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Substance Abuse: A Nationwide Epidemic Essay

2446 words - 10 pages

The consequences that follow the use of any drug are unfavorable. Although many individuals may see drug addiction as a mere lifestyle choice, it is a problem that many individuals suffer from and inevitably a growing issue that leaves major social and economic impacts.

The most commonly abused substances are Nicotine, Inhalants, Alcohol, Cocaine, Amphetamines, Prescription medications, Heroin, Ecstasy and Marijuana. 1a(National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2011) Initially, a person may find themselves using substances voluntarily and with confidence that they will be able to dictate their personal use. However, over the period of time that drug use is repeated, changes are taking place throughout the brain, whether it is functionally or structurally. Drugs contain chemicals that enter the communication system of the brain and disturb the way in which nerve cells would typically send, receive, and process information. The chemicals within these drugs will cause a disruption to the communication system by either imitating the brain’s natural chemical messengers or by over-stimulating the brains “reward system” by sending mass amounts of dopamine. As an individual prolongs his or her use of these substances, they may develop an addiction.

Drug addiction is often characterized as being a complex brain disease that causes compulsive, uncontrollable, drug craving, seeking and use without any regards to the consequences they may bring upon themselves, or society. As long as the brain is exposed to these large amounts of dopamine on the reward system, it will inevitably develop a tolerance to the current dopamine levels, which it is receiving, lessening the pleasure the user will experience. In order to satisfy the brains “reward system” caused by dopamine, there will need to be an increase in the intake of drugs. The user will then find themselves not being in control of their drug cravings, seeking and use. Thus, being an addict.


Substance abuse is a key component to the problems that we face today as a society. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("Alcohol-Impaired Driving", 2009) in 2009, 32% of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States were due to alcohol-impaired driving crashes. Surveys were also conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Compton, & Berning, 2009) so researchers were able to estimate not only the prevalence of drinking and driving, but for the first time they were also able to collect data on the number of drivers who were under the influence of drugs that impaired their abilities. In this data, it was found that 16% of weekend night time drivers tested positive for impairing drugs, in contrast to the 2% of drivers who were at the legal alcohol limit; making drugs 7 times more prevalent. These statistics show that “drugged” driving is a concern for not only law enforcement but also puts other drivers...

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