How Does Environment Affect Addiction?

The Social Impact of Drug & Alcohol Addiction

The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 20 million people struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. This means that 1 in 13 Americans over the age of 12 are dealing with their addictions’ physical and mental consequences.

But what about the people who are directly (and even indirectly) linked to those who have a drug addiction? How is society affected by its interaction with drug addiction?

Substance abuse addiction causes problems within the socioeconomic status of everyone involved. This doesn’t mean just the drug addict and their immediate family. Drug addiction also implicates everyone in the surrounding prisons and healthcare facilities, along with the economy as a whole.

The Impact on Substance Abuse on Drug Addicts

The American Medical Association classified addiction and alcoholism as medical diseases in the 1950s. This disorder generally begins during adolescence, when teenagers are more likely to give in to peer pressure.

When it goes untreated, it becomes a chronic illness that requires lifelong maintenance and care so that it doesn’t spiral out of control.

Impact on Families

The most significant social impact of addiction and misusing drugs is on the family and close friends of the drug abuser.

The relationships between a drug abuser and their children and partner become strained. Trust is lost because they fail to honor commitments and promises (even when they want to take part).

Children find themselves unable to create trusting relationships with other people. The addict’s spouse/partner is expected to fulfill the roles of both parents because the addict is unable to do so. A drug addict’s family members will begin to deal with higher levels of stress from the added responsibility, which can cause them to develop health problems (like high blood pressure or anxiety).

The family members of a drug addict might feel embarrassed or ashamed of them. They may be at a loss when it comes to how they can help.

Eventually, they may think that their only option is to take the “tough love” route. In fact, this is where families are often impacted by enabling and/or codependency and are pulled into the struggle that is common in addiction (Melody Beatty, Codependent No More, Hazelden Publishing,1986, pp 32-34).

If you are struggling with drug addiction, you should know that your family wants to help you, but they can’t do much until you take the first steps toward recovery.

Drug addiction can potentially lead to broken homes and living impoverished lives.

Impact on Employers and Coworkers

Drug addiction puts a strain on any relationships one might have with their employers and coworkers. When employees show up to work drunk, high, or even hungover, they pose a risk to themselves and anyone they might come into contact with during their shift. Small to mid-sized businesses are likely to go under if their employees are using drugs at work.

Coworkers are increasingly stressed from picking up extra shifts and wondering about their safety when a drug addict shows up to work in a state of intoxication. They work harder to make sure that their place of employment stays in business.

If an employee shows up to work intoxicated, the chance of a work injury taking place increases. Because of this, the insurance premiums for the employer and the other employees are also bound to increase.

Impact on the Healthcare System

One of the most significant risks of abusing drugs is overdosing. Opioid-related overdoses have tripled in the last ten years. In 2019, over 70% of overdose deaths were from opioid use, including prescription opioids. Because drug addiction is a chronic illness, it gets treated by the healthcare system.

America spends approximately $150 billion on drug-related issues every year. In 2010, the healthcare industry made up $160 billion of tobacco costs and $27 billion in alcohol.

In 2013, $26 billion went toward healthcare costs for prescription opioid addiction. The same year, $78.5 billion was spent in total on healthcare, crime, and work productivity.

Treating drug overdoses with Naloxone and sending drug addicts to rehab tends to be expensive, especially when the recidivism rates continue to be so high. Twenty percent of Medicaid dollars go to these drug addiction expenses.

Forty-four percent of the drivers in fatal car crashes tested positive for drugs. Additionally, 12.8 million people admitted to driving while under the influence of drugs, according to a 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Impact on the Economy

Drug addiction is expensive. It costs a lot of money to buy the substances to fuel a drug habit. Drug addicts also have a difficult time holding jobs, paying bills, and saving money. But drug abuse also causes the economy to feel the impact.

Unfortunately, more funds go to putting people in jail for drug-related crimes rather than pushing them to seek out rehabilitation and treatment. When, in reality, the focus should be on providing rehabilitation to drug addicts so that they can become productive members of society once more.

The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs was an initiative started in the 1970s by President Nixon. Nixon’s goal was to eradicate the use of illicit drugs through escalating military and police involvement. Over the last forty-some years, illicit drugs were made to be less accessible with more severe punishments.

This process, however, led to the proliferation of violence and the mass incarceration of drug-related crimes.

Since the 1970s, the American government spent $1 trillion on the cause, but it failed in certain aspects. Today, the drug crisis continues as drug addiction remains a severe problem.

As a result, drug policy experts are working on different reforms to help deal with the situation by focusing on rehabilitation and decriminalizing/legalizing illicit drugs.

Impact on Crime and Violence

As the War on Drugs continues, the United States continues to have crowding issues within the jail systems. Every 25 seconds, someone gets arrested for drug possession. This number has tripled since the 1980s. In fact, 2015 saw 1.3 million drug arrests.

Eighty percent of incarcerated individuals have abused or are currently using drugs. Approximately 25% of these individuals admitted to committing crimes in order to get the money to satisfy their drug habit.

A person of color is also more likely to do a mandatory minimum sentence (and less likely to get relief from the required minimum) than someone who isn’t.

For every drug-related incarceration case, the recidivism rate for untreated drug abusers is 95%.

Incarceration doesn’t help because it doesn’t impact a drug addict’s drug misuse. Imprisonment for drug charges increases the odds of death from a drug overdose. These individuals are 129% more likely to overdose (and 13 times more likely to die from an overdose) soon after they get released from jail after serving a sentence.

The Social Impact of Drug Abuse

Addiction affects millions of people each year. With rehabilitation and recovery, more people can be reached, and the social impact of drug abuse will lessen.

By treating drug addicts for their addictions rather than sending them to jail, it is possible to lessen the impact on the country. With the proper treatment, recidivism rates will drop along with violent crime rates. More children will grow up with their families when their parents get the treatment they need to reclaim their rightful spot in society.

To learn more on how to get addiction treatment in Virginia, contact Bridging the Gaps today.


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