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Navigation: Factors Contributing to Drug Use in the US, What Can Be Done to Address Drug Use in the US?, Drug Addiction Treatment Options

Drug use in the US has been a major issue for decades, and there seems to be no signs of slowing down. Despite efforts to combat drug use, the problem still persists.

Looking back at a little history, President Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs in 1971. The goal was to reduce drug use and trafficking in the country. This led to stricter laws and harsher penalties for drug offenses. It also led to increased funding for law enforcement agencies to combat drug trafficking.

However, drug use continued to rise in the US. In fact, it now has the highest rate of drug use in the world, with an estimated 24.6 million Americans aged 12 or older using illicit drugs in the past month.

In recent years, prescription drug abuse has risen as one of the biggest problems in the country, with the opioid epidemic causing thousands of overdose-related deaths. This is due in part to the overprescribing of painkillers and other medications.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in the US, with an estimated 18 million people misusing prescription drugs in 2017.

The consequences of substance abuse and addiction are widespread, causing serious physical and psychological damage to users. Addiction not only affects the individual but also the people around them. It can even impact their community and society at large. [1]

It is therefore important to explore the different reasons behind the rampant drug use in the US and what can be done to address it. Let’s take a closer look.

Factors Contributing to Drug Use in the US

The problem of substance abuse is complex and there are multiple factors at play. Otherwise it would be much easier to address.

One of the main reasons for the rampant drug use in the US is the accessibility and availability of drugs. Legal drugs, such as prescription medications, can be easily obtained through legitimate channels. In fact, the over-prescription of certain medications like opioids contribute significantly to the opioid epidemic.

Just because a drug can be obtained legitimately does not mean people are going to use them for medical purposes.

Meanwhile, the illegal drug market continues to thrive. With the rise of the internet and dark web, it has become easier for people to purchase drugs online, making it more difficult for law enforcement to track and stop drug trafficking. Now people can easily access dangerous illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. On top of that, they can do so anonymously with the click of a button.

The US also shares a border with Mexico, which is considered a major source of illegal drugs. This makes it easier for drug traffickers to smuggle drugs into the country.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ report in 2007, 22% of students in grades 9 through 12 reported that they had been offered, sold, or given illegal drugs on school property. When drug accessibility is this easy, people are more likely to try them out and develop an addiction. With more people addicted, drug syndicates do not need to worry about their source of business. Addicted individuals will try to find them to obtain these drugs. [2]

Efforts to address drug abuse must consider and address the various pathways through which these substances become accessible to people. This means we need to take a look at both legal and illegal channels.

Poverty and Unemployment

Aside from accessibility, poverty and unemployment also contribute to the drug problem. Studies have shown that people who are living in poverty are more likely to turn to drugs as a means of coping with their circumstances.

Unemployment can also lead to drug use. Those who are dealing with the stress and anxiety of being out of work may turn to drugs to cope with their situation. This is especially true in areas where job opportunities are scarce.

As we all know, economic instability often leads to stress, anxiety, and a sense of hopelessness. This creates vulnerability to substance abuse. People may try to escape from their hardships by seeking relief from drugs and alcohol.

In financially-strained communities, limited access to employment opportunities can further exacerbate the problem. This creates a cycle of struggle and substance abuse.

Additionally, economic struggles may also get in the way of mental health services and support systems. With few resources to address their underlying issues and concerns, people may feel like they have no choice but to keep taking drugs.

In a way, we can say that addiction does discriminate among people, and this can be deadly. The conditions in which people are born, grow, live, and age can influence their relationship with addictive substances. This is according to the World Health organization (WHO). Unfortunately, these conditions are shaped by the distribution of money, power, and resources at various levels of society. [3]

Lack of Education and Awareness

With drugs being easily accessible, curiosity may come into effect. Some people try drugs not realizing how dangerous they could be. The lack of education and drug awareness is another factor that contributes to the widespread drug abuse problem in the US.

Many people, especially teens and young adults, are not fully aware of the consequences of drug use and may experiment with drugs and alcohol. Without proper education, they are more likely to make uninformed decisions regarding drug use. When faced with things like curiosity and peer pressure, they may not know how to properly respond.

Inadequate educational programs and outreach initiatives may fail to effectively communicate the dangers of drug abuse. This leaves people susceptible to experimentation. They may not fully understand the physical, mental, and social effects of substance abuse.

To address this issue, it is important to take a “whole of school approach”. This approach recognizes that student health can be influenced by many overlapping factors, and that proper education can arm them with the knowledge to protect themselves. [4]

This approach may also involve fostering good relationships between peers, teachers, counselors, and nurses, as this may impact a young person’s development. When someone has positive role models, they are less likely to engage in harmful activities like drug abuse.

A good drug education program can engage with students using interactive approaches and give them the opportunity to pick up personal and social skills, including decision-making, resistance, and coping mechanisms. [4]

Psychological Factors

Addiction is a complex medical condition and its effects are not purely physical. The adverse effects of addiction can also impact a person’s mental and emotional well-being. Several psychological factors contribute significantly to drug use in the US.

For example, stress can lead to poor coping habits. Those who are facing high levels of stress in their personal or professional lives may use drugs to cope. The same can be said for people who are struggling with certain mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). [5]

Substance abuse can give them temporary relief from their emotional distress and symptoms. It can replace those feelings with a sense of comfort and euphoria. But in the long run, it will only cause more problems for their mental health.

In order to tackle this problem, people need to be taught healthy coping mechanisms. They need to learn how to deal with their emotional challenges without turning to harmful substances.

The interplay of these psychological factors underscores the complex relationship between mental health and substance use. This is why addiction and mental health disorders often co-occur. When people have both problems at the same time, they need to go through dual diagnosis treatment. These programs are designed to address both problems simultaneously. Treating one condition while ignoring the other will not address the entire problem.

While the exact cause of substance use disorder is unknown, we do know it usually has something to do with a combination of factors like genetics, environment, and emotional factors like trauma and stress. Therefore addressing addiction requires taking a look at the psychological factors that contributed to its development. [5]

Cultural Factors

Cultural factors can also play a significant role in shaping the patterns of drug use in the community and the country as a whole.

Media and popular culture, for example, often portray drug use in ways that can glamorize or trivialize it. Audiences may be influenced to perceive these drugs as less dangerous than they actually are. The constant exposure to these messages can affect their decision-making.

On a more minor scale, certain cultural groups may have traditions or rituals involving the use of specific substances. This means drug use within those communities are both accepted and normalized.

Different cultures, demographics, and age groups face different risks and challenges when it comes to substance abuse. This further contributes to the complexity of the drug problem in the country.

What Can Be Done to Address Drug Use in the US?

It is important to address the drug abuse problem because it has far-reaching effects on individuals, families, and even the society they are living in.

Addressing drug abuse can help prevent the loss of lives while promoting a healthier community. By promoting public health and safety, we can break the cycle of addiction, reduce crime rates, and allow people to take back control of their lives. However, this requires a comprehensive approach that includes prevention, treatment, and support services.

One approach that may help reduce drug use is through stricter laws and penalties for drug offenses. This can act as a deterrent for those who may be using or selling illegal drugs. But we need to take note that this approach alone is not enough to solve the problem. Stricter laws and penalties must be accompanied by other measures, such as education and rehabilitation programs.

Effective prevention strategies are just as important. People who are exposed to drugs and alcohol at a younger age have an increased risk of developing an addiction later in life.

But everyone is susceptible to alcohol and other drug problems. It can happen at different points in people’s lives. Research has shown that prevention strategies can significantly reduce the risk of drug addiction and its adverse effects. The common goal of these prevention strategies is to enrich the “protective factors” that keep people safe from drugs. [7]

Examples of protective factors include strong social skills, well-developed family bonds, and active involvement in the community. Reducing risk factors is also important to reduce a person’s vulnerability to addiction. Additionally, by teaching people healthy alternatives and coping mechanisms, they may be able to protect themselves from drug use even if they are at risk. [7]

Education and Awareness Campaigns

Since a lack of education and awareness contributes to the problem, it is necessary to educate more people about the dangers of drugs. Additionally, they need to be made aware of how to prevent drug use before it starts and how to seek help when someone needs it.

This is especially important for students. Early intervention can save a lot of students from the consequences of drug abuse. Oftentimes, teachers are the first ones to notice the warning signs. Giving them the resources they need to educate the youth can help protect young minds. [7]

Education campaigns should also focus on educating individuals about the signs of drug use and how to support loved ones who may be struggling with it. These programs need to be designed to reach diverse demographics and age groups.

With enough knowledge, people can make better decisions surrounding drug use. By increasing awareness, we can also reduce the stigma surrounding drug use and encourage more people to seek help. Stigma remains one of the greatest obstacles against addiction treatment. But by incorporating evidence-based information into drug awareness campaigns, people can be empowered to make smarter decisions, resist peer pressure, and make healthier choices.

Increased Funding for Rehabilitation Programs

Addressing stigma can encourage more people to seek help, especially once they understand that addiction is a medical condition and not a moral failing. But another important way to address the widespread substance abuse problem is to support drug rehab programs.

Increasing funding for rehabilitation programs may be an effective strategy. By allocating more resources into addiction treatment, more people can have access to high quality treatment services.

These funds can be used to expand the capacity of rehabilitation centers, improve staff training, and implement evidence-based therapies. Additionally, this will help create community outreach initiatives and educational campaigns.

Investing in rehabilitation programs not only aids in the recovery of those affected but also contributes to reducing the overall societal impact of drug abuse.

Drug Addiction Treatment Options

So what are these different addiction treatment options that can help those who are affected? Here we will have a closer look at some of the most commonly used methods.

Treatment for drug addiction typically involves a combination of approaches that address the many different effects of substance abuse. Just keep in mind that the exact treatments may vary from one person to another, given the complexity of this condition.

The best rehab centers will use a personalized approach based on the person’s specific needs and circumstances. After all, everyone is affected by addiction differently. Even if two people take the same type of drug, they will still experience different symptoms. Their motivations for abusing drugs may also be different. These will all be factored into the addiction treatment program.

Medical Detox (Detoxification)

With that said, medical detox is often considered the first step in a drug treatment program. Many addiction treatment programs begin by eliminating the addictive substances from the body. This process is known as detoxification. [8]

Detox should be conducted under medical supervision, as withdrawal symptoms can be severe and, in some cases, life-threatening. During detox, the patient’s drug intake will be lowered gradually while their cravings and withdrawal are managed by medical professionals. This is designed to keep them safe and healthy throughout this difficult stage of recovery.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment, also known as residential rehab, provides a structured environment where patients can focus on their recovery. By living at a treatment facility, they can stay away from the distractions of the outside world while learning healthy coping mechanisms and participating in therapy sessions.

Outpatient Treatment

Less intensive than inpatient programs, outpatient treatment benefits from flexibility of scheduling. Patients are allowed to live at home while attending scheduled treatment sessions during the day or evening. Outpatient treatment is suitable for those with less severe addictions or those who have completed inpatient rehabilitation. This setup allows them to keep up with their daily responsibilities while still getting the treatment that they need. [8]

Behavioral Therapies

Addiction treatment is not just about addressing the physical effects of drug abuse. It also involves addressing the root causes of addictive behavior. Various behavioral therapies are effective in treating addiction. These include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Helps patients identify and change unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior related to substance use.

Contingency Management: Provides positive reinforcement for maintaining abstinence.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET): A counseling approach that helps individuals find the motivation to change.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Focuses on developing skills to manage stress, regulate emotions, and improve relationships.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

MAT involves the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders. Examples include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone, which can be used for opioid addiction, and medications like disulfiram and Acamprosate for alcohol dependence. [9]

The medications prescribed in MAT work to normalize brain chemistry, reduce cravings, and block the euphoric effects of the substances, thereby supporting patients in their recovery efforts. MAT is considered a comprehensive strategy that not only helps alleviate withdrawal symptoms but also aids in breaking the cycle of addiction by providing a more stable foundation for people to engage in counseling and behavioral therapies.

Support Groups

Support groups play a crucial role in addressing drug addiction. These groups give patients a structured and empathetic environment where they can share their experiences, challenges, and successes with others facing similar struggles.

These groups, often led by facilitators or peers who have successfully overcome addiction, offer a sense of community and understanding that can be essential for recovery. Members can gain valuable insights, coping strategies, and encouragement from the collective wisdom of the group.

The non-judgmental atmosphere creates a safe space for patients to express their feelings openly. Support groups provide motivation, support, and accountability. They can also open up a new perspective to view your condition. Some of the most popular examples include Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

Aftercare Planning

Planning for aftercare is essential to maintain recovery. Remember that the recovery journey does not end when you leave rehab. Your rehab journey may teach you how to regain and maintain your sobriety, but it is only when you leave that you begin to apply what you learned.

Generally speaking, the longer you stay sober after leaving rehab, the higher your chances of maintaining your sobriety for the long-term. This is why aftercare planning is essential. This may involve ongoing counseling, support group participation, and other strategies to prevent relapse.

The primary purpose of aftercare planning is to help individuals maintain and build upon the progress achieved during rehabilitation, reducing the risk of relapse. Aftercare planning recognizes that the journey to recovery is a lifelong process, and by addressing the unique needs and circumstances of each individual, it aims to enhance their resilience and ability to navigate the complexities of post-treatment life.

Successful addiction treatment often involves a combination of these approaches. The most effective treatment plans are individualized, taking into account the unique needs and circumstances of each person. It’s also important to address any co-occurring mental health disorders that may contribute to or result from addiction. Seeking professional help from addiction specialists is crucial for developing an appropriate and effective treatment plan.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, look for a rehab near and get started on the road to recovery.












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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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