and work, changes in friends and social circles, and troubles at home, all of which will be explored further as the social effects of drug abuse in a community.
What Are the Social Effects of Drug Abuse on the Community?
The definition of “community” is broad. It can mean a group of people living in the same place, such as a home, neighborhood, or city. It can also mean a group that has a particular characteristic in common. This definition could extend to schools and workplaces.
Drug Abuse and the Home
Unfortunately, families all throughout society know the impact of addiction. If a person’s spouse or parent is abusing drugs, the results can be life-altering. It can result in financial hardships (due to job loss or money being diverted to fuel the habit). It may also cause reckless behavior that puts the family at risk. Addiction affects the entire family unit when one member is suffering.
Many cases of domestic violence within relationships are related to substance abuse. Addiction can happen on both sides of the conflict, not only by the abuser but also by the victim who uses drugs to cope.
Drug use in the family is not limited to spouses or parents. Adolescents, especially during times of transition, may find themselves struggling with substance use. Children may experience maltreatment (including physical and sexual abuse and neglect), which may require the involvement of child welfare.
Watching their parents suffer from substance use disorders may result in long-term mental and emotional disorders and delayed development. Children whose parents abuse drugs are more likely to end up using drugs or alcohol, as well.
Drug Abuse and the Workplace
Drug abuse social issues occur in the workplace, too. The substance use of employees can cause problems. An individual’s drug use will likely impact their work performance. Or, it may even stop them from going to work entirely. Substance abuse can lead to:
- Decreased work productivity
- Increased lateness and absences
- Inappropriate behaviors at work, such as selling drugs to co-workers
All three of these could lead to disciplinary actions and dismissal. Further, drug and alcohol abuse can lead to impaired judgment, alertness, and motor coordination, creating unsafe workplace conditions — especially in an environment with heavy machinery.
The Economic Impact
The economic impact of drug abuse in a workplace is hard to calculate, as some of the costs are indirect. However, some of the areas in which a business is impacted include:
- Turnover rates and the cost of training new employees
- Workplace violence and harassment
- Low morale
- Increased likelihood of conflict between co-workers
- Required disciplinary procedures and/or drug testing programs
Drug Abuse and School
Since teenagers’ brains are still developing, drug addiction can have a greater impact on their development than on adults. It’s been found that drug abuse can lead to difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and an inability to process information.
Students who use substances are at a greater risk than their peers of academic failure and expulsion. Researchers have found that students who don’t graduate high school cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars every year. Not only do they represent lost productivity and tax revenues but they are also a burden on public assistance, health care, and criminal justice systems.
Drug Abuse and Society
Addiction creates social issues and public health concerns that extend beyond the home, school, and workplace to negatively impact larger groups of individuals.
Community Health and Health Care
So, how does drug abuse affect the overall health care system? The estimated direct health care cost of drug abuse in the U.S. (illicit and prescription) is $37 billion. The truth of the matter is that drug abuse costs money. This affects the area of health care in our nation. Drug abuse takes a toll on the health care system through:
- Increased risk and rate of heart attacks
- Demand on mental health resources. Dual diagnosis is when a person is diagnosed with addiction along with their mental health diagnosis.
- Spread of sexually transmitted diseases and other diseases. The behavioral changes caused by drug abuse can lead people to partake in risky behavior, such as unprotected sex and needle sharing.
- The need for emergency services and other medical services like medical intervention, inpatient treatment, and even prevention and treatment research
One of the social effects of drug abuse on society is its direct link to crime. Unfortunately, most arrestees are found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of their arrest. A drug-related crime could occur in the following forms:
- Driving under the influence
- Violent crimes committed while under the influence of drugs
- Violence between clashing drug gangs or violence between a dealer and user
- Stealing to afford drugs (including fraud)
All of the social effects of drug abuse on society have a massive effect on the economy. The National Institute of Drug Abuse found that the cost to the U.S. for illicit and prescription drugs is $271.5 billion overall.
How to Stop Drug Abuse in the Community
The impact of drug abuse is never limited to just the individual. Fortunately, some of the social effects of drug abuse on the community can also be remedied and prevented by the community.
So, how can a community help stop drug abuse? How can society help to fight addiction and end illicit drug use?
Awareness and Education
It may seem obvious, but the starting point of preventing drug abuse in the community is educating people on the dangers of drug abuse and the impact it has on the user and the community.
Within the Family
Families can help to address addiction. Parents should teach their children about the dangers of drug abuse from an early age. To start, they should talk to them about the reasons people shouldn’t take drugs. Family members should also discuss the depictions and glamourization of drugs in the media and how to avoid peer pressure.
Education is key, but there are other steps parents should take to help prevent adolescent drug abuse, including:
- Set rules and establish consequences
- Be aware of the child’s activities
- Know their child’s friends
- Take inventory of all medical drugs brought into the house
One of the best things a parent can do is set a good example for their children. If they used to deal with drug or alcohol addiction, keeping an open dialogue with their child about the experience and what they learned is important. Openly and honestly discussing this matter as a family can be undeniably helpful. This can also help to improve relationships within the family.
Within the School
Education in the school should happen early and be repeated often. From a young age, students should be taught skills like communication, assertiveness, and problem-solving that will help them avoid drug abuse.
Within the Community
Communities can create awareness and educate their members on alcohol and drug-related issues through events like town hall meetings, forums, lectures, dramas, and dedicated education and awareness days.
A well-conceived awareness program will:
- Motivate the community to come together
- Target specific audiences
- Reach groups that are at a higher risk of addiction
- Promote helpful resources and alternatives to substance use
- Share the benefits of not using drugs
- Opt for factual information instead of scare tactics
- Identify community problems and intervene early
- Advocate for prevention
- Educate on treatment and rehabilitation options
- Collect resources from agencies that can assist financially
More on Substance Abuse Education in Society
When building an effective drug prevention program, a community should consider the following:
- The demographic characteristics of the community, such as age, socioeconomic status, and culture(s)
- Groups within the community that are most vulnerable and at a greater risk of drug abuse
- The community’s social patterns, strengths, resources, and vulnerabilities
Some individuals may not think that drug use in their community is significant enough to warrant attention. This denial must be dealt with before effective drug prevention programs can occur. To overcome denial:
- Educate the community about the social issues of drug abuse
- Encourage community members to participate
- Involve community members
There is no one-size-fits-all prevention program. Going to the gatekeepers — the people who know what the community needs because of their position or role, or because they are in need themselves — will help determine who is in need of prevention services and what can be done to provide that service.
Involve members of the community that are well-suited to reaching particular audiences. These community members should be empathetic, well-respected, and socially, politically, or financially able to aid with drug prevention programs.
Fight Drug Addiction at North Jersey Recovery Center
Prevention is preferable, but drug abuse happens. Education related to treatment is one of the first steps in stopping drug abuse in a community. Fortunately, there are many addiction treatment programs available to those suffering from substance misuse. A person who is suffering from substance use can find hope through an addiction-free life.
You can learn more about some of these treatment options by contacting us. You or your struggling family member can begin living a substance-free, healthy life today!