There are many affects that drugs and alcohol can have on the body, and on the life of a person. Thousands of jobs, homes, and families are lost annually through the addictions of drugs and alcohol. Children grow up without parents, spouses are forced to raise their children as single parents, and grandparents become legal guardians for a second time, due to the effects of substance abuse and dependence. Exactly how addiction is defined and diagnosed is an on-going issue and one that will be discussed in this paper. While there are eleven different categories that substances are arranged, this paper will be focusing specifically on alcohol and cannabis.
An estimated 126 million Americans over the age of 12 reported being ongoing alcohol drinkers in 2005 (Smith & Stevens, 2009). According to the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), over 42 thousand homeless adults over the age of 50 were admitted to substance abuse treatment in 2008, and sixty five percent were being treated for alcohol abuse (TEDS, 2010). Excessive alcohol consumption may have been accepted in the beginning of the twentieth century, but currently, a male who consumes more than 14 drinks in a week or more than four drinks day, and a woman who has more than 13 drinks a week 3 drinks on a day, is considered “at risk” of being an alcoholic (Burge & Schneider, 1999).
Cannabis, better known as marijuana, is the most abused illegal drug in America (Smith & Stevens, 2009). It also had the highest level of abuse and dependence in 2005 with over 4.1 million people affected (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2006). Marijuana is usually smoked as a cigarette, known also as a joint or blunt, and is also used in a pipe or bong. There is a more potent and unpollinated version of the drug that Californian growers have started, known as sinsemilla (Smith & Stevens, 2009). This has made the drug much more potent and easy to grow. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 17 million people in America had used marijuana in 1992 (as quoted in Smith & Stevens, 2009, p.64). The affects that drugs and alcohol can have on the human body, as well as the addictions they create, have been discussed in presidential debates, the topic of many scholarly journals and books, and continue to affect the lives of millions of people worldwide.
Meldelson & Mello (1985) wrote that the most conclusive way to define addiction is that it prevails when drug or alcohol use is directly affiliated with “impairment of health and social functioning is a useful general thesis” (as cited in Smith & Stevens, 2009, p. 138). Addiction can also be defined as “the lack of choice the user has over the drug use” Once the individual needs the alcohol or drug to feel normal, and not as a way to feel pleasure, they can be considered dependant on that particular substance (Smith & Stevens, 2009).
According to the American Psychiatric Association (2000), in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and...