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Drug Abuse: Comprehensive Review Essay

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Updated: Mar 22nd, 2022


Drug abuse refers to the consistent use of drugs without putting into consideration the reasons why it was prescribed. In a broader sense, it entails the use of drugs that have non-medical effects to the human body. Drug abuse is considered a disease, rather than a social and a moral problem. Some of the most commonly abused drugs include alcohol, cocaine, opium and other psychoactive drugs. Drug abuse is a criminal offense and is bound to cause psychological and physical harm on the subject.

This paper attempts to evaluate how drug abuse affects people across their lifespans. In addition, the paper investigates the relationships that exist between racism, ageism and heterosexism and drug abuse. The paper also provides an overview of drug abuse from a biological, psychological and sociological perspective.

People of different ages have different reasons for drug abuse. Reports reveal that the most of the abused drugs are of psychotic nature and performance enhancing drugs. Studies indicate that the teenagers constitute of the largest substance abuse cases. The effects associated with drug abuse tend to vary depending on an individual’s age and the phase of drug abuse that the person is in (Burrow-Sanchez & Hawken, 2007).

The first stage in substance abuse is experimentation, which usually involves the voluntary use of drugs. Prior to experimentation stage is abstinence, whereby the subject does not use any drug that is deemed to be psychoactive. Experimentation is usually triggered by psychological problems that force an individual to turn to drugs.

Experimentation stage is more common among teenagers who are having a first experience with the drugs. The second stage of drug abuse is characterized by regular use. Regular use is always because of the person perceiving the drug as a solution to his problems (Sussman & Ames, 2008). Depending on the individual, one may stick to regular use of the drug without being involved in the other stages of drug abuse. Regular use is normally characterized by drug use in a way that it can be risky to the subject or others.

Some of the risky actions of drug use include drinking and driving, binge drinking and in other cases, it involves extreme violence. The transformation from regular use to risky use is the third stage of drug use. The transition usually varies in different people, and in some cases, it is not easy to differentiate risky behavior in an individual. Risky behaviors endanger the lives of the subject and those around him.

Extreme use of drugs is viewed as the primary cause for risky behavior especially when a person acts under the influence of drugs. An individual is susceptible to drug dependence if he exhibits a continual behavior of drug use; it is therefore the fourth stage of drug abuse. Drug dependence is characterized by relying on the consumption of drugs so that one can effectively execute his daily activities (Burrow-Sanchez & Hawken, 2007).

The effects associated with dependence is that it can result to one failing to fulfill his or her major undertakings such as work, family and school. Reports have indicated that most of the individuals in this phase have the capability to work, uphold family relationships and they limit their drug use only to special events such as weekends and evenings.

The fifth and the last stage of drug use is addiction, which is perceived to be more of a medical condition that encompasses major psychological changes. Physical changes are also visible with cases of repeated drug use. Drug addiction is characterized by an uncontrollable craving for the drug, and a mandatory use of the drug despite the persistent negative effects (Wilson & Kolander, 2010).

Social variables such as racism, ageism and heterosexism play an important role in influencing drug abuse among individuals. It is widely evident that a particular line of drugs can be associated with a particular race. For instance, the abuse of Marijuana is more profound in the African Americans of the Caribbean origin. Social problems that are associated with racist societies form one of the primary causes for drug abuse.

Racial discrimination and drug abuse are two coherent factors that determine the prevalence of drug abuse in a social setting. It is worth noting that most of the alcohol and drug users comprise of communities that are not of the American origin, rather they are foreign communities residing in the US. Ageism refers to a case whereby individuals in a society are discriminated basing on their age. Such discrimination plays a significant role in influencing patterns of drug abuse.

Ageism determines the prevalence of the drugs, for instance, alcohol and drug abuse is extremely prevalent between the teenagers and adolescents. This is possibly due to their need to experiment some drugs. In addition, age discrimination affects the laws of drug consumption. An example is the legal drinking age of 18 that only allows those over 18 years the chance to drink.

Heterosexism on the other hand refers to a discrimination that is primarily based on biological sex of the subjects. Reports have indicated that drug abuse is more prevalent in men compared to their female counterparts. Some drugs are more associated with a given sex, for instance, tobacco smoking is in most cases abused by the males. Prescription drug abuse is usually associated with women (Karch, 2006).

Heterosexism is a form of victimization; therefore, individuals tend to turn to drug abuse as the only way out of the victimization. Any form of prejudice that is based on racial grounds, biological sexes and age are bound to cause victimization and psychological problems to the individual, which in turn forces individuals to participate in drug abuse.

Effects of drug abuse are diverse and include biological effects, psychological issues and sociological issues. Effects of drug abuse vary according to the drug substance; significant effects include social problems, health problems and psychological addiction. It is a fact that prolonged use of alcohol and other psychotic drugs impairs the physiological functioning of the brain in the long term.

Another important biological effect of drug abuse is that it affects the Central Nervous System which in turn affects the various sensory variables such as perception. Such effects are psychotic and can result to changes in the moods of an individual and reduce awareness levels over time (Karch, 2006). Excessive drug abuse can result to a person exhibiting characteristics similar to those having mental problems. From a sociological perspective, drug abuse is bound to cause social isolation.

Social isolations are caused by depressions that accompany drug abuse. It is imperative to maintain the good social relationships so that a person cannot find the need to turn to drugs as a measure of countering the social ills. Psychological effects associated with drug use can result to physical dependencies and psychological addiction to the drug. Increased consumption of alcohol and other drugs can result the commitment of criminal offenses such as domestic violence and rape cases.

Cases of increased anxiety, depression and panic attacks are usually associated with abuse of drugs such as alcohol and marijuana. It is widely evident that the abuse of drugs is bound to have psychological, biological and sociological effects to the substance abuser. This implies that the various strategies that are aimed at mitigating drug abuse should put into consideration the biological, sociological and psychological perspectives of drug abuse (Burrow-Sanchez & Hawken, 2007).

Social Work response to drug abuse

The objective of the social work response is to reduce cases of drug abuse by people through having an in depth understanding of the reasons why drug abusers do so. The prevention strategies mainly target those in the experimental and risky behavior phases of drug abuse. The social work response is outlined below.

For the case of people who have not yet indulged in drug abuse, it is important that you identify the potential activities that could make them abuse drugs. In addition, they have to be encouraged and supported so that they can continue maintaining abstinence. For the case of individuals under experimental use, they will be educated on the potential dangers of drug abuse and laying an emphasis on immediate effects.

The same interventions will be applied to individuals under the regular use stage. For the case of individuals under the substance addiction and abuse phase, therapeutic approach will be more helpful, and maintaining a close contact with the subject. Therapeutic approaches will also include outpatient treatment and residential treatment.


Burrow-Sanchez, J., & Hawken, L. (2007). Helping students overcome substance abuse: effective practices for prevention and intervention. New Jersey: Guilford Press.

Karch, S. (2006). Drug abuse Handbook. New York: CRC PRESS.

Sussman, Y., & Ames, S. (2008). Drug abuse: concepts, prevention, and cessation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Wilson, R., & Kolander, C. (2010). Drug Abuse Prevention: A School and Community Partnership. Washington: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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