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Drug use in the UK is a social problem that has continually haunted the social services department. People use drugs for various reasons among them for medicinal value, recreation and relaxation among others. The prolonged use of drugs has affected many people by making them addictive and sometimes causing death due to overdose (SAMHSA, 2017). Among the young adults in the UK, the most used drug is Cannabis at 11.3%. Other drugs used by this population include cocaine, MDMA and amphetamines (SAMHSA, 2017). Similarly, large number of users is seeking treatments with high number emanating from heroin, cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines and others respectively. Despite the prolonged use of drugs and its effects on the users, measures are placed to ensure its effects are not badly felt in the society. Thus, strategies and intervention measures have ensured that its consequences are minimized.
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Why people take drugs
In today’s world, people use drugs for various reasons and the determinant here is the environment where one lives. Those who are within the reach of drugs tend to use it more frequent than those who have difficulty accessing it. Thus, drug abuse emanates from the individuals who can easily access it at any time of the day. Because of this, drug use is common among those who have all the time to look for it from anywhere they are for the sake of quenching their thirst.
One of the reasons people use drugs is for self-medicating. Self-medication has led to increased abuse of drugs and alcohol because of the inability to control and manage the consumption (Wurmser, 2016). For instance, illnesses such as anxiety, severe depression, loneliness, trauma among others push people to self-medication with mind-altering substance so that they do or do not feel their current condition. The continuous use of such mind-altering substance might lead to abuse and sometimes addiction. Thus, the person or the individual will be on continuous use of the drug for long as long as he or she wants to depress or maintain the current state.
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Secondly, people use drugs for experimentation and as a gateway (Istvan & Matarazzo, 2014). For instance, substances such as alcohol, cocaine that are mind-altering heightens one’s experiences that an individual may want to explore for the first time. Experimenting with drugs like heroin, meth and ecstasy leads to addiction and continuous use. Some begin to use prescription painkillers, alcohol and marijuana as a gateway to a more intense and mind altering effect drugs (Vaillant & Milofsky, 2016). It is because of this that people who have been using opioid drugs are going back to the street to take heroin in case their doctors fails to write them a refill prescription. From this, it is seen that some drugs acts as a gateway to a more intense drugs that makes the individuals addictive.
Peer pressure and the availability of drugs have promoted its use among the young adults and teenagers (Power, Power, & Gibson, 2016). The influence from friends to fit contributes to high rates of drug use among the teenagers. They form a sub-group that is made of substance users and anyone not taking drugs is not eligible to the group. This pressure makes some to begin using drugs, which they have, little or no understanding. At the end, some ends up abusing the drug or getting addicted. At the same time, availability of drugs such as alcohol within the reach of many and being sold cheaply is making others to use it. For instance, alcohol is easily available at the counter of retail stores and other supermarkets as well as it frequent adverts on the leading media is making many people to experiment it leading to its usage.
Lastly, depression and medicinal value of drugs is a cause for the use. For instance, many people suffering from depression with no proper cure resorts to taking alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana as a self-medication measure (Vaillant & Milofsky, 2016). Similarly, opiate-based substances are used for medicinal purpose but ends up introducing the users to other substances such as heroin among others. The continuous use of one drug leads to abuse, which becomes risky to an individual’s life.
Attitudes to drug taking
According to many surveys, one person in every 3 takes illegal substance in UK (SAMHSA, 2017). This is an indication that large population is taking drugs despite the existing policies by the government and the private organizations. It is interesting to note that many public surveys shows that the public do not have a problem with people consuming or using substances. Those who take substances have majority of them takes it daily with a small fraction taking it at least once in a month. This shows the extent in which the UK population is much addicted to drugs. About 84% of those taking drugs take them at home or friend’s house as only 16% takes it in a club or bar environment (Smith & Beecher, 2014). It is an indication that the public policy that bars use of substances at a public place is working. It is baring many users from taking it in the public making them resort to private places such as in their homes or friends’ houses, which are enclosed.
The mean age taking drug is 19, the most taken drug is marijuana, and it is because of curiosity. Because of this, various governments are doing all they can to control drug use and abuse so that its effects not felt as it interferes with the working population. The decreased production among the working class has made the government to intervene and control it. The second hand smoke from the consumption of tobacco products has made the government to ban public smoking to protect the non-smokers. Similarly, many private organizations have designated smoking zones for their staffs. At the same time, many organizations have drug use policies that are implemented to control the abuse at the workplace among their employees (Winstock & Mitcheson, 2016). All these are efforts that government and private sectors are doing to shield the public from the harmful effects of drugs and substance abuse.
Consequences of drug use
Drugs are not dangerous as some people may think but the extent of their effects depends on different factors. First, the danger of drugs is determined by how much an individual takes or consumes. For instance, taking too much of sedative drugs can lead to fatal overdose and taking too much stimulant drug leads to heart problems, and alters one’s behaviors. Taking some drugs also leads to a disturbing experience and lack of body coordination. Secondly, the frequency of taking the drug determines the danger it poses on the individual. Frequent use of some drugs is dangerous because the body become tolerance to it and sometimes leading to overdose. Thirdly, other things determining the danger of drugs includes contents in the drugs, drug mixtures, how drug is taken such as through injection, eating, drinking, or snorting (Istvan & Matarazzo, 2014).
The short-term effects of drugs include changes in appetite, wakefulness, heart rates, blood pressure, heart attack, overdose and sometimes death (Kirby & Thornber-Dunwell, 2013). This short term consequences might be realized on initial consumption and does not rely on continuous use. For instance, some drugs with high caffeine might make one awake for longer and this poses a health problem that is short lived but the effects might increase with continuous consumption.
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However, continuous consumption or usage of drugs might lead to long-term effects on one’s health. Some of the effects might be lung diseases, cancer, mental illness, hepatitis and HIV (Chesney, Barrett & Stall, 2008). Moreover, long-term usage is associated with addiction, which is also dangerous because it leads to dependency. For instance, heroin is addictive and it has become a health problem among many users. However, not all regular users become addicted but might change the extent in which ones brain function. With such brain changes, the individual’s experiences also changes when it comes to pleasure and ability of controlling stress, decision making among other things (Shaw, 2016).
The consequences of drugs are not only on the individual but also people living around them. It might affect the people living with the person taking it indirectly or indirectly. For instance, it affects decision-making and impulsive and makes them risk getting trauma. Other effects might include increased violence, communicable diseases and injury to the person. Pregnant mothers taking drugs have increased chances of affecting the unborn child as well as sometimes miscarrying (Antoniou & Tseng, 2012).
The society has been greatly affected by substance abuse since it host the members who are falling victims to it. For instance, drug use leading to abuse is associated with separation and divorce among families in the UK (Ramsey, et al., 2011). This is because of the irresponsibility that emanates from substance abuse as an individual becomes incapable of tolerating and accommodating their spouses. Moreover, the social consequence of drug usage such as homelessness and thugery is rampant in many cities across Europe. Specifically, those who are addicted to taking drugs do everything they can such as robbing others to get money for drugs among other things. Some also give drugs a priority as opposed to the houses making them to remain homeless. Besides, drug addicts and substance abuse people are associated with violence and lack of parental responsibility to their children or family (Halkitis, Palamar & Mukherjee, 2017). To others, drug dependence leads to poor social skills with family members as they only value those who are addicts who they find refuge. This has made many of them to cheat their family members and get money to use in drugs and other substances. Thus, irresponsible behaviors related to gambling, stealing, thurgery among others have made many addicts to lose jobs. Their inability to make sound decision has had a negative social influence on the personal and societal level.
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In the UK, the use of drugs and other substances is on the increase and its impacts are also felt more than before. For instance, the number of admission for people with primary diagnosis of drug related mental health and behavioral disorders increased from the previous figures. Similarly, there were increased number or admission for people suffering from poisoning by illicit drugs. All these are indications that drug use is common in the UK population. Other reports shows that in 2014, over 2300 deaths were reported due to drug misuse, an 15% increase from 2013 and 44% higher than 2004 (SAMHSA, 2017). In other reports, 8.4% of adults aged 16 to 59 have taken an illicit drug as at 2016. Drug use among children is also common in UK, as 15% have always taken drugs, 10% taken drugs in the last year and 6% taken drugs in the last month (SAMHSA, 2017). The statistics shows that drug use is even witnessed among the minors, which is alarming and calling for actions. Some of the commonly used and abused drugs include cocaine, marijuana and heroin.
Theories of addiction
There are many theories of addiction that has been put forward by scholars. One of them is genetic theory (Teasdale, 2016). It assumes that addiction runs within the family and it is inherited. Alcoholism is the substance associated with the theory. It also assumes that children born from the alcoholic parents are likely to be alcoholic or take alcohol compared to those born from non-alcoholic parents.
According to psychoanalytic theory by Freud, the three parts of personality influence the addiction of a person. Anxiety is the backbone of the theory as it signals a threat that overwhelms the ego to make the person rely on the defense mechanisms such as projection, denials, regression among others (Edwards, Chandler & Peto, 2015). Denials become the defense mechanism among the substance abusers, as they deny not having a problem. Thus, the theory views substance abuse as a defense against anxiety. It means that addicts abuse substances to protect them against overwhelming anxiety and other painful emotions like depression and loneliness. As many alcohol or substance users use it to avoid anxiety evoking situations, they never grow and this makes them not to develop a coping mechanism. Thus, they become addicted to the substance they use because it is the only way they can avoid the emerging threats, which they cannot defeat.
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Preventive and intervention strategies for substance misuse
The drug use and substance abuse has been on the increase in the UK even with the increasing strategies that have been put in place. It is important for all stakeholders to develop strategies that even the victims accept to give a good result. One of the preventive approaches to drug use and substance abuse is selective prevention strategy (Ham & Alderwick, 2015). This strategy focuses on helping individuals to develop knowledge, attitudes and skills needed to make good decisions against harmful behaviors. Counseling is one of the best strategies that fall here as it can help an individual to change a decision for better and use substances as per the described form.
Secondly, universal prevention approaches entails environmental prevention strategies that are tailored to meet the needs of the local community by addressing the root causes of the undesired behavior and promoting a healthy environment (Sadava, 2015). For the strategy to work well, all stakeholders such as community leaders, lawmakers and local officials must be involved to mobilize the members and to support the initiative. Through this intervention, the opportunities leading to the use or abuse of the substance is reduced leading to the solution to the problem.
Lastly, environment change strategy is exclusive because it focuses beyond the individuals and has higher and broader audiences (Zinberg, Harding, & Winkeller, 2017). It leads to change of high population as the shift in behaviors among the individuals and societal norms has a broad impact in both the society and the individuals themselves. Some of the activities here include communication and education as well as enforcement (Dorn & South, 2016).
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Drug use and substance abuse is on the increase despite the existing policies in place. Because of the rampant drug use, the social impacts such as separation, divorce, homelessness, joblessness, robbery and dependency has been on the increase. Additionally, the health consequence of substance abuse and drug use had put pressure on financial resources thereby making many people poor. The dependency of drugs has made it impossible for drugs to work leading to overdose in many cases. Despite all these, strategies such as selective, universal prevention and environmental change is key to preventing drug use and substance abuse.
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