Drug Abuse as Voluntary Suicide

Abstract

Drug and alcohol abuse is like voluntary suicide. The effects of substance abuse are vast and problematic in every society. Substance abuse aids the spread of AIDS, pun intended. Substance abuse leads to the death of millions: people who are abusers and people who become the victims of the abusers. Substance abuse lowers everyday performance in adolescents and adults. The media feeds of off substance abuse stories and sends mixed messages to the targets audiences. More than anything else, substance abusers inflict more harm on others than themselves.

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Introduction

Drug and alcohol abuse is like voluntary suicide. The effects of substance abuse are vast and problematic in every society. Substance abuse aids the spread of AIDS, pun intended. Substance abuse leads to the death of millions: people who are abusers and people who become the victims of the abusers. Substance abuse lowers everyday performance in adolescents and adults. The media feeds of off substance abuse stories and sends mixed messages to the targets audiences. More than anything else, substance abusers inflict more harm on others than themselves.

“Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS]) has dramatically increased the adverse health consequences of injecting drug use, not only for the individual user, but also for user’s sexual partners and children, and for the community as a whole.” (Lowinson, 1997, p. 913) AIDS can be easily transferred to people who share needles to use drugs, a mother who breastfeeds her child and sexually active individuals. (Lowinson, 1997, p. 913) Drug abuse is the main contributing factor to the spread of AIDS in many countries around the world and it can be spread quite easily too.

Children whose parents are addicted to drugs usually end up with a lot of biological and psychological problems. The number of women who use drugs while they are pregnant is quite high but it still isn’t an accurate one. Many women who are heavy users of drugs currently or have been in the past do not report it to their doctors and some don’t use hospital facilities to give birth. A lot of substance-abusing mothers go under the radar and if they ever do report themselves the numbers are supposed to skyrocket. Children of substance-abusing mothers face losing health and welfare benefits as time goes on and these children usually have a lot of disabilities and other physical or mental impairments. (Lowinson, 1997, p. 1013)

The statistics for teenager drug and alcohol abuse are staggeringly high. “A significant number of America teens use and abuse illicit and addictive substances. An estimated 1 in 5 teenagers (4.3 million) are current alcohol drinkers, 1 in 13 teenagers (1.7 million) are binge alcohol drinkers, and 400,000 adolescents are in need of substance abuse treatment. It is projected that the year 2010 will witness the largest number of adolescents in American history.” (Lowinson, 1997, p. 1021) Teenage substance abuse can prove to be harmful not only by the abuser him/herself but to other people around him. Adolescence is the time of development and if drug abuse starts early it can stunt a child’s growth physically and mentally.

Children who are addicted to drugs tend perform at a less than satisfactory level at school. They may drop out, not attend classes, or barely pay attention in class. This affects their grades and defeats the purpose of getting a high school or elementary education which is supposed to be the foundation of an advanced curriculum in college. “Behavior correlates to substance abuse, including antisocial behavior and poor academic performance.

Of the most powerful predictors of substance abuse use are social influences including behavior and attitudes of family and friends. Family influences, such as parenting, parental substance abuse, permissive or tolerant attitudes of substance use by parents, and the quality of relationship between parents and adolescents, are implicated in adolescent substance use.” (Lowinson, 1997, p. 1027) How parents behave with their children plays a huge role in the use of substances by adolescents. Parents act as role models and leaders in every family and kids usually follow in their footsteps. Parents who let their kids loose and go easy on them are more likely to find their kids abusing substances compared to parents who apply strict rules and regulations although there are always exceptions to both rules.

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“Other social or environmental factors associated with substance use include deprivation, children who care for themselves after school if parents work, a low socioeconomic status, a history of sexual abuse or dating violence, and employment during the school year.” (Lowinson, 1997, p. 1021)

All these behaviors encourage deviance. In sociology there is a theory called ‘deviance and control’. It proposes many ways of how people deviate from social norms and partake in deviant activities such as drug and alcohol abuse. The control theory provides a reason why people stay away from deviant behavior. It proposes that people who have strong relationships with the people around them are the ones less likely to deviate.

In other words, people who have strong bonds with their kids, significant others or anyone else in society are the ones least likely to indulge in substance abuse. In a parent child relationship, a child whose parents are always present and are concerned about the kids life end up having strong bonds. The kids of these parents have a bond they need to maintain and live up to their expectations, henceforth, they are less likely to deviate.

On the other hand, kids who have parents who are never around and leave the parenting to the nanny or the kids themselves usually create weak bonds. When a child or any person in a relationship feels a bond is weak and that breaking it will not matter will be most likely to deviate. Henceforth, kids with parents who are never around, or a husband with a wife who is always too busy are the ones more likely to partake in substance abuse. (Leblanc, 1998)

The second theory concerning deviance in sociology is the ‘labeling theory’. This theory proposes that people live up to their reputation and the labels that are given to them. If a person commits a certain act that is deviant in their childhood or adolescence he or she is at the risk of being labeled a deviant or a trouble maker. Once this person gets labeled a particular thing he or she will most probably live up to it.

For example, if a person is labeled a bully or a trouble make early on in their life and the same title is reinforced upon him by people he or she knows then he or she will be more prone to acting accordingly. A bully might end up being a bully because people have labeled him a bully and he succumbs to his reputation. (Leblanc, 1998) In the same way if an alcohol abuser gets labeled a ‘boozie’ or an ‘alcoholic’ and the same label is reinforced upon him or her negatively it is going to be even harder for the substance abuser to break away from the habit. The labeling theory and the control theory explain why people deviate from norms and partake in drug and alcohol abuse.

“The most powerful of the social influences are peer influences, particularly in terms of initial experimentation with substances and reinforcement of use by continued association with groups who use substances.” (Lowinson, 1997, p. 1027) Groups of association highly affect people’s actions. Adolescents are not the only ones who deal with peer pressure. Drinking alcohol amongst adults is a very normal thing. No one views drinking alcohol as bad as long as it does not lead to being drunk.

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Drinking alcohol even as experimentation or a few sips is going towards a path of a slippery slope. A lot of times people who prefer not to drink because of religious or health reasons succumb to the pressure of their subordinates or peers when they are in social gatherings and drink alcohol. In this case, the peers don’t view alcohol as imposing something harmful on anyone because they don’t realize that alcohol is deadly for some people.

Society today views drinking alcohol as a normal thing and people have to partake in this ritual if they are a part of this society. For example if a person is a recovering alcoholic and he is at a company dinner where his boss offers him champagne as a toast to his promotion the person being offered will have to take it. In a situation like this it is very difficult to refuse a gesture like this. This is also very apparent in workplaces and the effects of smoking.

Smoking is also like a drug because it is addictive in nature and creates the same symptoms when the body has not consumed for a certain time. In workplaces people with a smoking environment people who are nonsmokers can easily get agitated. Often people start smoking again with their subordinates because they could not resist a previous addiction.

In high school people are supposed to act cool and fit in with their peer groups that often involve drug and alcohol abuse. First an adolescent might partake in an activity relating to drugs just as an experiment but the effects are like a slippery slope. Once you’re on it, you keep on slipping down. The kinds of groups people associate with have a huge effect on them because they often succumb to the pressure of doing something they usually would not do.

“One variant of peer influences which is omnipresent in our society is media influences. Some studies, particularly those of tobacco use have found definite associations between media messages and cigarette smoking in adolescents. Gambling behaviors and activities are on the rise amongst adolescents, and highly associated with substance abuse disorders.” (Lowinson, 1997, p. 1027) Aside from association groups the media acts as an extreme pressure building verdict. The effects of what is portrayed in the media are reflected all over the country. Young kids follow the examples of Hollywood stars and look up to them as role models.

Often times the role model does not live up to the expectations and falls short of fulfilling his or her role and more disappointingly does not care to fulfill his or her role. Kids who look up to these people are sent mixed messages when they see their favorite celebrities being busted for drug use and being handcuffed. The media thrives on these incidents and the people who really get affected are the ones who are the supposed target audience.

“Cultural factors also deserve strong consideration as risk factors for adolescent substance abuse. Various studies have demonstrated that the risk of substance abuse is associated with immigrant status, with increases in prevalence in different populations after immigration from their countries of origin.” “Other social or environmental factors associated with substance use include deprivation, children who care for themselves after school if parents work, a low socioeconomic status, a history of sexual abuse or dating violence, and employment during the school year.” (Lowinson, 1997, p. 1021)

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This highly affects the lives of immigrants and their family members because they are at a higher risk of developing a substance abuse habit. Adapting to a new society is a difficult transition that includes being stressed in the initial stages of the move.

People who have a hard time finding jobs and face difficulties in the moving process sometimes resort to drugs. “The impact of traumatic experiences of adolescents of particular racial and ethnic groups is often associated with higher risk for adolescent substance abuse.” “Other social or environmental factors associated with substance use include deprivation, children who care for themselves after school if parents work, a low socioeconomic status, a history of sexual abuse or dating violence, and employment during the school year.” (Lowinson, 1997, p. 1027) Race and ethnicity play a big role in drug use.

People who are the victims of racist attacks sometimes succumb to drug abuse because they see no other way of escape. This is also associated with depression and trauma from racist attack-related experiences. The movie Crash is a good example of the issues of criminal justice, race, and drug and alcohol abuse. The movie depicts people of different races being the victims of racist attacks by the Los Angeles police. One of the characters in the movie says he does drugs and steals because of the unfairness of the justice system and the racism epidemic. He has been the victim of racial prejudice so he takes part in deviant behavior to overcome his tragedy.

The most unfortunate thing about alcohol abuse is it affects people who do not abuse alcohol. Drinking and driving are the cause of accidents all over the nation. One popular poem titled I went to a party mom highlights the effects of drinking and driving. The poem has been used as the subject for a petition to the President of the United States and is written by Josh Dye. To understand the effects of drinking and driving the poem has to be included (Dye):

I went to a party,

And remembered what you said.

You told me not to drink Mom,

So I had a sprite instead.

I felt proud of myself,

The way you said I would,

That I didn’t drink and drive,

Though some friends said I should.

I made a healthy choice,

And your advice to me was right,

The party finally ended,

And the kids drove out of sight.

I got into my car,

Sure to get home in one piece,

I never knew what was coming Mom,

Something I expected least.

Now I’m lying on the pavement,

And I hear the policeman say,

The kid that caused this wreck was drunk,

Mom, his voice seems far away.

My own blood’s all around me,

As I try hard not to cry.

I can hear the paramedic say,

This girl is going to die.

I’m sure the guy had no idea,

While he was flying high,

Because he chose to drink and drive,

Now I would have to die.

So why do people do it, Mom

Knowing that it ruins lives?

And now the pain is cutting me,

Like a hundred stabbing knives.

Tell sister not to be afraid, Mom

Tell daddy to be brave,

And when I go to heaven,

Put Daddy’s Girl on my grave.

Someone should have taught him,

That its wrong to drink and drive.

Maybe if his parents had,

I’d still be alive.

My breath is getting shorter, Mom

I’m getting really scared.

These are my final moments,

And I’m so unprepared.

I wish that you could hold me Mom,

As I lie here and die.

I wish that I could say, “I love you, Mom!”

So I love you and goodbye.

As anyone reads this poem chills go up and down their spine because it presents the naked truth about drinking and driving. In the poem the girl listens to her mom and drinks Sprite instead of alcohol and manages to handle peer pressure and not let anything get to her. Still, she is the one who ends up dying because of a reckless drunk driver. People who drink and drive victimize people who don’t commit this felony. It is the job of parents and the government to fix this problem. “Adolescents who use substances are less likely to be aware of the negative consequences of use, have less negative attitudes about substances, and believe that substance use is normative.

They are also less likely to have personal competence and decision-making skills that allow the adolescents to manage emotional distress.” (Lowinson, 1997, p. 1021) An adolescent does not have enough critical skills to realize the full effects of his or her action and for this reason parents and the government have to intervene. The driving age has already been increased from 16 to 18 and now parents have to play a proactive part in their children’s lives.

They have to teach their kids the effects of drinking and driving and start doing this at an early age. The government can play a role by increasing the penalty for drinking and driving. The charge for manslaughter is usually life sentence but the government should go an extra step and set up sessions for both parties’ family members and help them understand the effects and convince them not to do anything like that ever again.

Summary

Substance abuse not only affects the people who are abusing it but everyone surrounding them. Substance abuse affects the entire society as a whole and has catastrophic repressions. Association groups, peer pressure, race and ethnicity are all contributing factors to drug abuse. The dilemma of drug and alcohol abuse is that it ends up killing and affecting innocent people.

References

Dye, J I went to a party, Mom…. Web.

Leblanc, Lauraine (1998). Observing Reel Life: Using Feature Films to Teach Ethnographic Methods. Teaching Sociology, 1. Web.

Lowinson, J. H. (1997). Substance abuse: a comprehensive textbook. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.

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