Research Proposal On The Effects Of Substance Misuse Among Young People

1.1 Title: Exploring the effects of substance misuse among young people in the UK

1.2 Research Question

What are the effects of substance misuse among young adults?

1.3 Introduction

What is Substance Misuse?

The current research study will probe into the serious problems posed by substance misuse among young people in society. Substance misuse, since time immemorial, has been a curse to every nook and corner of the world. Reportedly, the United Kingdom is among the countries faced by the drug menace. An introduction to this research, the specific issues concentrating on the misuse of substances in relation to the National Health System (NHS) of UK will be evaluated. The NHS, specifically the North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS, defines substance misuse as the prolonged abuse or misuse of drugs which have the potential to cause alterations in the normal state of a person’s mind, leading on to severely affecting both mental and physical health of the person (NHS Foundation Trust, 2019).


Shockingly, it has been revealed through NHS that though there are only a small number of people victimized by substance abuse, this is expected to grow to a large number when those staying around these abusers too can be badly lured into the harmful practice. Substance dependence does include a wide range of drugs, both approved and non-approved by FDA (Food and drugs administration department) and other non-drug item substances including alcohol, cigarettes, heroin, marijuana, tobacco, cocaine etc. (Shand et al., 2011). Even beverages like coffee that contain high caffeine contents when taken in excess can contribute to substance abuse as it will affect the person’s mental state (James et al., 2011). Of all these substance abuses, alcohol abuse is known to hold the most prominent place in the list of substance misuses as it is the most commonly abused drug. The list contains other groups of drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, cannabis since they are also consumed at a high rate despite the ban in many places around the world. There has been a significant increase in the number of users of such drugs which has led to significant growth and other mushrooming of industries that manufacture the drug contents. Notably speaking, drug overdose for whatever reasons, even medically or otherwise, is an example of substance abuse (Paulozzi, 2012).

Since this research proposal focuses on the prevailing drug abuse within the UK, there is also a need to evaluate the effects of the neighboring countries in the fight against drug misuse. As per the NHS report, of the many drug abusers in the UK, there is only a handful of them who are treated so far, which is a worrying trend and clearly indicates the weight of the matter at hand.

It is identified that alcohol and drug misuse seriously affect the psychological and physical health and the general development of the individuals. Comparing with other age groups the studies portrays that the threat of substance misuse is higher in the young age group as they are mostly at risk of falling for the drugs. Segal et al. (2018) had noted that the adolescence is the period when the majority of the individuals started consuming drugs or alcohol and which later paved the way for drug addiction and serious health issues. Brain development effectively takes place during the adolescent period. The behavior and thinking process conducted by an individual at this brain development period greatly influence their actions in the later period or ages (Moffitt, 2017). It has to be noted that the introduction of mind-altering substances during this age period possess a threat to a person’s life.

The national reports state that the susceptibility towards alcohol is high among the adolescent. It is this susceptibility which easily makes the young adults addicted to alcohol. As per the opinion of Bachman et al. (2013), the intensity of the health risks in an individual is very high if he or she had started alcohol consumption at a very young age. The government chief medical officer in the UK strongly recommends avoiding alcohol consumption at a very young age especially less than 15 years old. The studies conducted by the NHS had revealed that the major misuses substances used by young adults in the nation are alcohol and cannabis (Conrod et al.,2011). In addition, it has been evident that one out of ten pupils consume alcohol. Dunn and Layard (2009) have stated that the peer pressure and the lack of proper guidance from the parents and households are the major reason which makes the young adults fall under the substance misuse.

The National Health Service outlined the seriousness of the issue by stating that about 46% of the young adults in the UK had consumed alcohol at least once (Haringey London, 2018). As per the opinion of Fuller (2012) considering the substance misuse among young adults in the UK, a higher number of pupils are among the vulnerable groups. The group primarily consists of the young individuals who are care leavers, young offenders and those excluded from schools. The chances for the substance misuses is higher among this group due to lack of control in the environment which they live. According to O’Connell et al. (2009), lack of guidance and control at a very young age increases the threat of substance misuse among young adults. It can be even inferred that substance misuse not only affects the physical health of young people, but it also creates a significant impact on mental health as well. The young individuals involved in substance misuse are more likely to show offensive behavior and easily to get involved in criminal activities.

The latest reports underpin that substance misuse among young people in the UK has reduced over the last decade. However, the number of young adults who are misusing substances are very prominent in the UK. It has to be stated that many studies and researches have been conducted around the substance misuse in the adolescence period in the UK both by the national and private agencies. Fuller (2012) has stated that extensive researchers have been carrying out in this area over the last few decades. However, the studies were not able to portray the exact prevalence of substance misuse among young adults in the UK.

Carroll et al. (2014) have suggested that the hidden nature of substance misuse among young adults makes it difficult for both the national and private agencies for identifying the exact prevalence. This further creates difficulty for the agencies in coming up with the intervention or programs and targeting the correct audience. However, over the last decade, the health department of the UK has taken great initiatives in reducing the prevalence of substance misuse among the youth in the nation. The young people health organization in collaboration with the NHS had conducted many activities for dealing with this complex issue. As per the opinion of Whiteford et al. (2013) the data regarding substance misuse among young adults in the UK can be identified and attained by the surveys conducted by different groups. Since, 1985 the department of health and national center for social research has been surveying the individuals of 11 to 15 years’ age group for identifying the increasing consumption or use of alcohol, smoking, and drugs among them. During each period the team was able to provide effective measures for reducing the impact.

The health behavior in the school-aged children was surveyed by the World Health Organization (WHO) from 1986 onwards. In addition, from 1995 onwards the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other drugs has analyzed the substance misuse among the school children in the UK. The major aim of these studies was to reveal how prominent is substance misuse among young individuals in the UK (Hagell, 2013). Furthermore, the surveys and studies were focusing on saving the generation and thereby the nation from getting addicted to the substances and becoming unproductive. As per the latest report of the NHS, it can be noted that the collaborative works are showing significant improvement in reducing the threat of substance misuse (Public Health England, 2018).

1.4 Background of the study

What are the documented effects of substance misuse among young people?

Chapter 2: Literature

2.1 Economic impact

The government policies are one way of restricting the use of illicit drugs, drug supply, and drug overdose within a society. This has helped in keeping the society safe up to a certain extent as access to drugs becomes a challenge. On the other hand, the effectiveness of drug control was not known due to the lack of effective assessment by the relevant bodies. Besides, the higher price through the control of the drug led to the reduction of such issues among young people in society (Strang et al., 2012). Furthermore, the study of Das et al. (2016), the schools and other community programs existed to help reduce the substance use among the younger generation. Moreover, family-based intervention programs have assisted in reducing the effect of alcohol and drugs among young people. The media and other groups in the society have contributed their efforts in spreading the message about the harms of drug and alcohol use which had an impact on young people in some cases. Likewise, the discussion of topics related to substance misuse on online platforms like social media has led to increased awareness related to substance misuse. At the same time, the article of MacArthur et al. (2016) portrayed that there existed peer‐led interventions in certain areas that helped in controlling the alcohol and substance misuse among the young people aged 11-21 years. This has been introduced due to the high involvement of youngsters aged 15-16 years in hazardous drinking. Additionally, social workers have been helpful in guiding the parents to attain the required help to solve the issue.

The knowledge of social workers regarding various institutions had proved them to be useful in such scenarios. At the same time, there were social workers who were involved in resolving many issues related to drug abuse, behavioral issues, alcohol issues and so forth who assisted the parents of the young people in dealing with the issue. Simultaneously, they spread the awareness of the impact of substance misuse on all sections of the society which in turn helped in safeguarding the society (Lander et al., 2013).

Besides, the UK government spend a significant amount on the drug treatment and other related treatment which helped in solving the substance misuse to a certain extent. On the other hand, due to the criminal activities as a result of drug use, has led governments to spend a large amount on the social costs of crime as per the observation of Barber et al. (2017). Besides, the UK national alcohol prevention program in schools helped in decreasing the level of consumption among young adults by a small percentage. On the other hand, alcohol consumption had led to the disturbance and negative impacts in the neighborhood which affected society as a whole (Mentor, 2018).

In addition, the substance use among the younger population has led to the rise in unemployment within society. The study showed that addiction to alcohol and smoking was one of the reasons that led to the high rise of unemployment among the youth (Lee et al., 2015). Moreover, as per the view of Lander et al. (2013), substance misuse had affected the family of the victims adversely. Besides, the moral values of the young and others in the family are lost as a result of drug misuse. Likewise, this led to physical abuse and mental torture of the affected person. In turn, the effects are spread throughout society as the victims and the people they relate to becoming affected. In addition, as per the article of Chakravarthy et al. (2013), the substance misuse among the young people had led to teenage pregnancy, reduced academic performance, dropping out of college and depression.

2.2 Social impact

Alcohol drinking has led to an increase in road accidents as the drivers are not able to control the vehicles while under the influence of alcohol (Wakefield et al., 2010). Besides, the high consumption of alcohol among older people has influenced the younger generations to adopt the practice of consuming alcohol. Moreover, the higher consumption of the same led to the threat of harming the civilians in the society due to the unsound mind as a result of drinking. Despite the government rules and regulations in society, alcohol consumption had created issues within family groups, friends, relatives, and so on (Mold, 2018). Besides, the addiction to alcohol and other drugs led to an increase in the homelessness situation as the children abandon their homes and settle in towns as street families. Despite certain regulations related to the control of the sale of alcohol in society, noticeable problems have been still occurring (AIHW, 2018). According to the article by Fergusson and Boden (2011), the consumption of alcohol has led to violence, sexual troubles, crime, death, mental problems, and injuries. In the case of crimes, the misuse of alcohol has led to antisocial behaviors among the younger generations. Besides, it involved partner crime and hurting others surrounding them. Likewise, the use of alcohol in social gathering has sometimes resulted in negative situations. Moreover, the closing of the soundness of mind due to alcohol consumption has resulted in young adults misusing the situations and hurting innocent people around them. Sexual activity increased the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. At the same time, it was perceived that younger people had a tendency to commit suicide as a result of the loss of consciousness. This has led to the loss of a promising generation that can help in the nation-building process.

In addition, the pressure from friends in University or college has induced an increase in the involvement of young people in activities related to the drug. The upbringing of a student is another factor that either reduced or increased the probability of drug use. On the other hand, parental involvement in the lives of young people has reduced the effect of drug use. The positive contribution of different religious communities, social workers have helped in improving the situation by encouraging members to desist from such practices. Likewise, it was noted that people with the same age, those studying together or friends had a greater positive impact on changing the attitude of the people who used drugs. Nevertheless, the adverse situation at home or within the family have increased the tendency of young people to shift to the adoption of illicit drugs. The greater the emotional pain, the higher would be the probability of moving toward drug use and unethical behavior (Strickland and Smith, 2014).

2.3 Physical impact

According to the observation of Rohsenow et al. (2010), the alcohol overdose during late nights affected the sleep of young adults. At the same time, it lengthens the time of sleep onset. It as well reduces the normal hours of sleep that is required by young adults so that they can feel active during the day. Different types of alcohol had diversified effects on different individuals. Other physical effects included nausea, headache and body discomforts as the health systems of the individual are affected. Additionally, it affected the vision of the person to a certain extent and this is the main cause of accidents while drivers are at the influence of alcohol. Besides, it increasingly led to the low performance of the young people in academics as there is lack of proper concentration.

With regard to cannabis use among young people, it has been used for recreational purpose. Although cannabis has the capability to increase the heart rate to a great extent, in case of young adults, their body was found to be able to tolerate the heart rate unlike in case of older age groups. The use of cannabis led to a severe stroke and myocardial infarction in young adults. Prolonged use of cannabis affected their brain and led to the inability of processing information and reduced the IQ of young adults. However, the fall in IQ percentage was not found in those who used it for a year and eventually stopped using it (Hall and Degenhardt, 2014).

As per the report of Zibbell et al. (2014), the misuse of opioid has led to Hepatitis C virus among the young adults. The use of the same injection materials has led to the spread of the disease at a faster rate. The opioid analgesic overdose has led to an increase in the mortality rate (Bachhuber et al., 2014). Opioid has also been used by young adults to relieve pain, reduce depression and to feel high. The opioid misuse has resulted in increased pain and brain-related issues in the consumers (Lord et al., 2011). Furthermore, it was found that the misuse of amphetamines led to the risk of haemorrhagic stroke along with death in young adults (Smajlović, 2015). The use of Methamphetamine led to depression in young adults as per Sutcliffe et al. (2009).

At the same time, the use of Marijuana for a short term led to short term memory where the young adults found it difficult to retain information. In addition, it affected the driving skills which resulted in a lack of understanding of motor coordination thereby leading to accidents where lives are lost. In the case of long-term and high level of usage of Marijuana, it affected brain development adversely. There is also the interference with the education system of the users of the drugs. Likewise, the frequent use or addiction to the substance led to cognitive impairment which in turn led to lower the IQ of the young people. Furthermore, chronic bronchitis was noted in young people who were addicted to Marijuana. It has significantly affected the respiratory system in the form of pneumonia and infection. There have also been cases where Marijuana has affected the heart by making the heart prone to attacks. Too much use led to the development of vascular conditions including the effect on cerebrovascular systems. Simultaneously, it included the risk of developing lung cancer. Moreover, it affected the functionality of the brain which in turn affected their daily life functions (Volkow et al., 2014).

Besides, infectious endocarditis has been another disease that was found to be common among young adults. This has been mainly due to the use of opioids. Since this is a strong condition linked to the heart, it has a high mortality rate. Hence, people with this disease had high chances of chronic cardiac disease as per the article of Fogoros (2018).

2.4 Mental Impact

According to the viewpoint, the mental health organization of UK, alcohol consumption has become part of their culture. Effect of substance misuse in young people is a significant concern in the present UK scenario. After having a look at the consequences of alcohol consumption the researcher will be able to link the impact of the mental health of a person. Alcohol consumption which is an addictive process will make the person consume a large amount of it without limit (Degenhardt et al., 2016). The use will lead to a dangerous effect on the person’s behavioral composure. Drinking alcohol and consumption of other addictive substances affects the mood of a person adversely affecting his mental health. This brings other effects such as anxiety and depression which makes the young people be repellant to their family members and just stick to their friends whom they consume the drugs with.

Moreover, several mental illnesses will be triggered as a result of anxiety and depression. Those who are addicted to the habit always feel the effects within the body as well as spreading to the immediate family members. The urge for consumption is always so strong to stop to an extent that the process becomes so repetitive (Mojtabai et al., 2016). The mind-altering property of alcohol and other harmful drugs can lead to ill-functioning of physical health. Providing a temporary well-being nature is the most dangerous impact of substance abuse which is difficult to be controlled. Most of the teenagers start substance abuse as a result of their curiosity, but they may not be able to stop after fulfilling their initial curiosity needs. The alcohol consumption lowers the inhibition. It may lead to more metabolic activities, and the person remains restless. There will be high metabolic reactions as more energy is utilized during the consumption of the substance. And the restlessness finally leads to tiredness of the body and thus reducing the efficiency of the person.

The central nervous system will get directly affected which will lead to a continuous rate of mood fluctuations. The underlying feelings can be revoked and may create a negative impact on a person's mental health (Stockings et al., 2016). These underlying feelings may overrule the already existing anxiety issues and again lead to a critically severe condition. As per the studies conducted in the UK regarding substance misuse among youth the rate of youth influenced by substance misuse is alarmingly increasing (Klein and Golub, 2016). Above all the person who is misusing the substance is not only the concern, but the group of innocent people surrounding them will be affected dangerously. The safety issues will be a significant concern which includes both personal safety and safety of others. Continuous consumption will alter the chemistry of the brain which can lead to unpredictable mood disorders and can even create a person with a borderline personality disorder (Fazel et al., 2016). When the chemistry of the brain is affected, it will increase the production of serotonin which will trigger the rate of depression. This decrease in serotonin level will have the power to lead the person to a continuous depressive mood which will increase the tendency to consume more alcohol. Many cases were reported in which students were expelled from schools due to substance misuse, which can lead the students to a revenge taking nature and more substance misuse (Kilburn et al., 2016). The children in the UK consuming alcohol are more than the Europe average. Researches also point out that physical, mental health, friendships, education, and family life will be affected adversely by substance misuse. Hence, the study would mainly concentrate on finding the effective measures that led to the slight improvement of the substance misuse situation in the UK.

Chapter 3 Methodology


Research Methodology

The structured literature review would be adopted to study the current topic. The structured literature review would include the systematic form of collecting the data and reviewing the topic in a logical manner. In addition, it included the setting of different criteria in advance to ensure the study is done in an organized manner. Besides, the structured literature review was found to be more credible in contrast to the traditional literature review. Moreover, the systematic review would enable the coverage of all aspects of information related to the study. Furthermore, since it is done systematically, it would help in assessing the quality of the study selected (Dumay et al., 2016).

In the current study, the criteria settings for the structured literature review would include the selection of the data from the year 2009 onwards. On the other hand, all the data sources before the year 2009 would be excluded. At the same time, unreliable sources like blogs, dissertation of other students and so forth would be excluded to ensure the attainment of accurate information related to the study. In addition, only those articles that are associated with the topic would be collected and assessed to prepare the study.

Besides, the keywords used to search databases would be ‘Substance Misuse, Substance Misuse in young adults’, ‘effects of misuse’, ‘impact of Substance Misuse in young adults’, ‘effects of drug use in young adults’, ‘effects of alcohol in young adults’, ‘physical effects of alcohol in young adults’ , ‘mental effects of alcohol in young adults’, ‘social effects of alcohol in young adults’, and ‘economic effects of alcohol in young adults’. Furthermore, the different databases that would be used to collect the data would include Google Scholar, NCBI, Google Books, ScienceDirect, Elsevier, and PubMed Central.

In addition, secondary data would be collected to research substance misuse in young adults in the UK. The secondary data are ones collated by others for their research purpose (Trzesniewski et al., 2011). Although they are secured by others, it can be still be used to collect data related to the current study. Besides, the collection of data from authentic sources like the government, NHS, newspapers, peer-reviewed articles would help in enhancing the study.

Chapter 4 Objectives

4.1 Aim

The study aims to examine the effect of substance abuse among young adults in the UK.

4.2 Specific objectives

  • To explore the key drivers of substance misuse among young people in the UK.
  • To examine the impact of substance misuse among young people.
  • To assess the impact of substance misuse among young people in NHS and strategies to improve on it.

4.3 Significance of the study

The study is relevant since there are many cases of substance abuse among youths in the whole country. It is clearly evident that there many cases of school dropouts among teenagers who are in schools. The effects extend to a large extent where the ones who remain in schools lack proper concentrations in classes hence giving the teachers difficult tasks of sobering the students who attend classes while under the influence of drugs. On the other hand, there is rudeness developed among the people who consume the harmful substances and this destroys a proper relationship between the teachers and the students. The current population is majorly dominated by the youth who are expected to help in delivering the key economic frontiers towards development. Losing the young generation to drugs makes them unproductive hence can lead to a collapse of a nation. The most successful countries have been able to capitalize on the youths and use their skills and talents efficiently in advancing in technology and infrastructure.

The study, therefore, seeks to address these challenges which are faced by the youths and the general impacts they have on the economic prosperity of the country. There has been proper education on the youths on the negative impacts of drugs in relation to their health but it has proved inefficient. Therefore, a new intervention mechanism needs to be enforced to address the challenges which are still being experienced. With the findings of the research put in place, the government can adopt new mechanisms of addressing the high rate of substance misuse. The health sectors can also innovate on the new drugs counter mechanisms in order to treat the already affected people with the drugs in order for them to be productive people in society. The study will also reveal the major reasons why the youth are venturing into drugs at an early age. The factors will enable the various recommendations to be enforced with an aim of curbing the young people into the influence of the drugs. The data generated from this research will help in the implementation of helpful syllabuses for the children as the institutes for designing course books will concentrate on educating the children on ways of not being lured into the drugs. The syllabus will target the correct age brackets where the influence is really high as the research will reveal the age group that is at risk of being influenced into drugs.

The government and other non-governmental (NGO) will be expected to organize training to various groups of people who are influencers to the lives of the young generation. The groups where training will be offered will comprise of the youths who have been into drugs, those that are likely to be lured by their friends, their family members, and health officers. Such gatherings will enable the sharing of ideas and impacting people on how to avoid drugs and their effects thereafter. The awareness will reach a large group of people as the drug suppliers will be taken actions against. The government will, therefore, be liable for enforcing strict laws regarding the sales and usage of such substances to the public. Control of the substances will reduce their usage hence won’t expose the youth to health risks.

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