Understanding Commonly Abused Substances
Although substance use is widespread in the United States, use varies depending on the substance as well as such factors as age, gender, and race or ethnicity. The effects of substances differ based on the pharmacology of the substance, the route of administration, the dose, and other individual and environmental factors. This unit will examine some of the more widely used substances by Americans and the related health consequences.
Drug Use in the United State
Alcohol is used regularly by about half of the American population and is by far the most commonly used substance in the United States. Although the use of tobacco has begun to decrease, it is used by approximately 30 percent of the population. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug. The second most popular category of drug use after marijuana is the nonmedical use of prescription drugs. Although not as widely used, substances such as heroin, cocaine, inhalants, and steroids continue to take their toll on the health of Americans.
Trends in Use
The use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs has fluctuated during the last fifty years in response to shifts in public tolerance and with various political, economic, and social events. Smoking, for example, began to decrease in the mid-1960s, drug use in the late 1970s, and alcohol consumption in the early 1980s. Many people attribute these decreases to increased awareness of the health risks, government involvement in prevention, intervention, and treatment efforts (environmental policy changes, workplace bans on smoking), and the development of grassroots efforts and community coalitions directed toward decreasing substance abuse.
Tobacco and illicit drug use increased again among youth in the 1990s. These increases may have been related to several factors, including a decreasing perception of potential harm from use (especially marijuana), the decline in prevalence of antidrug messages, and pro-use messages in the entertainment industry. Recently, there are signs that trends in use are, once again, shifting downward as reflected by several national surveys of youth and adults.
• The Effects of Substances
Research has revealed much about the effects of substances on the body. Whenever a chemical is introduced into the body, there is an element of risk. That is, every chemical agent has the potential to harm the individual, although the degree of risk varies with the specific chemical, the individual’s state of health, and a variety of other factors including environment and genetic makeup.
As discussed in Unit 3, the initial site of action for each substance lies deep within the brain. This usually results in some primary reinforcing effect, such as a sense of euphoria. However, secondary effects may also occur due to effects on the brain—such as learning and social behavior problems—as well as on other systems of the body, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, and immune system. The specific form in which a substance is administered has a major effect on the speed with which the chemical is able to work and the way the chemical is distributed throughout the body (injection, inhalation, or ingestion). Hence, the effects of substances are dependent on a variety of factors.
To successfully complete this learning unit, you will be expected to:
1. Identify those abused substances most in need of attention by the substance abuse treatment system in the United States.
2. Describe the routes of administration and the effects of commonly abused substances.
3. Compare the effects and health consequences associated with these commonly abused substances.
4. Continue working on the annotated bibliography for the project.
• Use your Concepts of Chemical Dependency textbook and the Capella library to complete the following:
• Read Chapter 4, “An Introduction to Alcohol: Man’s Oldest Recreational Chemical,” pages 30–45. This chapter discusses the scope of the problem and the pharmacology of alcohol.
• Read Chapter 9, “Cocaine Abuse and Dependence,” pages 111–123. This chapter discusses the history, scope, and effects of cocaine.
• Read Chapter 10, “Marijuana Abuse and Addiction,” pages 125–141. This chapter discusses the history, scope, and effects of marijuana.
• Read Chapter 11, “Opioid Use, Abuse and Addiction,” pages 143–168. This chapter discusses both the medical uses and the abuse of the drug.
• Read Wusthoff, Waal, and Grawe’s 2014 article, “The Effectiveness of Integrated Treatment in Patients With Substance Use Disorders Co-occurring With Anxiety and/or Depression – A Group Randomized Trial,” from BMC Psychiatry, volume 14, page 67.
• Web Sites
Visit and explore the following Web sites:
• National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
• National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA).
Discussion 1: 1 page needed with minimum of 250 words and 2 references.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA).
Base your response to this discussion on this unit’s assigned chapters in the Doweiko text and on the NIDA and NIAAA Web sites. Also, consider and describe the position of the Wüsthoff, Waal, and Gråwe article regarding co-occurring disorders.
Identify the two substances you believe require the most attention by the substance abuse treatment system and explain why you picked them.
• How might your response differ based on age, gender, and racial or ethnic background?
• How might your position change if a client were diagnosed with a mood disorder?
Discussion 2: 1 page needed with minimum of 250 words and 2 references.
• Marijuana is the most prevalent illicit drug used by Americans. In spite of limited scientific evidence, many people believe that marijuana should be made more available for medicinal purposes. Others view this stance as a strategic tactic to decriminalize marijuana. For this discussion:
• Defend your position on the decriminalization of marijuana and its use for medicinal reasons.
• Use the assigned readings to support your position.
• Search the Internet for recent information about the legal marijuana farms in Northern California and other states that produce medicinal marijuana.
• Consider the information you find in your response.