Understanding Drug Addiction


The drug addiction is referred to chronic as well as relapsing disorder which is characterised by compulsive behaviour of having drug in a continuous manner in spite of harmful impact and long-lasting changes in the functioning of the brain. This requires integrated treatment for the body and mind to ensure health well-being of the individuals (Everitt and Robbins, 2016). In this essay, initially, the reason behind the use of drug use and the way its use is developed is to be discussed. The prevalence rate of drug addiction regarding cannabis is to be discussed. The attitudes towards drug use are also to be explained and the theories explaining the concept and cause of drug addiction is to be evaluated.


Reasons why people are taking drugs

Ancient Time

The addiction and intake of illicit drug are not contemporary as it is seen to exist from the ancient times. Nearly 10,000 years ago, cannabis was initially used in Tawain as fibre and the cannabis seeds were used as food. The Chinese were the first to use cannabis in medicine for the treatment of health issues among people. The Hua Tuo was the early Chinese surgeon who used cannabis as powder mixed with wine to be administered to patients before surgery is conducted on them (McPartland and Hegman, 2018; Brian et al. 2019). In the ancient Netherlands, the archaeologist found a late Neolithic grave where large concentration of pollen was found and it later was identified to be cannabis with small amount of presence of meadowseat. It was determined that fever-reducing ability of meadowseat along with the painkilling impact of cannabis may have led them to be used to heal the person from any health issue in the grave (Engels et al. 2018). In ancient Egypt, cannabis is used as the suppositories to help individuals get relieved of the pain of haemorrhoids. In ancient India, Cannabis is a main component used in different religious as well as medicinal purposes. Moreover, cannabis is also used in ancient India for having psychoactive properties to treat headaches, insomnia and others (Friedman and Sirven, 2017).

Reason why people intake Drugs in present day

In the contemporary world, the reasons behind the use of illicit drugs are many such as peer pressure, curiosity, experimentation, socio-economic condition and others mostly among the teenagers. The peer pressure in drug use is when friends or family members of teenagers in the social circle engage in substance abuse regularly and put pressure on the individuals to join them in the habit. These results individuals who are even trying to abstain from drug intake be influenced to take drugs making them susceptible to the habit with repeated force from the members (Esiri, 2016). The peer pressure often leads socially awkward individuals who are teenagers to get into the experimentation of illicit drugs as they may consider it the way they can help themselves to effectively socialise with the group (McCoy et al. 2019). The teenagers who are struggling with mental health condition like anxiety and others may initiate to take drugs which with time increases to cope with the psychological pain and develop tolerance with the situation (Prestage et al. 2018).

The curiosity of the young people regarding the taste and nature of drugs makes them involve in accessing illicit narcotic. The impact of drugs at an early age on the young brain is seen to have detrimental impact which later leads them to develop addiction with drugs (Margolis et al. 2018). The poor-self image of the young people often leads them to develop addiction towards the use of drugs as they consider it is going to make them feel valued and overcome low self-esteem regarding their body image (Sreehari et al. 2018). The lack of information among people regarding the negative impact of illicit drugs leads people to get involved in drug use without realisation the way it is hindering their health condition (Eguale et al. 2016). The people to overcome bereavement and the socio-economic condition often involve in drug intake which later make them become addiction regarding it (Valentine et al. 2016). The young people have illicit drug through the use of injection or they are even found to take drugs through oral manner (Day et al. 2018).

Prevalence rate of Drug use

Percentage of cannabis use among individuals in the UK

The graph presented informs the percentage of adults within 16 to 59 years of age and 16-24 years of age involved in the use of cannabis since 1996 to 2018. It is revealed that nearly 25% of people within 16-59 years of age were involved in the use of cannabis in 1996 which was raised to 29% in 1998. However, the rate of drug use among the 16-59 years old people was seen to fall from 2000 which the least percentage that is 13% reported in 2013. The percentage of people with the 16-59 age range involved in cannabis use was slightly raised after 2013 with at present 17% of people involved in having cannabis as per reports in 28%. The graphs informed that 9% of 16-24 years old were addicted to cannabis in 1996 which was raised to slightly above 10% till 2004. After 2004, continuous fall in use of cannabis was seen among the 16-24 years old which was slightly raised after 2016 (assets.publishing.service.gov.uk, 2019). This informs that in the 1990s increased number of people was engaged in drug use but with the coming year effective promotion of negative impact of illicit drugs along with proper legal implication to restrict access of illicit drugs have lead individuals to avoid getting involved in drug use lowering the number of people involved in cannabis addiction.

Attitudes towards Drug use

Media and Public

The attitudes regarding drug use are differently represented in the media and public. In 2015, an article published by Channel4 mentioned that Skunk which is potent nature of cannabis is seen to dominate 80% of the market in British and is found to provoke paranoid symptoms along with memory loss indications in people. A person reported that after taking Skunk when the individual is introduced in the MRI machine, the person was feared to death and mentioned the individual is never going to have skunk even for medical reasons (channel4.com, 2015). This indicates that the media is promoting the use of cannabis in a negative way by mentioning the way it hinders the psychological functioning of the individuals. However, through films and movies, the drug users are often seen to be portrayed as people who are harmful and with low self-esteem unable to manage their personal lives. This negative portrayal of drug addict people makes them unaccepted in the society in turn leading them to face social isolation (Marsh and Melville, 2019).


The UK government is found to have taken different steps through the introduction of policies and legislations to avoid drug misuse and dependency. The Drug Misuse Act of 1971 was introduced by the UK government to lawfully punish people who are in the possession or involved in dangerous drug use (legislation.gov.uk, 1971). The Misuse of Drug Regulations 2001 implemented to ensure lawful possession, as well as supply of illicit drugs, occurs in controlled manner for legitimate purposes to avoid their availability to the public. The regulation covers administration, prescribing, dispensing, safe custody, destruction as well as disposal of controlled drugs for preventing their misuse (legislation.gov.uk, 2001). This mentions that the UK government have taken effective step and positive attitude to ensure illicit drugs are not easily available to the public to provide ban on its misuse.

Hospitals and Health service providers

The problematic drug use is referred to the nature of drug use that involves the activity where individuals are dependent or use drugs for recreational purpose (Büchel et al. 2017). The hospitals and medical institutions manage problematic drug addiction by providing information to individuals who are addicted regarding the ways to adapt to resolve addiction. The nurses arrange rehabilitation programs and psychiatric support for people who are drug addict to help them cope mentally as well as physically to avoid further use of drugs (Dasgupta et al. 2018).

Evaluating theories of addiction

Normalisation Theory

The Parker’s normalisation theory when developed claimed that many young people are involved in taking drugs as they consider it as norm of the society and predicted that non-drug trying group of young people in urban area on coming days would be minority (Sznitman et al. 2016). The term normalisation was introduced in Denmark during the late 1950s to explain normal living conditions for individuals suffering from learning disabilities. The term from then has become influential in an increased way (Coomber et al. 2016). The development and implication of the concept regarding normalisation were introduced by Parker and other researchers for exploring and explaining the unpredicted increased use of drug involvement among the young people in Britain in the 1990s. In this purpose, Parker along with the researchers executed three surveys from which they collected and recorded information regarding drug use from 776 young people who are found to be in the penultimate year of compulsory education and were almost aged 14 years. The surveys were executed in the metropolitan North-West of England as it is found to have the highest average level of data regarding drug, heroin and alcohol use among young people in the 1990s. Thus, referring to the level of drug use in the area the thesis was developed by Parker as they thought that increased response regarding the reason of drug use can be found in the area from the people compared to their peers who are living elsewhere (Haskuka et al. 2018).

The Parker’s normalisation theory mentioned five key dimensions for the reason drug use is normalisation among young people. The first dimension mentioned that without the availability and access of illicit drugs normalised use of drugs among the young people can never be seen (Segrott et al. 2017). This is because if the drugs are not available in an increased amount and in easier manner then the people would have to struggle to access the illicit drug as they are illegal thus making them avoid their use as they are going to face obstacles and hardships to avail them. The thesis explained that in the 1990s the street prices of the drugs were found to be either stable or falling along with purity level of the illicit drugs being maintained by the authorities to ensure sustained and continuous availability of drugs. In addition, fall in prices of drugs such as cocaine is seen to raise its use (Sznitman and Taubman, 2016). This is because proper purity and lower price of the illicit drugs make people trying to avail them get quality drugs in a cost-effective way making it easier for them to maintain their addiction.

The second dimension which led to the development of the normalisation theory regarding drug addiction was increased drug trying rates among the young people and adolescent (Coomber et al. 2016). This is evident as during the 1990s it was seen that where only 6.7% adolescent reported to use drug in past month in 1996 the figures were raised above 7% in 1998 indicates the drug trying rates was found to be rising at a steep rate (Parker et al. 2013). The studies have also mentioned that in 1990s the peak drug trying rates were found to be in Scotland and Northern Ireland where 50-60% of the adolescent and young people disclosed to have predominantly used cannabis followed by the use of amphetamines (Parker et al. 2013). Thus, frequency and intensity to use drugs made young people gradually develop drug addiction. The third dimension which led to the Parker’s normalisation theory was regular and recent drug use among young people. The researchers have suggested that drug use rises and regularises among children from 15 years of age when they are in their school-age (Parker et al. 2013). It is evident from the reports in 2016 where it is mentioned that a 5% increase in the likelihood of use of drugs is seen among 11 years olds compared to 31% in 15-year-old individuals. In 2018, it was further reported that taking drugs in the last month have further increased by 2% among the 11-year-olds compared to 1urther 19% rise among the 15-year-old young people from the last year (digital.nhs.uk, 2018).

The fourth dimension mentions that social accommodation regarding sensible and recreational drug use have raised drug addiction among people to be normalised (Sznitman and Taubman, 2016). This is evident from the study of Duff et al. (2012) where it is mentioned that sensible drug use was found among young people who have closed friends those routinely used drugs for recreation. This is evident from the interview transcript mentioned in the study where one person expressed that smoking cannabis with friends once in a while is proper as it leads to means getting addicted. The fifth dimension of Parker’s normalisation theory mentions that cultural accommodation leads young people to get addicted to drugs. The fact is considered evident as when any activity is accommodated within the culture it leads people living within the cultural boundaries to develop it as custom which they are to follows as it is normal for them as they found no proper reason to not avoid it (Williams et al. 2017). For instance, in many of the newspapers and in television dramas in the English culture, the drug-taking adventure is shown in neutral terms compared to being express it as condemnatory activity (Shildrick, 2016). Moreover, the use of cannabis is found to be increasing decriminalised in Asian as well as English culture through the support of the public (Shildrick, 2016). Therefore, lack of consciousness development among the young people due to cultural accommodation regarding drug use is raising its preference for use.

The disagreement regarding Parker’s drug normalisation theory is presented by Shiner and Newburn who mentioned that the theory cannot be used for explaining drug addiction as it exaggerates the reason of drug use by focussing on considering lifetime drug use compared to considering current usage of drugs. Moreover, they criticised the theory by mentioning that it is developed on the basis of biased research method where only the voice of the consumers of drugs was heard and they did not consider the practical information from the society (Parker et al. 2013). The further disagreement regarding the normalisation theory is that it is ideologically based on post-modernism theory (Coomber et al. 2016). The study by Martins et al. (2016) tried to identify the relationship between medical marijuana laws and the prevalence of marijuana use among people. It was found that with the introduction of marijuana laws in the US has led adults above 26+ to show marijuana use from 5.87% to 7.15% in the past months. This indicates ensuring accessibility of the drugs through law makes it be easily used by individuals supporting the first dimension mentioned in normalisation theory.

Disease Theory of Addiction

The Disease Theory of Addiction informs that any addiction is a disease that has neurological, biological, environmental or genetic source of origin (García-García et al. 2017). The concept of the disease model is evident as in many instances it is seen that stress and psychological condition often leads people to get adjusted to drug use making them later get addicted to the drugs. For instance, the study of McReynolds et al. (2018) mentioned that increase in corticosterone production as a result of stress leads individuals to develop addiction and use of cocaine by mobilising the 2-arachidonoylglycerol in the prelimbic cortex. Moreover, the Endorphin-Deficiency explanation regarding addiction of illicit drugs mentions that people who have endorphin deficiency are seen to get used to opioid drug use for improving their pain perception or threshold (Reed et al. 2017). This indicates that the biological condition of the people also leads to them to get addicted to drugs showing approval for the concept forwarded by the disease theory.

The study by Hörnsten et al. (2016) mentions that from the population surveyed 70% of the people are suffering from depression and other nature of psychotic disorder which is making them develop addiction to narcotic. This is because drug use leads the individuals to cope with the psychological pain perceived out of depression. The criticism regarding disease theory of addiction is that leads to label people as addicts making them unable to develop self-control and experience stigmatisation in the society (Williams, 2016). Thus, it can be seen that the disease model consider pragmatic recognition of cause of drug addiction rather than focussing on the fact that treatment is required to meet the needs and personal goals of service users.

Psychosocial Theory

The Freud’s theory informs that drug use or addiction among individuals may have developed as a result of unconscious response regarding any difficulties faced during the developmental years or childhood (Leung and Shek, 2019). This informs that the unconscious emotions of the teenagers or young people which are influenced by past events in the childhood may have led them to develop addiction towards drugs. The criticism regarding Freud’s theory is that the concepts explained are subjective and are difficult to be proved through scientific analysis (Dare, 2018).

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The above discussion informs that use of illicit drugs such as cannabis is done in the ancient times to resolve insomnia, as anaesthetics to execute surgery and others. They were early used as food and religious purposes. In contemporary condition, the use of drugs and addiction is raised as a result of peer pressure, overcoming anxiety; develop self-esteem, socialisation and others. The government is seen to have taken active steps to prevent drug misuse and dependency by people. Parker's normalisation theory informs that drug addiction occurs due to easy access and availability of drugs, experimentation, frequency of use, social accommodation for recreation use and cultural accommodations. In contrast, the disease theory of addiction informs that the use of drugs is seen among individuals due to neurological, environmental, biological or genetic condition.


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