Drug addiction is a repeated and obsessive use of dangerous and harmful substances and the consequent withdrawal symptoms if not using them. Today, substance abuse is a wide-spread chronic illness, which not only drug addicts themselves, but also their families suffer from. In order to help people to overcome the problems associated with addiction, as well as eliminate the negative consequences of it in the society, understanding the addiction is crucial. Therefore, this essay is aimed at examining the core determinants and consequences of substance abuse as well as the dynamics of addiction by people.
Financial Costs of Substance Abuse
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First of all, substance abuse and addiction are costly. In particular, for the U.S. nation, the economic cost of substance abuse is estimated at $200 billion annually. Besides, since the price of some drugs, such as for example marijuana, is too high for many addicts, they are ready to commit crimes to afford them, thus, involving the additional indirect costs. Overall, substance abuse costs nearly $500 billion per year, including direct health care costs, as well as indirect costs associated with accidents and crimes. It is a substantial sum, especially considering that cancer and diabetes cost $ 300 billion per year altogether (Cartwright, 2008).
Psychological and Physical Costs of Substance Abuse
Besides the financial costs, the substance abuse involves psychological and physical costs. Most of the drug addicts suffer from a wide range of psychological problems such as confusion, anxiety, mood swings, violence, depression, hallucinations, paranoia (Doweiko, 1990). Therefore, drug use contributes to the increase of the suicidal risk behavior, as well as makes a negative impact on the psychiatric treatment. In turn, under physical costs, one should examine different negative effects of drug addiction that can be seen in the systems of physical functioning of individuals - from changes in appetite and temperature of the body to such serious illnesses as hepatitis and HIV. Using alcohol and drugs in large amounts may have lethal consequences. Hereby, the negative consequences of tobacco use should not be underestimated. Thus, according to the Center for Disease Control, while being the leading cause of overall deaths in the USA, the tobacco use contributes to larger mortality than illicit drugs, alcohol, suicide, and HIV all combined (McGhee, 2011). Physical effects can be seen not just in drug abusers but also in their babies, as mothers, who use drugs, can gave birth to ill and cognitively affected children.
Stages of Addiction
Because addiction belongs to progressive disorders, one can identify characteristics of different stages of addiction. Thus, at an early stage, drug abuse has sociable, escapist, and fun motives, whereby people use drugs to relieve stress or to reach the feeling of euphoria. However, when they realize that they cannot feel well without drugs, the situation is out of their control. People feel ashamed and guilty, but still cannot stop. Consequently, the problems in their family and at work become evident. At the late stages, drugs take a form of a necessity, whereby addicts do not have interest in anything else besides the dose of drug. With the addiction progressing, addicts become unable to function normally. They experience increasing illnesses and psychological problems. Hereby, while some individuals progress quickly to serious symptoms, others develop the progression slowly.
The progress of the addiction depends on the level of use of the defense mechanisms by an individual. In general, defense mechanisms are the strategies, which the individual’s mind uses for dealing with stress (Thobaben). However, defense mechanisms are dangerous in addiction because, while distorting reality to certain extent in order to make the individual feel comfortable, they restrain the addict from recognizing the truth and taking responsibility for it. Let us analyze some defense mechanisms such as denial, rationalization, projection, regression, and displacement.
Denial is the defense mechanism, which is most often associated with addiction. While denying the truth, the addict covers up the existence of a problem and continues using drugs. In turn, while using such mechanism as rationalization, the person justifies and finds excuses for using drugs such as “I am overwhelmed with problems and need to relax”, “I do not hurt anybody,” or “I can stop anytime I want”. Such statements are dangerous because through them people try to explain the problems away rather than resolve them. In projection, if people cannot accept certain facts to themselves they project them onto others (Thobaben). Hereby, they tend to blame their friends and family members for making them using drugs. With the help of regression, the individuals want to hide behind their childhood uncontrolled behaviors in the face of overwhelming thoughts, fears, and emotional impulses. Thus, the adult persons may drink in order to eliminate their everyday activities and responsibilities. The last mentioned mechanism displacement is directed at transferring the original feelings and thoughts associated with certain person to a more harmless subject or object, which is, in terms of addiction, the substance of abuse (Doweiko, 1990). It should be recognized that since people use defense mechanisms on an unconscious level, it may be difficult for them to recognize them. Hereby the professional assistance of psychologists can be helpful.
In order to support the recovery process of drug addicts, professionals have to provide them with resources and techniques that can enable the change in themselves. Recognizing and eliminating the defense mechanisms in addiction is crucial because both substance abuse and consequences associated with the dependence problems are based on the unconscious behaviors. While accepting drug addiction as a disease, patients recognize that their behavior is wrong and accept it, which is the first step of the recovering program. However, recovery from alcohol addiction is a life-long process that does not end with discharging from formal treatment. Since drug abuse is the chronic condition, relapse is the risk for former addicts. Therefore, people, who suffered from drug abuse, need support in their transition from the treatment to the common environment, as well.