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Drug Misuse

  • 12 Pages
  • Published On: 17-11-2023


Drugs refer to chemical substances which have the potency to deteriorate an individual's physical and mental wellbeing, if taken in amounts exceeding the prescribed amount or in routine amounts excessively (McKim, and Hancock, 2012). Drugs may be categorized as legal drugs and illegal drugs, both of which are dose dependent and if partaken in amounts over the prescribed dosage can lead to severe detrimental effects on human body. Furthermore, if partaken in routine amounts and in repetitive sequences drugs can enhance an individual's addiction towards that particular agent. Addiction refers to a complex brain condition manifested through the use of substance compulsively irrespective of the harmful consequences and adverse impacts such substances cause. Addiction affects not only the individual's behavior processes but also impacts normal neurological function in individuals. Initially every individual partakes drugs voluntarily, which through repetitive practices and regular intake causes complex brain conditions challenging self-restrain and self-resistance to avoid addictive substances, ultimately causing the individual to succumb towards drug addiction and substance abuse. The complex brain and neurological changes which follow from overdose of drugs and substance abuse cause profound behavioral modification affecting human health parameters, family interactions, poor work productivity leading to unemployment and societal problems also crop up (Connors, et al., 2013). Legal drug prescriptions often for medicinal use, can also lead to severe cases of drug addiction if taken in measures beyond the prescribed amount. These drugs comprise of opioids, nicotine, painkiller, alcohol and severely impacts not just a single addicted individual but also their family, caregivers and community lifestyle aspects. The youth generation often fall victim to drug malpractices and substance abuse leading to social disturbances alongside disruption of smooth parity and balance in their health, economy, spiritual peace, culture, or psychological health. Lack of guidance, with a feeling of curiosity, freedom, often pushes the younger population towards the malpractice, wherein their lagging experience prevents them from estimating the negative consequences that drug abuse has to offer. The younger masses, in order to tackle problem or depression fall prey to drug abuse with hopes of avoiding the negative experiences or fear due to the excitement or feeling of euphoria that chemical drugs create in the human body via release of neurotransmitter dopamine (DA), the happiness hormone, from the brain on to the limbic regions (Sulzer, 2011). Drug abuse makes the youth generation easy targets and victims, who form a major section of the working populace of a society and a nation; thereby affecting the socio-economic aspects of a locality ridden with drug abusers, at large. Individuals who fall victim to the malpractice of drug and substance abuse, not only lose their work-productivity and lose jobs due to drug-addictiveness but their decision-making capability and information retention potency also gets severely hampered. In the present essay, the negative consequences of drug abuse has been delved in details by portraying the socio-economical impacts, health impacts and psychological impacts which affect the individual and the society at large.


Impact of drug-abuse and substance malpractice on political, social, economic and cultural aspects of a nation

According to the recent estimates, Crime-Survey-for-England-and-Wales (CSEW) for the year 2018-2019 showcased the figures that 9.4% amounting to 1 out of every 11 adult citizen in UK, ranging in age from 16-59 years have taken drug, equating to an alarming number of 3.2mn UK citizens in the year before(Drugs Misuse: Findings from the 2018/19 Crime Survey for England and Wales, 2019). Furthermore the most used drug is that of cannabis followed by the drugs cocaine and then ecstasy on the basis of usage. On the contrary however, opioids usage has been found to be significantly less, irrespective of the fact that opioids credit more harm to physical, or mental wellbeing of addicted individuals over the other two drugs mentioned above. From results on population-survey and from government reports, a steady decline was observed amongst school children, aged 11 years to 15 years, in relation to lifetime prevalent substance abuse from 2004 till 2014 in England (Misuse et al., 2014). However, this was marked by a stark contrast in the year 2016, when an increase in drug abuse prevalence amongst school-goers was reported (Misuse et al., 2016). It was suggested that the most common drug used by school-children was cannabis, which however has marked a downward trend and remained stable in the recent years for people of all age range across UK. On a positive note, drug usage amongst the Scottish people reported a steady decline during a similar time-span ranging from 2004 till the year 2018, remaining stable overall (Heroin use declining in Scotland, figures show, 2018). This together with Class-A categorized drugs have reported a downward trend during 1996-2011 wherein the former percentage was 9.2% which dipped down to 6.2%. Contrastingly, the records showed a 8.7% increase in Class-A drug usage in form of methadone, cocaine, heroin, magic-mushroom, ecstasy, crustal-meth or crack-cocaine during 2018-2019 (Drugs and crime | nidirect, 2020). Also, crack injection as a means of drug intake has increased in England over recent years as per monitoring-survey data obtained in 2017 (Increase in crack cocaine use inquiry: summary of findings, 2020).

From the aforementioned government data and data from monitoring surveys of general population, it can be forecasted that a significant rise in trend of drug-abuse has been observed statistically during the years 2011-2019, with an alarming rate of increase in Class-A category of drug usage, which have been marked as the ones capable of causing most harm to an individual by the UK parliament Authority, followed in range of harm by Category B and Category C in drugs (Drugs policy- First Report of Session 2019, 2019). The report of Advisory-Council on Hidden-Harm considering drug abuse and substance malpractice, further estimated children population of 350,000 at risk of drug-abuse in the nation (Governing Parental Drug Use in the UK: What’s Hidden in “Hidden Harm?” - Anne Whittaker, Fiona Martin, Anna Olsen, Emma Wincup, 2020, 2020).

Socially, the increase in drug misuse and substance abuse, drastically affects a nation, and is typically becoming a global-concern in the recent years. Socio-economic problems like - damaged relationship amongst substance abuser and family, poor community interaction, poor social-status, poor relation with volunteers, social-service-group-members and with wider society get drastically tarnished (Emmelkamp, and Vedel, 2012). While people who have become prone to substance and drug abuse at younger years, become addicted to drug usage in alarming quantities, their incapacity towards maintaining physical form and health, healthy and proper family relationships or ties with friends decreases. This overall declines self-esteem and tarnishes the morale and confidence of drug abusers as they gradually tend to lose social-circle based support from their lives, going deeper into the abyss. Furthermore, work performance also gets severely hampered, as drug abusers lose proper neurological and brain workability which severely affects concentration and willpower at work, causing rates of unemployment to rise. With unemployment, job-loss and poverty family ties are affected and often family members are plummeted into debt and homelessness. Such individuals then become low-performing members of the wider society, at their prime years, affecting national productivity and societal development is barred. Such non-labor participation costs, plummets as work expected from people at their prime remains unmet causing loss in national income, output and GDP. In 2011, US reported a loss of $120bn which amounts to 0.9% GDP, while Canada suffered 0.4% loss and Australia 0.3% loss in GDP (Economic consequences of drug abuse, 2013). These costs catapulted to alarming rates being 3 to 8 times higher respectively over other national costs related to public-health, ambulatory and hospital care, thereby lowering national productivity.

These suggest how drug abuse remains a costly affair for the nation and its society placing a huge burden onto the workplace, system of healthcare and the communities. On an annual basis at UK, cost due to drug policing, drug abuse related crime and drug-abuse based healthcare needs amounts to a significant sum of £10.7 bn while £6bn amounts to drug-abuse related theft in the nation (Drug Strategy 2017). The family and communities of a drug-addict individual is affected, wherein family refers to every individual's primary source of nurture, attachment or human-to-human socialization. On this basis of socialization and attachment developed in individuals, for understanding how drug-abuse affects family attachment and social attachment or ties, the systems theory, psychological theory, neuro-scientific theory and the attachment theory have been delved in details in the following sections.

Systems-Theory: The systems theory in social-science also referred to as social-systems-theory relates to study of human society in form of complex arrangements of individuals, individual beliefs and other elements relating to the nation and its social-system as a whole. Also as per Brown and Christensen (1986) family-systems-theory, every individual family is considered as having a system of its own, trying to achieve homeostatis or stability, balance or equilibrium within the system (Titelman, 2014). In families wherein drug-addicted individuals or substance abusers exist, the social or family system lacks homeostatis, as their actions and thoughts starts affecting all other interrelated individuals creating imbalance and disharmony in their lifestyle. Also according to Bailey, et al., (2013), when individuals grow up in a family system where substance-use and drug abuse exist, due to environmental factors and genetic factors, children are also most likely to be prone to show tendencies of substance abuse when they grow up. This shows how the chain in drug abuse continues within the society, creating imbalance and distorting homeostatis in the society, hindering social development and economic improvement.

Attachment-theory: The attachment-theory draws its basis from the fact that in every individual the bonds or attachments formed in the early years of life, corresponding to the first 5 years of a child, significantly leave lasting impression on their lives later on (Goldberg, et al., 2013). Also the number of families marked as having drug-abuse cases in UK, are alarmingly on the rise, which as per the theory leads to development of the fact wherein a significant children populace belonging to such drug-and substance abuse families will develop signs related to drug abuse and substance malpractice later on in life, the vicious cycle going on in continuity. Studies of such families suggest how drug abuse and malpractice related to substance abuse within a family will be most likely to impact a child's development causing them to struggle later in life with behavioral problems, emotional disturbances and substance-abuse related malpractices (Lander, et al., 2013). According to the theory, if the primary-care-giver with whom first bonds of attachment has been formed by a child shows drug-abuse related symptoms, is irresponsive in nature, then the child will have insecure attachment later on including depression, anxiety, inability to cope; restricting children to grow healthy in body and mind, without a secured environment.

Neuro-scientific theory: While diverse drugs (legal or illegal) affect the brain in different ways and through diverse pathways, there remains 2 typically major pathways in the human body, namely the endogenous-opioid-system and the DA-reward-system, which is common for most drug types (Sayin, 2019). The DA-system suggest that drugs deliver and follow a shortcut onto reward-system of brain by release of happiness-hormone dopamine or DA. The nucleus accumbens receives dopamine and hippocampus region of brain etches memories of such satisfaction and rapid happiness. This is followed by amygdala of brain which creates conditioned response every time a similar stimuli occurs. The repetitive exposer to drugs and the rapid happiness or satisfaction behavior generated cause nerves in pre-frontal-cortex of brain and in nucleus accumbens to interact towards coupling a reaction of a want, and a drive for wanting more of the rapid satisfaction. The urgent need thus created creates the drive in humans to go towards drug abuse, once such a drug stimuli occurs (Sayin, 2019). The opioid-system suggests that opioids function similar to neuro-modulators and neurotransmitters at 3 major receptor classes - delta, kappa and mu; thereby producing analgesia and an urgent requirement.

Psychological-theory: Several psychological approaches behind drug abuse, or dependence exist emphasizing on behavioral models, conditioning, learning, cognitive theory, personality theory and rational-choice based models. All these suggest that behavioral addictions arise due to an individual's inability to resist a drive or impulsive force, being tempted to act in a way which may bring them harm or cause harm towards others. Social-environment in which a child gets raised in their family-setting as well as parenting remain as important factors which when jeopardized act as risk-generating factors causing children to walk the path of drug abuse and substance based malpractices. Changes within social and political scenario of an individual due to factors like globalization, transnational movement, culture and social intermingling, declined centrality of nations all put pressure on social standards and norms, affecting societal values and cultures at large (Scheier, 2010). According to Nutt et al., (2010) and from survey results assessing people's reaction towards drug abusers and treatment in Britain , suggest that general public disagree with confirming with the fact that drug abuse is caused by mental or psychological illnesses in individuals, but they rather think drug addicts as unreliable, irresponsible and deceitful people who must be distanced from. Clinical studies reveal patients showcasing more sympathetic countenances over general public towards drug-addicts. Drugs-education and primary-prevention based reports have been particularly considered as prime focus by British Government due to alarming rate of increase in drug users irrespective of their genders (Manning, 2013). The AMCD (Advisory-Council-on-the-Misuse-of-Drugs) reportedly published 2 reports hence, on drug based education addressing school-children and youngsters (Whittaker, et al., 2020).Apart from the above the Tackling-Drugs-Together-Strategy in England and other equivalents of such in Britain, signifies how rigorous measures are being taken by UK Government via strategies, media-campaigns and policy measures for tackling the drug-abuse problem and declining its societal and economic impact.

Drug abuse and Crime: Critical assessment

Crime and drug-abuse go hand in hand, with criminal records suggesting that aggressive crimes were committed by an alarming 21.4% of drug and alcohol abusers (Bean, 2014). Drug abusers require a large amount of money for funding their drug consumption habits amounting to almost £30,000 per annum. Estimates also exist suggesting that 306,000 crack or heroine users exist in England alone and 200,000 individuals receive treatment per annum (How much crime is drug related?, 2020). To pay for drug-abuse habits other crimes which are being committed are - burglary, thefts, shoplifting, frauds, with estimations signifying that 50% of acquisitive crimes remain related to drug-abuse cases, wherein stolen goods market value involved with drug-abuse may amount to £2.5bn per annum. Hence a direct relationship can be established between the committed crimes and level of drug abuse or types of drug used, with drug addicts developing a tendency of committing crimes to acquire drugs or acquire sufficient money for procuring drugs. As opined by Walker, (2014), complex links exist between crime and illicit usage of drugs or substances. Such a link existing in today's society since past years dating back to 1980, has been a major driving force to cause several crimes which the society faces today. Dependency type is a major indicating factor behind the types of crime committed, as with higher and greater dependency on drugs, the levels of crime committed increases.

The economic-compulsive-model suggested by Paul Goldstein, holds of high value in this perspective, developed in year 1985, whereby 3 mechanisms were proposed to explain interrelationship existing between violent crime, economic crimes and drug dependency (Powell, 2011).

Economic-compulsive-mechanism:According to Walters, (2016) this mechanism, poverty, poor economic conditions and high unemployment level persisting in society creates in individuals an economic-necessity which in turn adds on to their dependency on drugs and that leads to criminal practices. As per studies, regular heroine users, were shown to commit high frequency of crimes which later reduced drastically while methadone drug maintenance program was initiated on them. Such similar type of successful interventions have been adopted named as HAT (Heroine-Assisted-Therapy), wherein synthetic heroine is injected on individuals with opiate dependency (Schechter, 2015).This approach however fail to address individual problem routes in drug abusers and thus cannot be considered fundamentally right.

Psychopharmacological mechanisms: According to this model, as one starts getting slowly dependent upon drug intake via repetitive practices, one starts behaving irrationally, striking out often and losing calm replacing it with violence. Contrastingly however, Parker and Auerhahn (1998) in their studies revealed that social-environment acts as a larger and powerful contributor towards violent and criminal behavior in individuals over pharmacological factors (Roberts, and Chen, 2013). Similar to this Fagan (1990: 243) suggested that intoxication and drug consumption does not lead towards aggressiveness in behavior, with subtle and limited evidences gathered on this fact suggesting that consumption of legal or illegal drugs does not hold direct evidence to commitment in crimes (Page, et al., 2017).

Systematic-Mechanisms: This suggests how due to drug users' extreme dependency ond rugs, a need is developed forcing them to contact with supply-industries for procurement of illicit drugs, resulting in crime activities like drug supply or drug handling (Contreras, and Hipp, 2020). The industry being one of the most profiteering across the globe is run via criminals who monopolize drugs sale. Thus the fact that drugs are illegal to procure, and the high dependency associated with procurement of the same, shows sufficient logic towards high violence and crime activities generated because of the scenario.

Thus the approach of Goldstein as described above, is often used a guiding framework for drawing in a link between substance abuse and criminal acts. A nationwide norm was enforced during 2001, for decriminalizing drugs inclusive of heroine as well as cocaine (Rethinking UK’s antidrug law—towards decriminalization of drug use?, 2020). Such a law witnessed important results in form of - decreased deaths from drug-abuse, reduced infectious disease spread, increase in uptake of drug-addiction treatment and reduced level of drug-users posing criminal and social problems. Partake of drugs in prison, has gone for decades and 29% of the prison mates admit to have drug-addiction problems prior to their arrival. One-fifth of prisoner population related and signify to the first-time drug users. These facts suggest how close a relation is exhibited between criminals and drug-abuse, which continue even inside prison, where criminals are sent for redemption and betterment of their acts (Breakthrough Britain 2015 – An overview, 2015)

Exploration onto the clear relationship between crime acts and drug usage through walls of cultural, economic, globalization and social aspects, in the aforementioned sections have made it clear how addiction towards drugs, steers peoples' minds off control, making them irrational, violent and more probable towards committing a crime which otherwise they would have thought it through. Addicts require a huge sum of economic resources which also pushes them towards commitment of crimes, stimulated often by the monopoly approach of drug-market. Thus it can be safe to note, that drug-and-crime nexus has a complicated relation which though hold merit, needs to be further investigated upon to address the gaps for the future.

UK perspective of Cocaine - drug dependency

Cocaine possesses threat and several negative impacts o the drug abuser, falling in the category of toxic, psychoactive and addictive drugs, creating a whirlpool of psychological stress and physiological impacts upon an individual's body. Out of the many addictive drugs, cocaine is high-rated globally which has led to an expansion in its demands within UK too, adding in to the problem caused and crimes affected as a result of the nature of the drug. Being a drug which is recreational in nature, making individuals feel happy, the drug is often available in parties and entertainment zones in form of white-powder, rocks or lumps which are flammable. Cocaine injections are also common, heating the powder or crack versions till they become liquid which is syringed and later injected. The versatility in the ways of its usage, thus makes cocaine one of the most sought-after drugs, after cannabis, in Wales and in England typically amongst the younger generation having age range - 16 years - 59 years, as reported during 2017. Studies by Ersch (2012) have showcased how individuals dependent upon the drug cocaine appear more aged than they normally are in years, with 8 times higher mortality exhibited over healthy populace. Furthermore, cocaine dependency also leads to psychological distress and disorders (reminiscent with old age) in younger individuals like - atrophy of brain, cognitive decline and disorders (Spronk, et al., 2013). These suggest that cocaine as a drug may have the effect of fastening the aging process (physical and brain aging), in individuals as a negative effect of the drug's over usage. Also sometimes, mixed with heroine, and named as speedball, the drug poses high danger by speeding heart beat in contrary to heroines action of slowing down the heart, causing high strain on heart which may even lead to strokes.

Drug-abuse in form of cocaine thus not only affects at an individual level, but also places impact at societal level, family level, community level and at workplace level. Abusers of cocaine show high aggressiveness with random acts committed in terms of domestic-violence or other crimes making children or weaker individuals the victims of abuse within a family setting, where parents are drug-users. Such children suffer pre-natal harmful exposure to cocaine and later may follow the vicious circle due to environmental impacts, created through bad parenting of addictive parents. Furthermore, cocaine-users are less productive at work. As far as society and crime rates are concerned, the drug-abuse leads to high chances of violent crimes within the society, disrupting social-harmony and homeostatis amongst the societal members, as drug-addicts involve drug-dealers within their social circle, imposing threat to residents and neighbors'. In certain scenarios, young children are kept as lookouts for police patrols acting as helpers to drug dealers, due to lighter criminal punishment on juvenile offenders, i.e. children. This has led to children handling drugs, and weapons like guns or knives within cocaine-ridden localities.

Cocaine dependency makes an individual suffer from depression, irritation, mood-swings if devoid of the drug for long duration, which will prolong unless the body is provided more cocaine dosage (Arias, et al., 2013). During the period when a drug-addict remains deprived of cocaine, severe symptoms like hostility, anxiety, anger, paranoia and cravings for the drug increases, with possible signs of harming family and dear ones and violent behavior. It is often common to sustain without sleep or food when such cocaine drive and cravings increases. Intake of the drug leads to increase in blood-pressure, heart rate and heart-disorders follow namely, that of seizures, strokes, breathlessness, respiratory problems which can affect life of the patients, even leading to sudden death at times of cocaine overdose.

Treating such cocaine-dependency largely depends upon intervention measures and strategies, aimed to reducing drug-dependency of the patients, based on the cue where the dependency is considered to be partly based on environmental situation and learnt behaviors of the drug-users (Rudolph, et al., 2011). Some such approaches are discussed below:

Cognitive-behavioral-strategy -Through this strategy, drug-users are made to establish self-goals towards development via a cognitive-baseline depending upon their commitment and confidence. This has been proved successful in preventing triggers and cravings for the drug cocaine alongside others like cannabis, tobacco, methamphetamine, alcohol (Guven, et al., 2017). However it works as alternative therapy in case of cocaine users.

Motivational-approach - In such approaches, the drug users are self-motivated and empowered via empathy evoking measures which draw contradictions on the individual's life-goals and present behavior, promoting self-sufficiency and boosting confidence (Sobell, and Sobell, 2011). The method however, has proved to have limited impact on users.

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The present essay delves upon the ill-effects of drug abuse and substance misuse focusing upon the young generation populace at UK, ranging between 16-59 years in age and the school children. The wide range of ill effects associated with drug usage (legal or illegal drugs), leads to physical, mental, psychological, problems in individuals, affecting not just at individual level, but also at family level breaking families, plunging them into unemployment, poverty or homelessness and also at societal-level, increasing crimes and anti-social practices at the society coupled with lower labor-productivity, economic degradation and social disruption of the societies where drug-users are common in. Thus it affects the national GDP, economy and social life on a wider range. Cocaine use is widespread in UK followed by weed, and increases morbidity and mortality risks in users, increasing their rate of aging. Thus the UK government must address the gravity of the scenario and successful policies must be drafted or amended addressing enforcement in drug-supply and drug demand reduction. Life-time imprisonment, huge fines, 7 years of prison life and strict laws have been hence enacted and enforced to restrict the usage and flow of drugs in the UK society.


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