The worrisome effects of substance abuse has finally caught the attention of society as a whole. The consequences of widespread misuse of drugs and alcohol according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) eventually translate into psychological, medical and social costs on a national scale. Sadly, these effects reverberate even more intensely within homes where there are one or more addicts in the family. Substance abuse is defined as over-indulgence or excessive use of a chemically addictive substance that has the potential to be harmful for the user and others. With an estimated 120 million substance abusers in the United States, the effects of misuse of drugs and alcohol consistently reach staggering proportions in any given year.
Economic – The National Drug Intelligence Center estimates the cost of substance abuse in excess of $600 billion annually. These include loss of productivity in the workplace, public health issues and law enforcement services to curtail drug related criminal activity.
Family disintegration – The presence of addiction in the family unit create a unique dynamic that gradually erodes intimacy, financial stability and communication as the disease progresses. Because of the insidious nature of addiction, each person suffers the consequences as they witness and react to the effects of the drug abuse on the addict and other members of the family. If the addiction is allowed to continue unabated, the disruption of the core structure of the family eventual falls apart.
Child Abuse – Research suggests that substance abuse has distinct effects on children. Parents who regularly use drugs may be unable to adequately care for the needs of their children while under the influence. Others may harm them by exposing them to drug paraphernalia, through neglect or physically abusing them as an outcome of drug use. Women who use drugs during pregnancy also subject their children to harmful toxin that can have long term effects on the child.
Criminal Activity – The long standing connection between petty crimes and drug abuse has been fully substantiated by the increase in domestic violence, robberies, prostitution and driving under the influence as a result of chronic drug use. Based on data, the introduction of drug courts that provide treatment over jail time for many substance abusers has resulted in a significant drop in relapse rates for many repeat drug offenders. Treatment that help to reinstate people to productive lives has also been instrumental in reducing drug related homelessness that often fuel criminal activity to support drug use habits as well as for survival purposes.
Health – More than any other aspect of life, the effects of addiction wreak havoc on the individual’s mental and physical health. According to NIDA scientists, substance abusers typically have multiple medical problems that are either created by habituated drug use or exacerbated by it. These medical problems can range from cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems, liver failure, HIV/Aids, stroke, cancer, disfigurement and mental illness to name a few. Based on physical and psychological diagnostic tests, the effects of long-term drug abuse can create serious and in some cases, irreversible damage to the human body.
Ultimately, overdose deaths are the biggest consequence and permanent effect of substance abuse. The good news is extensive research conducted over a number of years on the addiction validate the fact that the effects of substance abuse can be mitigated with appropriate drug treatment. NIDA scientists suggest that a comprehensive continuum of care for drug abuse help to change negative patterns of behavior, attitudes, beliefs about drug abuse. As treatment methods continue to evolve, more people are able to achieve full recovery and sustainable sobriety even after long term addiction.
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