Community Impact of Drug Abuse

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Drug abuse is a problem that involves communities as much as it does individual users. Drug abuse can increase family stress, crime and significant health problems. Treatment programs, designed to reduce the negative effects of drug addiction within a community, are costly to implement and are not always effective.

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Alcohol and drug addiction is pervasive within the United States, affecting approximately 11 percent of U.S. families. In addition to causing marital stress, drug addictions also place children of users at greater risk of emotional problems, physical problems and learning difficulties. These children may engage in patterns of codependent behavior, merely enabling a parent's drug abuse. Fortunately, with the advent of community-reinforcement techniques, codependent family members can learn how to use communication techniques that will reduce their enabling tendencies. Such techniques include the employment of non-confrontational responses as well as reliance on key social alliances with professionals and fellow family members when seeking to confront a loved one who suffers from a drug dependency.

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Researchers have repeatedly asserted close correlations between drug abuse and criminal activity. According to the National Justice Institute, 80 percent of crimes committed by criminal offenders, parolees and probationers involve abuse of "multipliers of crime" such as alcohol or illegal substances. In order to support expensive drug habits, users sometimes engage in crimes such as robbery, prostitution or even aggressive panhandling. Consequently, citizens within communities that experience related spikes in crime urge law-enforcement officials to take action. Police action typically results in seizures and arrests, which in turn inflates the street prices of any drugs that are not seized. Thus, addicts who are desperate to procure drugs are pressured to pay higher prices for these substances, influencing them to commit criminal acts in order to gain access to money.

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Drug abuse exposes users to a variety of health risks, including pregnancy complications, brain damage or even death from overdosing. Users also may become susceptible to diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis, when sharing needles.

Misconceptions regarding health risks associated with drug abuse are often perpetuated, leading many citizens to believe that racial/ethnic minority populations are most susceptible to these risks. In fact, epidemiological data reveals that drug abuse is color blind and comparably affects diverse ethnic groups. In order to provide effective treatment to people of all races and ethnicities, citizens and lawmakers must strive to expand the availability of treatment options to people living both in urban areas as well as rural areas within their nation.

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While vociferous critics of prevention programs argue that they are not as effective as treatment programs, they are an important means by which members of a community can instruct others about the pitfalls of using drugs. These programs are designed to reduce risk factors within a community by encouraging partnerships, by parents with children, by policymakers with parents, by educators with students and even by children with their peers. Children who belong to households in which a parent or family member is dependent on drugs are often encouraged by these prevention programs to make informed and independent decisions, serving to guard them against imitating the mistakes of such adults.

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One of the most popular drugs on the planet, alcohol, is involved in 100,000 preventable deaths annually. While drunk driving statistics since 1982 exhibit a steady decline in the number of alcohol-related fatalities, such fatalities still numbered approximately 37 percent of all automobile fatalities in the United States during 2007.

Fatalities related to drug abuse may also affect a community with regards to deaths stemming from violent crimes by substance abusers, overdoses affecting drug users themselves and even child-maltreatment fatalities caused as a result of substance abuse by a child's primary caregivers. Indeed, substance abuse has been cited as a contributing factor in "as many as two-thirds of all cases of child maltreatment fatalities," according to the Handbook on Child Maltreatment of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children.

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