Drugs Are All Around

Explore how 'drugs are all around', their alarming effects, and global policies to combat drug abuse.

Drugs Are All Around

Drugs Are All Around

Understanding Drug Abuse

Drug abuse is pervasive, infiltrating various aspects of society. This section will explore the economic implications and the policies that universities adopt to combat this issue.

Economic Impact of Drug Abuse

The economic burden of drug abuse is enormous and varied, posing a significant challenge for nations worldwide. In the United States, the costs of substance abuse are substantial, diverting economic resources to drug-related activities and resulting in widespread disability, morbidity, premature death, and more.

The societal costs of substance abuse, including tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use, account for nearly 6% of the nation's income, amounting to over $532 billion a year. These costs cover disease, premature death, lost productivity, theft and violence, and the cost of prevention and treatment programs [2].

Year Estimated Annual Cost (in billions)
1988 $58
1992 $98
1995 $110

Additionally, revenues from the sale of cigarettes, alcohol, and illicit drugs exceeded $128.3 billion or 2.5 percent of GDP in 1998. This indicates the vast economic scale and influence of the substance abuse industry.

Treatment for addiction, while effective, remains a significant expenditure. However, it is less costly than the potential financial losses resulting from incarceration, lost productivity, and property damage. Treatment programs for illicit drug use have demonstrated a 40 to 60 percent reduction in drug use and a significant decrease in criminal activity [2].

University Policies on Drug Use

Universities are not immune to the issue of drug abuse. As a result, many institutions have implemented robust policies focused on prevention, education, and intervention. These policies often include strict rules prohibiting drug use on campus, educational programs about the dangers of drug abuse, and resources for students seeking help for substance abuse issues.

While the specifics of these policies vary by institution, the primary goal remains the same: to provide a safe, healthy, and productive environment for all students. University administrators understand the critical role they play in addressing drug abuse, and they are continuously refining their policies and practices to better combat this pervasive issue.

Commonly Abused Drugs

In order to understand the insidious nature of drug abuse, it's important to delve into the specifics of the commonly abused substances. In this section, we will discuss five such substances: marijuana, cocaine, hallucinogens, opioids, and synthetic drugs.


Marijuana, derived from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa, is a commonly abused drug. The main psychoactive chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. This compound is responsible for the 'high' that users experience. Long-term use can lead to memory issues, cognitive impairments, and potential addiction. NIDA


Cocaine is a powerful and addictive stimulant drug. It's made from the leaves of the coca plant, native to South America. This drug has a significant impact on the central nervous system, leading to increased energy, alertness, and euphoria. However, it can also cause paranoia, restlessness, and potential cardiac issues. NIDA


Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that cause profound distortions in a person's perceptions of reality. Some of the most commonly used hallucinogens include ketamine, LSD, PCP, and psilocybin. These drugs can cause hallucinations, feelings of detachment, and altered perception of time and space. NIDA


Opioids are a group of drugs that include substances like heroin, morphine, and prescription pain relievers. These drugs interact with the opioid receptors in the brain, leading to feelings of euphoria. However, regular use can lead to misuse, addiction, and in severe cases, overdose deaths. NIDA

Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic drugs include substances like synthetic cannabinoids, sometimes called "synthetic marijuana". These are herbal mixtures sprayed with man-made cannabinoid chemicals. These chemicals are often stronger and more dangerous than THC found in marijuana, leading to unpredictable and severe health effects. NIDA

Each of these drugs pose significant health risks and societal challenges. Understanding their effects is a crucial step towards the larger goal of preventing drug abuse and intervening effectively when necessary.

Effects of Drug Abuse

The repercussions of drug abuse are far-reaching and varied, impacting the individual physically and psychologically, while also having significant societal ramifications. The presence of 'drugs are all around' us is a serious concern that warrants an in-depth understanding of these effects.

Physical Effects

The physical effects of drug abuse can be devastating. Misused drugs flood the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates emotions, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. This leads to intense cravings and compulsive drug use. Over time, this can result in a substance dependency or drug addiction [3].

Furthermore, more than 7 million people suffer from an illicit drug disorder, and one in four deaths results from illicit drug use. Substance use disorder has more associated deaths, illnesses, and disabilities than any other preventable health condition [3].

Psychological Effects

The psychological effects of drug abuse are equally alarming. The surge of dopamine in the brain can lead to a disruption in normal brain function, causing issues such as memory loss, attention deficits, and impaired judgment. Over time, these changes can lead to mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and psychosis.

Additionally, the intense cravings and compulsive drug use can lead to a cycle of addiction, where the individual becomes increasingly reliant on the drug to feel 'normal'. This can result in a host of negative psychological outcomes, including increased risk of suicide, decreased quality of life, and impaired social functioning.

Societal Impact

The societal impact of drug abuse is significant and multifaceted. Substance use disorders can lead to behavioral problems, missed work, punishable offenses, accidents, and injuries. Alcohol and drugs are involved in about 16 percent of motor vehicle crashes and are partly responsible for about 80 percent of offenses leading to jail time in the U.S..

The societal costs of substance abuse from tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use in the U.S. are nearly 6 percent of the nation’s income, amounting to over $532 billion a year. This includes costs such as disease, premature death, lost productivity, theft and violence, and the cost of prevention and treatment programs [2].

However, there is a silver lining. Treatment for addiction can be effective and is less expensive than incarceration or lost productivity and property. Treatment programs for illicit drug use have been shown to reduce drug use by 40 to 60 percent and significantly decrease criminal activity. This points to the need for continued investment in prevention and intervention strategies, to combat the pervasive issue of drug abuse in society.

Prevention and Intervention

When it comes to the issue of drug abuse, strategic prevention and intervention measures are critical. These can help curb the alarming presence of drugs in society, and prevent potential users from falling into the trap of addiction.

Prevention Programs

Prevention programs play a vital role in reducing the risk of drug abuse, especially among the younger demographic. These programs, often research-based and developed on current scientific evidence, have been shown to significantly reduce the early use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs in young individuals. They work by boosting protective factors and reducing or eliminating risk factors associated with drug use. These programs can be tailored for different age groups and implemented in various settings like schools and homes.

Moreover, evidence-based interventions for substance use prevention can lead to societal cost savings in medical expenses. They can also help individuals remain productive members of society, returning as much as $65 per dollar invested in prevention programs [4].

Risk Factors

Understanding the risk factors associated with drug use is key for prevention. Adolescence is a critical time for preventing drug addiction as early use of drugs increases the chances of becoming addicted. Particularly, the risk of drug use is especially high during times of transition such as moving, family divorce, or changing schools for teenagers. Even individuals transitioning from high school to college or employment may face exposure to drug use away from the protective environment provided by family and school, increasing their vulnerability to substance use [4].

Furthermore, a family history of mental illness and addiction can increase a person's risk of substance abuse. Being aware of these biological, environmental, and physical risk factors can help individuals in overcoming these challenges and prevent substance abuse.

Peer Influence

Peer pressure plays a significant role in substance abuse for both teens and adults. Surrounding oneself with individuals who abuse drugs and alcohol increases the likelihood of engaging in substance abuse as well [5]. Therefore, fostering healthy relationships and friendships is essential in maintaining a drug-free lifestyle.

Mental Health Connection

Substance abuse and mental illness are often interlinked. Seeking professional help from therapists or counselors for mental health conditions like anxiety and depression can provide healthy coping mechanisms to prevent resorting to drugs and alcohol for alleviation.

Furthermore, stress management skills are essential in preventing substance abuse. People may turn to drugs and alcohol when facing stressors in life. Developing these skills can help individuals lead a balanced and healthy life, reducing the likelihood of substance abuse. Also, setting goals and aspirations for the future can deter individuals from substance abuse by emphasizing the hindrance drugs and alcohol pose in achieving these aspirations, promoting a drug-free lifestyle.

Understanding the various aspects of drug abuse prevention and intervention can significantly help in reducing the disturbing prevalence of drugs in society. It is crucial for everyone, from individuals to community leaders, to actively participate in these efforts to combat the issue of drug abuse.

How Drugs Affect the Body

The pervasive presence of drugs in society can lead to a myriad of health issues, affecting both the mind and body. This section delves into how drugs impact the central nervous system, the development of tolerance and dependence, and the different types of drugs.

Central Nervous System Effects

Drugs profoundly affect the central nervous system, influencing a person's thoughts, feelings, and behavior. These substances can cause both immediate and long-term effects, which can continue even after a person has stopped taking the drug.

Regular drug use can also increase the risk of mental health issues, particularly in individuals with a personal or family history of such conditions. Combining drugs, including over-the-counter or prescribed medications, can lead to unpredictable and potentially harmful effects.

Tolerance and Dependence

Regular and prolonged use of drugs can lead to the development of tolerance and dependence. Tolerance refers to the need to consume larger amounts of a substance to achieve the same effects initially experienced. Dependence, on the other hand, can be psychological, physical, or both, often leading to withdrawal symptoms when the substance use is reduced or discontinued [6].

Tolerance Dependence
Need for larger amounts of a substance to achieve the same effect Psychological and/or physical need for a substance
Develops over time with regular use Can lead to withdrawal symptoms when substance use is discontinued

Types of Drugs

There are several types of drugs, each with its unique effects on the body. Understanding these categories and their associated risks is crucial in reducing potential harms linked to drug use.

Type of Drug Effects
Depressants Slow down the activity of the brain and body
Psychedelics Alter perception, mood, and cognitive processes
Stimulants Speed up the activity of the brain and body
Empathogens Induce feelings of empathy and open emotional communication
Opioids Produce pain relief and euphoria
Cannabinoids Affect mood, memory, and perception
Dissociatives Induce feelings of detachment or dissociation from the environment and self

Each type of drug can affect individuals differently, with effects varying based on factors such as the person's physical health, mental health, and the quantity and frequency of drug use [6]. Understanding the potential risks and effects of different drugs is an essential step in alleviating the harms associated with drug use.

Global Perspectives on Drug Policy

When addressing the pervasive issue of drug abuse, it is crucial to consider the global perspectives on drug policy. This includes understanding the different approaches taken by various countries and regions, ranging from public health to law enforcement strategies. The way each country handles these policies is primarily determined by their specific issues related to drug use, the populations using drugs, and the consequences of such use.

Public Health vs. Law Enforcement Approaches

Countries worldwide adopt various policy approaches to address substance use disorders, characterized along a continuum between purely public health approaches and purely law enforcement approaches.

A public health approach prioritizes prevention, treatment, and harm reduction strategies, focusing on the overall health and well-being of the population. On the other hand, the law enforcement approach emphasizes punitive measures, such as arrests and incarceration, to deter drug use.

Regional Focus: Western Europe

Western Europe is recognized as the region with the strongest emphasis on a public health approach to addiction. This approach contrasts with the law enforcement strategy widely attributed to the United States' "War on Drugs" initiated in 1975, even though such a focus on law enforcement as a strategy traces back to the original international treaties in 1912.

Case Studies: Philippines, Nigeria, Peru

Different countries have unique drug policies, reflecting their specific challenges and contexts.

In the Philippines, the current law enforcement approach known as "Project Double Barrel," targeting both large and small-time drug sellers and users, has attracted international attention. Over a million people have surrendered to authorities under this policy.

Nigeria, a producer country of both cannabis and methamphetamine, faces significant substance use problems, with higher rates of substance use disorders compared to the global average. Criminalization has not reduced substance use but has resulted in social harms. However, efforts to address drug use from a public health perspective have been implemented with international organizations' support, leading to a more humane treatment infrastructure and a workforce trained in evidence-based interventions.

Peru, one of the primary national producers of cocaine, historically focused its drug policy on supply reduction and coca eradication. However, the country has seen growing efforts to introduce evidence-based interventions, leading to a more humane treatment infrastructure and a workforce capable of providing evidence-based treatment and prevention interventions [7].

These case studies highlight the varied approaches to drug policy worldwide, illustrating the complexity of addressing the far-reaching issue of drug abuse. Further research and global cooperation are required to effectively mitigate the impact of drug use on individuals and societies.


[1]: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11967421/

[2]: https://hpi.georgetown.edu/abuse/

[3]: https://www.gatewayfoundation.org/about-gateway-foundation/faqs/effects-of-drug-abuse/

[4]: https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/preventing-drug-misuse-addiction-best-strategy

[5]: https://www.pvamu.edu/sa/drug-and-alcohol-abuse-prevention-program-daapp/tips-for-preventing-substance-abuse/

[6]: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/How-drugs-affect-your-body

[7]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9262358/

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