Substance Abuse

Substance abuse and substance dependency is a disorder which culminates into an individual exhibiting several conditions as a result of using exceedingly large doses of the drugs.  This is further complicated by the fact that it is not very easy to diagnose substance abuse and dependency in the first place.  According to the (National Survey on Drug Use and Health Report, 2004) report, 9.0% of adolescents aged between 12 to 17 years in the U.S. reported having experienced atleast a single depressive attitude within a year.  This shows that many adolescents suffer from depression as a consequence of substance abuse.

On the other hand misdiagnosis can result into wastage of funds especially given the fact that treatment of such disorder is costly.  This paper discusses substance abuse and dependence in the adolescents especially in regard to the social, individual and family in respect to adolescence as a development stage in human life cycle.  Substance abuse affects adolescents more than any other age group in the society.  The development process in adolescents comes with a lot of emotional and physical changes that in most cases drive adolescents into engaging in drug abuse.  Usually peer pressure is the most common reason advanced by adolescents who are involved in substance misuse.

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According to a survey carried out by (National Institute on Drug Abuse (1998), 60 adolescents were asked on their reasons for substance misuse.  Of those interviewed, 80% attributed their substance misuse to peer influence while only a paltry 16% attributed their substance misuse to personal choice.  Another 4 % gave varying reasons ranging from the quest for recognition, proxy to substance and availability of a means to acquire the drugs as well as experimentation.  In addition, a number of respondents explained the causes for involvement in substance misuse as; as a result of physical, psychological as well as sexual abuse, and influence from parents who were themselves drug abusers (Brown, Lewinsohn, Seely, &Wagner, 1996).

The norms adopted by a given culture can have an effect on the number of adolescents involved in substance misuse.  For example in some countries like Jamaica, Afghanistan and Columbia, the culture of drug trafficking is very pronounced in the society.  In the US the cultural factor which influences majority of the adolescents to engage in substance abuse, is the liberty and freedom the American parents grant to their children.  Adolescents are not mature enough to make the right decisions.  Often parental guidance and advisory is needed in order to make sure that adolescents do not engage in self destructive behaviour such as substance abuse.  Therefore the culture of a people play a very important role given the fact that it determines even the kind of laws the society is likely to set up.  If a culture is complacent and permissive, it is likely to have laws, which are not very effective in as far as, controlling substance abuse is concerned.

Genetic influence as a cause of substance abuse is contentious, but there is some evidence that, genetic influence chances of one engaging in substance abuse. Therefore adolescents who are genetically vulnerable are more likely to engage in substance abuse than adolescents who are not genetically vulnerable (Caetano, 1997).

The environment an adolescent is subjected to by the society too, plays a critical role in determining substance abuse in adolescents.  Environmental stressors therefore contribute to high incidences of substance misuse amongst adolescents.  The environment is important in that it exerts social pressures in an adolescent therefore resulting into a good number of them taking into substance abuse. Social pressures such as poverty and poor parenting also impact negatively on those adolescents whose traits and characteristics are weak making them more susceptible to substance misuse especially with pressure from peers.

Finally psychiatric or mental problems have been found to cause a lot of people (including adolescents) to get involved in substance misuse (Centre for substance abuse prevention, 1997).  This can be explained by the high level of stress such people undergo as well as the inability to make the right choices.

Consequences of substance abuse are many and range from consequences affecting the individual, the family and the society at large.  At the individual level, adolescents who engage in substance abuse are more likely to suffer from psychological disorders such as depression and stress.  According to (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1999), there exists a strong positive relationship between substance abuse and depression.  For adolescents, they face a lot of social pressure and a presence of depression is likely to disorientate them.  Adolescents who engage in substance abuse are at higher risk of suffering from blood- diseases such as HIV.  This happens because some are irresponsible and end up sharing needles with infected peers.  Other diseases, which can result from substance abuse, include hepatitis as well as respiratory diseases.

An adolescent needs to feed well and in nutritious foods.  Substance abuse leads to many adolescents decreasing their appetite for food something which can result, into malnutrition and therefore poor health.  With poor health, the adolescents become vulnerable to all kinds of diseases.  In addition they cannot concentrate well in school something which can lead to poor academic performance.

Substance abuse causes emotional problems to adolescents and this is evident in adolescents and it causes many to often differ with parents. Adolescents may also exhibit withdrawal behaviour as well as engage in legal activities such as violence.  Substance abuse has also been found to cause memory lapse and difficulties in concentrating (Costello, Erkanli, Federman, &Angold, 1999). Considering that most adolescents are school children, poor concentration and memory problems can affect academic performance.  Substance abuse can contribute to suicidal thoughts and to actual suicide, as depression is known to cause people to act irresponsibly and irrationally.

Substance abuse has adverse effects in the family in that, when one member of the family is affected by a problem, this normally reflects on the family and the community as a whole.  In some cases it could be the parents or one of the parents who is engaged in substance abuse.  This is likely to lower the quality of life for the whole family in that, a lot of resources in terms of time and finances are taken up by drugs or the search for drugs and even in resolving cases in which a member of the family is convicted for drug abuse.

The community coexists through collective responsibility and substance abuse leads to the affected members becoming less social and cooperative.  This can negatively affect the interpersonal relations amongst community members.  In addition, substance abuse is associated with criminal activities such as robbery and stealing.  If an adolescent turns into a robber or thief, the first victims of such crimes are the family members and the community members.

Substance abuse also interrupts one’s career in that it contributes to depression, memory loss and concentration problems.  Therefore an individual who engages in substance abuse is more likely to lose a job and to fail in a career than a person who does not engage in substance abuse.  According to, () substance misuse contributes to societal problems by burdening the society which foots the hospital bills, prison bills as well as other costs associated with substance misuse.

A lot of taxpayers’ money is directed towards fighting drug trafficking and all this is shouldered by the taxes form the society.  Very many accidents result from driving or working under the influence of drugs and it is the society which indirectly bears the costs.  Many families have broken up due to problems related to substance abuse.  According to (Office of National Drug Control Policy (2000)), couples who engage in drug abuse are more likely to be involved in quarrels as well as to engage in domestic violence.  Other social vices such as prostitution are also prevalent in people who engage in substance abuse than in people who do not.  In addition, substance abuse leads to people to get out of touch with reality and therefore become unruly.  This can lead them to become more abusive. Therefore people who engage in substance misuse are more likely to practice child abuse such as subjecting children to child labor, not showing love to children as well as endangering the lives of the children by engaging in risky or criminal activities.

The same case applies to the elderly who depend on the society and immediate family for support.  If the elderly are left in the care of people who engage in substance abuse, they are more likely to be abused or neglected. Even long after adolescents graduate into the job market,  effects of substance abuse are likely to continue being evident and such people are likely to under perform in their jobs, get into problems with management, neglect their duties at work and even fail to get along well with colleagues at work. Evidently, substance abuse leads to strained relations in the community.

The solution to the complex problem of substance abuse amongst the teenagers lies in a number of strategies.  Such strategies can include; introduction of education programs in schools where a large number of adolescents can be reached easily.  Such programs should be designed in such a manner so as to impart in teenagers skills ranging from interpersonal skills to behavior change with and aim of helping adolescents to overcome substance abuse problems.  Schools can also win the fight against substance abuse by setting up strong counseling departments, and employing well qualified and experienced professional counselors.  Although such programs have been accused of placing a heavy financial burden on the parents, it is worth the effort given the repercussions and the cost of rehabilitations.

Therefore, prevention through communal programs both in the school and in the community is an effective measure.  Examples of such community programs include teenagers and parents coming together and organize awareness creation rallies and forums to deliberate on substance abuse matters.  Such community-based programs are effective in that they can better deal with problems on the ground since members of a given community can easily identify adolescents involved in substance misuse as well as identify the causes of substance misuse. The media also can play a very important role in the fight against substance abuse given the fact that, many adolescents trust the media as a source of knowledge and information. Therefore, the media should be utilized well in this campaign. The media can intervene in fighting the problem of substance abuse by preparing programs which can easily reach a wide audience of adolescents.  Such programs can also publicize the support programs available to adolescents.  Many adolescents who engage in substance abuse end up in being substance dependent as a cause of lack or inaccessibility of treatment.

The media can play a big role in educating substance abuse victims on where they can receive support services and treatment.    Treatment available in the health care centers includes detoxification as well as psychiatric medication.  Other treatment methods include abstinence as well as deterrents to the adolescents such as denying them money to spend on drugs.  Usually most of the drugs are very expensive and if parents demand accountability from the adolescents on how they spend the money given to them, adolescents may be deterred from buying the drugs.


The solution into resolving the problem of substance misuse and dependency lies in understanding the underlying causes of substance abuse in adolescents.  Many studies carried out in this area have pointed to various cause-effects.  There is a need for long lasting solutions into causes such as; societal, cultural, environmental, economical as well as psychological factors responsible for substance abuse amongst adolescents. The war against substance can e put under control if the above mentioned strategies such as the effective use of media campaigns, community based programs as well as education programs are well utilized.