Essay About Substance Abuse

The Psychological Impacts of Drug Usage

The modern society continues to face enormous issues as a result of the usage of psychoactive substances, which affect perceptions and moods. According to Donohue et al. (2014), many young individuals have become victims of drug misuse. Peer pressure and a lack of proper parental guidance are two significant factors ascribed to this occurrence. Responding to the risks of substance usage before they evolve into other problems can be difficult. This paper will look at the psychological impacts of various drugs, the pathways to drug usage, and substance abuse prevention techniques. Substance abuse and dependence according to Botvin et al., (2015) is a system of continued use of drugs leading to severe consequences.

Physical and Psychological Consequences

The consequences include; failure to fulfill one’s basic responsibilities such as doing the class work, accidents when taken while operating machinery and recurring social problems such as neglect of families and fights. When someone does not attend school or work because he/she is drunk, then such a behavior can be described as substance abuse. When done for a long time, drug abuse can escalate into a more serious physiological disorder known as substance dependence (Botvin et al., 2015). At this stage, one may not undertake the normal basic duties before consuming some drugs. In many cases, the compulsive drug users find themselves in a position where they cannot resist the use of substances. They may know how the substances are altering and disrupting their health and lives but withdrawing from use is something they cannot control. When used for a long period, the drugs can cause physical withdrawal syndrome or tolerance such that higher doses are regularly required by the body. When drug abuse is suddenly stopped, the subject is likely to undergo a serious withdrawal syndrome. This is a kind of discomfort that results in many people resorting to going back into drugs so as to regain their initial status. Various kinds of illicit drugs come with different kinds of withdrawal symptoms. For those that use alcohol, they are likely to experience headaches, dryness in the mouth, depression, hallucinations, and vomiting (Lynch et al., 2013). Besides alcohol, other drugs that cause serious addiction problems include cocaine, nicotine, marijuana, and tobacco just to mention a few. Although many people argue that substance dependence is not associated with physiological dependence, it is clear that the physiological features caused by dependence go hand in hand with drug dependence (DuPont et al., 2015). According to a report, more than 10.3% of adults in the US become drug addicts at some point in their lives (US Department of Health and Human Services 2014). Of the number, 7.7% develop drug abuse disorder while 2.5% become drug dependence. Many people diagnosed with alcohol dependence according to the report are in many cases diagnosed with the dependence of another drug such as cocaine.

Pathway to Substance Abuse

Although the pathway to substance dependence varies depending on the person, there is one common process that leads to addiction. The process according to Wise, & Koob (2014) starts with experimentation. During this stage of occasional use or experimentation, the subjects temporarily feel good because of the effects caused by the drug. At this time, the users develop the feeling that they are in charge and thus can stop using the drugs at any time they wish. After the frequent use, the users then transform into the stage of routine use. At this stage, the subjects begin to align their lives around the need to use the drugs. Denial occupies a major position at this stage as the users blame the negative consequences that come with the drugs on others. This stage is comprised of the drastic change of values as what used to be important is neglected. Taking care of the family or attending to work at this stage is no longer a necessity. With routine consumption of the drugs, problems start to mount. The users start allocating more resources to drugs. The stage will see them borrow large amounts of loans from banks, friends, and even family members so as to quench the thirst for drugs. Manipulation and lies become part of them so as to cover up their behavior of drug abuse. At this point, the subjects start selling their valuables while giving excuses to justify their deeds. The full consequences of substance abuse become apparent: rapid mood shifts, unexplained absence at work and home, failure to pay bills, misuse of family resources, and theft. Routine use later leads to addiction as the users become powerless to say no to drugs. Nothing else matters at this stage as the subjects can do anything so as to satisfy the need for alcohol.

Psychological Effects of Substance Abuse

Alcohol, at the physiological level, heightens the activity of neurotransmitter (GABA) thus producing feelings of relaxation (Wise, & Koob 2014). With continued drinking, the senses become clouded while the coordination and body balance are affected. Higher doses of alcohol inhibit the functionality of the heart and the lungs thus affecting the rate of respiration and heartbeat. While drunk, people can do a lot of things that make them regret when they sober up. Their behavior is a reflection of their expectation that alcohol serves as an excuse for what they do. In many cases, such people end up saying, "it was alcohol and not me". Alcohol may also impact their sense of reasoning thus exposing the users to high levels of risks and violence. According to Riger, Bennett, & Sigurvinsdottir (2014), there is a strong link between the use of drugs and violent behavior. Chronic use of drugs can affect the cognitive abilities such as problem-solving and memory. Alcohol makes the users less capable of realizing the shortcomings of their behaviors and can cause sexual arousals which in many cases result in rape or risky sexual encounters. Cocaine and heroin directly cause stimulation of the brain causing a sudden rise in blood pressure and heartbeat (Everitt, & Robbins 2016). When used repeatedly, they lead to high levels of anxiety and depression. The depression in many cases becomes severe to the extent that the subjects resort to committing suicide. The psychotic tendencies induced due to the use of nicotine and cocaine escalate with continued consumption. The psychosis is in many cases accompanied by high levels of suspicions, depressions, irritability, hallucinations, and faultfinding.

Protective Measures against Substance Abuse

The prevention mechanisms against the use of drugs should promote the protective factors and reduce the risk factors. There is a need for the strong measures to be undertaken so as to ensure that the youth do not fall victims to substance abuse. Coming up with mechanisms to make the addicts stop their behaviors can be quite hard compared to adopting ways of ensuring that no one is involved in the use of drugs. The programs developed to curb drug abuse should cover all types of substance use, including the underage use of legal drugs such as tobacco, the use of illegal substances (heroin or cocaine), and the abuse of medically obtained drugs. The preventive mechanisms also need to address the specific type of drug abuse in a particular community in order to come up with strong protective measures that can ensure that cases of substance abuse are ended. Family forms a key part of the prevention programs. The family-based prevention mechanisms should involve proper family bonding and relationships such as appropriate parental skills, development of family policies on substance abuse, and drug education. Regular talks on the dangers of substance abuse should also be undertaken in various schools and institutions to ensure that students and drug users realize the effects of drug abuse.


In conclusion, cases of drug and substance abuse continue to escalate, especially amongst the young population. Bearing in mind that the future of society depends on the young generation, there is a need for quick intervention measures to be developed. As brought out in the discussions above, it is evident that the continued use of substances causes serious effects on both the psychological and physical stability of its users. The role towards ensuring limited cases of substance use has over time been left to the psychological doctors and other professionals. This has always resulted in low outcomes, and thus, everyone needs to take responsibility in championing for a drug-free society.


Botvin, G. J., Griffin, K. W., & Williams, C. (2015). Preventing daily substance use among high school students using a cognitive-behavioral competence enhancement approach. World Journal of Preventive Medicine, 3(3), 48-53.

DuPont, R. L., Compton, W. M., & McLellan, A. T. (2015). Five-year recovery: a new standard for assessing the effectiveness of substance use disorder treatment. Journal of substance abuse treatment, 58, 1-5.

Donohue, B., Azrin, N. H., Bradshaw, K., Van Hasselt, V. B., Cross, C. L., Urgelles, J., … & Allen, D. N. (2014). A controlled evaluation of family behavior therapy in concurrent child neglect and drug abuse. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 82(4), 706.

Everitt, B. J., & Robbins, T. W. (2016). Drug addiction: updating actions to habits to compulsions ten years on. Annual review of psychology, 67, 23-50.

Lynch, W. J., Peterson, A. B., Sanchez, V., Abel, J., & Smith, M. A. (2013). Exercise as a novel treatment for drug addiction: a neurobiological and stage-dependent hypothesis. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 37(8), 1622-1644.

Riger, S., Bennett, L. W., & Sigurvinsdottir, R. (2014). Barriers to addressing substance abuse in domestic violence court. American journal of community psychology, 53(1-2), 208-217.

US Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). The health consequences of smoking—50 years of progress: a report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office of Smoking and Health, 17.

Wise, R. A., & Koob, G. F. (2014). The development and maintenance of drug addiction. Neuropsychopharmacology, 39(2), 254-262.

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