Substance Abuse Essay, Research Paper
Directly or indirectly everyone at some point in time has been or will be affected by substance abuse. Substance abuse is the abuse of any substance. This includes everything from Tylenol to heroin, even coffee. The two main substances being abused in our nation are nicotine and alcohol. Substance abuse is our nation s number one health problem, responsible for half a million preventable deaths each year. These two things create major addictions and cost our taxpayers millions of dollars every year.
I chose substance abuse because I feel that it is one of the nation s largest overlooked problems. Yes, people are aware of the problem, but have they gotten any closer to solving it? I do feel that illegal drugs are a growing problem, but I am focusing mainly on alcohol and tobacco because they are what mainly effect my life. Obviously, eliminated alcohol and tobacco is definitely out of the question, but it would be nice to increase awareness on the serious issue of substance abuse. That is why I think that it is valuable to learn, acknowledge, and use the term- moderation. Obviously, the activists and congressmen know people will always use these substances, available or not, but they are looking for ways to eliminate the abuse of these substances. I am going to explain the problems caused by the abuse of drugs, the externalities, some possible solutions, and my opinion.
I have done much of my research through the Internet. I have read many statistics that contain a lot of facts and numbers. Some information even came out of President Clinton s public addresses. Alcohol is easily connected with the law because it is so frequently violated. Many groups do lobbying to congress to pass bills to eliminate the problem. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a repot to congress explaining how substances effect a person, which, in turn, affects the economy. MADD put out a Research on Youth Report dealing with public policy, 1997 which gave me lots of information form both points of view. There are many universities that have done studies on the effects of substance abuse, there are statistics sited in my paper by University of Maryland Office of Substance Abuse Studies, 1990. Many of other statistics came from the U.S. Surgeon General s reports.
The use of substances to modify mood or behavior is generally accepted in our society. There are many people that engage in social drinking and smoking; however, when these substances become an everyday activity and are needed for normal daily functioning, substance abuse has occurred. Substance abuse will lead directly to substance addiction. Keeping this in mind studies show that it takes 15 years for an adult to become dependent on a substance; in contrast, it takes six to 18 months for an adolescent to become addicted to the same substance. This creates a major problem, especially for adolescents, for the simple fact that the majority of teens technically abuse substances every day of their lives. This is an ongoing problem for the town of Washburn that many people hope to see solved. In 1991 the U.S. Surgeon General said that more than half of the nations junior and senior high school students drink alcoholic beverages, and many binge drink to relieve stress and boredom. Substance abuse is by far the main cause of premature and preventable illness, disability, and death in our society. Alcohol and tobacco abuse affects an estimated 25.5 million Americans. Substance abuse victims gain a tolerance for the substance so that an increased amount is necessary for the desired effects. Alcohol and tobacco lead to physical dependence in which the person develops withdrawal symptoms when he or she stops using the drug, making it even harder to quite.
Recently, scientists have done extensive research to try and understand how the abuse of a substance can affect so many people, despite the extreme warnings of it. Alcohol abuse has been found to be biological, rather than psychological. Included in this research is tobacco. Scientists have discovered that the same addiction caused by tobacco is the same as the one caused by cocaine. The chemical in tobacco, nicotine, releases a substance in the brain, called dopamine, which, in turn, gives pleasure to the user, making them feel happy with themselves and, in time, normal. The user s body gets used to the large amounts of dopamine in your body, and this why a person needs to keep using tobacco, leading to substance abuse.
The overuse of these two stimulants can cause many major heath problems. Problems caused by alcohol include liver disease, and then, basically, anything imaginable. Alcohol can lead to any health problem, including death, because it causes you to do things that you would normally not do. Many people do not even realize that you can get alcohol poisoning, which generally leads to death. Alcohol poisoning is the overdosing of alcohol. The problems caused by tobacco usually are never seen until it is too late. Smoking can lead to emphysema, asthma, heart disease, ulcers, and lung cancer.
Smoking and drinking are not only harmful to the user, but they also affect the innocent people around them. Second-hand smokers are people that choose not to smoke but are forced to inhale the smoke of others, which is actually worse than actually smoking. Drinking affects many innocent people. When someone chooses to drink and drive, they put everyone s, who happens to be on that road, life on the line.
The scary thing is that everyone is innocent while experimenting with substances. It is clear that no one starts experimenting with substances hoping to become addicted or even with the intention of running into problems with the substances. It is also clear that some uses eventually do experience problems, once it is abused they usually become addicted. The critical issue is to examine your own substance use (remember this can even mean soda or nasal spray) honestly and to evaluate the degree of risk.
The problem of substance abuse has been in Congress for over twenty years. It is surprisingly to see how large of a problem it still is since the great concern of it. When someone chooses to use a substance- they choose to use it. They don t realize that their choices affect everyone around them. You don t Evan have to be a smoker to develop lung cancer from the tar of cigarettes; likewise, you do have to be drinking to be killed by a drunk driver. You don t even have to know someone that abuses substances to be affected by them.
The abuse of alcohol or tobacco can lead to numerous problems in school or in the workplace. In 1990, problems resulting from the use of alcohol cost American businesses an estimated $81.6 billion in lost productivity (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Alcohol is usually the main cause of sick leave in the workplace and is also seen in schools. Workers and students that smoke have problems in holding attention throughout the day because of the need of nicotine.
For a college student, being a smoker and a drinker will probably require you to take out a student loan for that purpose only. Each year college students spend $5.5 billion on alcohol, more than they spend on soft drinks, tea, milk, juice, coffee, or books combined. Cigarettes seem to go up in price every day. Say a person smokes one pack a day- that s $21 a week, $1,090 a year! Poor grades are connected with the increased use of alcohol. College students who reported D or F grade point averages consumed and average of 10 alcoholic drinks per week, while those who earned A s consumed three drinks per week. Also, the majority of college students diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease were drunk at the time of infection (Core Institute 1997). Clearly, alcohol and tobacco cause a question of concern for college students. They are to be preparing themselves for their career; would you feel very safe knowing that someone whose job is protecting your life spent a good majority of time getting drunk ?
The annual cost of alcoholism is $89.5 billion for treatment and indirect losses such as reduced worker productivity, early death, and property damages resulting from alcohol- related accidents and crime each year. Drug abuse accounts for another $46.9 billion a year in direct and indirect costs to businesses and the economy (University of Maryland office of substance abuse studies, 1998). This economic damage amounts to four times that of cancer and nearly a third greater that that of cardiovascular disease, according to a 1994 Research Triangle Institute Report.
Research has shown that there is a gateway effect. Many try to prove that if a person never uses tobacco, then they will be less likely to ever abuse alcohol. If a person gets to alcohol, it is said they will probably smoke marijuana, and marijuana is said to be the major gateway drug that leads to every other drug. However, many specialists disagree with this mainly because the majority of cocaine addicts have never been a smoker or drinker, nor have they smoked marijuana.
There are many possible solutions for substance abuse. That is the thing though, they are only possible solutions, nothing has been eliminated. Hopefully, someday, we will see these problems taken care of. It will take lots of time.
Most all substances now contain a Surgeon General s warning on them. These warn people of effects of using that particular substance too long or at all. The government has gotten stricter on the enforcement of illegal use of substances. You no longer see the sale to minors, so we must be doing something right. Also you see a higher tax increase.
In 1919 the government even went as far to prohibit the production and sale of alcohol, in the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This actually leads to problems far greater than ever imagined so prohibition was appealed.
Currently North Dakota is contemplating the idea of raising the legal tobacco consumption age of 18 to 19. They say that this will eliminate tobacco use in the high school, yet only 18% of high school seniors turn 18 before they graduate. In many states the penalty for tobacco has been significantly raised. Many don t see illegal tobacco use as much of a crime, but times are changing.
President Clinton has announced a zero tolerance drug supervision. There was a $215 million proposal in the Fiscal Year 2000 budget proposal on stopping substance abuse. This will punish parolees, prisoners, and probationers for the use of certain substances.
One of the biggest kicks has been the blaming game. Everyone is looking for someone to blame for they re abuse. The most recent is advertising. Tobacco companies are deeply paying for their advertising efforts. Many say that the cute camel cartoon makes tobacco appealing to kids. Others say that the cowboy man is an appealing figure to look at. Tobacco companies are paying great figures because of their advertising.
There is possible legislation for lowering the blood alcohol content limit form .10 to .08. The founder of MADD, Candace Lightner, disagrees. She says, Half the drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes have a BAC of .17 or greater. Even among young people aged 16 to 24, the great majority of deaths involve drinkers with a BAC of at least .15. She, and many others, agrees that there needs to be stricter enforcement of the laws already in place. The laws that we have are about all that we can do, and the punishment needs to be more severe because the things done are wrong and need to be put across that way.
Surprisingly, now 22 states have no open container laws. The passing and enforcing of open container laws would reduce drunk driving.
Now that scientists have discovered that some people have a predisposition to having a substance abuse problem it is easier to detect these problems and get them treatment. Families are also seeing a trend if the parents have a smoking or drinking problem because it often is seen in their children.
Smoking has been banned from almost all pubic buildings. It is illegal for a building that receives federal funding to allow smoking in that building. Some hospitals have even made it illegal to smoke on the property of the hospitals. This usually doesn t deter someone from starting to smoke, but it will reduce how often that they can. It also protects non-smokers. Some hope to see that every public building will have no smoking.
Some want to go even as far as eliminating substances from the market, but by looking at history we all know that would be a mistake. Besides tobacco only cost our economy dollars in heath care, but it also is responsible for a large portion of the money made.
There is also a call for new awareness on the fight because people are realizing that they need to put their goals into perspective. Activist groups want awareness increased on the dangers of substance abuse.
CONCLUSION AND MY OPINION
Substance abuse happens nearly every day for the majority of the population. Statistically and economically the abuse and misuse of substances leads to many expenses to our country. While looking at the problem of substance abuse you mainly see many numbers and statistics. I think that this can get somewhat old, but what else is there to do. Since elementary we are taught that you should never use substances. Maybe this is where we are failing. Do things need to be put into a more believable perspective? There are substances that are legal for a certain age group. These substances should be taught about by learning the dangers of using or abusing these substances before that legal age. You can t just say no, no, no, when you know that it is an accepted substance. If not, when the person is first introduced to the drug they use it and abuse it anyway, completely disregarding everything they learned because, in my opinion, what they were being taught was not in perspective right away. Then, what becomes the major risk is that substance use becomes a necessary way of dealing with life rather than simply a brief diversion from reality. Once this happens any attempt to quit results in stress which the person has to come to rely upon substance use to relieve.
I also feel that certain preventive measures that the school and law try to enforce are foolish. For one, guilt by association should not be a punishable act; it should be a pat on the back. Aren t officials trying to teach the youth to just say no? Well, what I don t understand is when a cop finds a number of teenagers doing an illegal activity and some are found not participated they are still punished. All I have to say is- hypocritical. So if I go to a party just to hang out with friends and see people, and I can say no. Then, the cops come, and they say Angie, well, we are happy that you can say no, but, well, here you go, you are guilty because of association, so here s your punishment for saying no. I might as well have been participating in the illegal use of the substance.
I also think that a higher tax, an extreme tax increase, on substances, such as tobacco and alcohol are called for. But I do think that with it there should be a campaign- this high tax is temporary and will go down when the consumption by minors and abuse of the substance goes down. I think everybody would be more than willing to get the high tax down.
I also believe that God gave everyone a body to live in, experience life in. I think that it is wrong that people treat them so badly. So I think that it is time people start caring about what they are doing. It seems now that you don t need to be concerned with anything you do because there will always be something to fix it. I think that it would be amazing to see what would happen to our population if they were put back to the days of the pioneer. Not very many could survive because we rely on modern substances to live. It makes me sad that this race of people can take so many things for granted- substances, people, belongings, and even life.