Substance Abuse Prevention & Education Research Paper Starter

Substance Abuse Prevention & Education

In the U.S., substance abuse permeates society with tremendous intensity. This article introduces alcohol as a phenomenon that seeps into common, everyday functions (such as the U.S. workforce) with remarkable acceptance. However, once the invisible line into dependency is crossed and alcohol usage becomes an addiction, insobriety is no longer condoned. Drug use is more concretely refuted due to its illegal status, although there is heated disagreement on whether or not marijuana should be legalized. Drug and alcohol abuse patterns in the U.S. and the U.K. are presented, followed by social implications, such as violence, criminal activity, and incarceration. Based on "risky" behavior that accompanies substance abuse, preventative strategies are discussed, which include intervention through "Boys & Girls Club" involvement, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome prevention, and school-based initiatives that target children of alcoholics. In conclusion, "Amethyst Initiative" is highlighted, a controversial proposal set forth by several university presidents who would like the drinking age to be lowered in order curb binge drinking among college students.

The Nature of Substance Abuse

In the United States, society transmits mixed messages about alcohol that simultaneously reward and admonish alcohol use. Alcohol is a legally sanctioned substance that commonly serves as a social lubricant to ease personal anxieties, promote uninhibited expressions of lighthearted conviviality, or temporarily reduce the edginess of life's painfully harsh realities. Alcohol is a binding force that can unite people in communal celebration. For example, it is not uncommon for many corporate organizations to host regular happy-hour functions, during which employees intermingle with each other in order to instill a relational alliance that might not organically flow within the confines of their departmental workspaces. In the absence of such pre-planned gatherings, staff members might initiate casual outings with their colleagues in order to unwind after a long and stressful day over cocktails and office talk, by rehashing the frustrations and scandals of their work lives. Additionally, annual holiday parties are frequently sponsored by company headquarters, in which good cheer and spirit are channeled through gala events that are elaborately furnished and sufficiently stocked with a variety of intoxicating refreshments.

Despite all of the reinforcing alcohol-related references that correspond with corporate America, an implicit expectation mandates that employees refrain from crossing the obscured line into the realm of dependency. Workers who are deemed "heavy drinkers," or those who drink alcohol with frequent and overzealous fervor, constitute 7.6 percent of the fulltime workforce (Roman & Blum, 2002). When their levels of productivity quantitatively or qualitatively decline, communication with coworkers and clientele becomes strained, or when they are habitually late or absent from work, they might find themselves subjected to onsite alcohol testing or referred to peer and/or employee assistance programs (EAPs) in order to mend faulty drinking patterns (Elliott & Shelley, 2005; Greenwood, DeWeese, & Inscoe, 2005). Likewise, employers might commission punitive consequences such as withholding pay and other job-related privileges, or termination.

On an additional work-related note, there may be some connection between alcoholism and certain occupations, and Smith (2003) suggests that lawyers are more prone to falling in to alcohol's titillating grip. Whereas 10 percent of the general population suffers from alcohol dependency, this rate skyrockets to 15 to 18 percent among attorneys, even up to 26 percent in select regions (e.g., Florida). This is perhaps due to the demanding pressures that correspond with an attorney's characteristics, lifestyle, and work demands, in that the traits that make them successful in their field such as an argumentative deportment, workaholic tendencies, and a heightened ego, simultaneously prevent them from pursuing rehabilitative measures once their drinking patterns escalate to an unmanageable extent.

The ramifications of drug abuse are just as daunting, although the illegal status of narcotics automatically thrusts illicit chemical dependency into a definitively unacceptable standing. Society demonstrates its defamation of drug usage by the harsh penalties that are placed upon offenders (Stephen, 2004), as well as political movements that indicate its reckless and unscrupulous eminence -- such as Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign that saturated the 1980s ("Reagan, GOP," 1995). A possible exception to this statute surrounds marijuana usage, which some people consider benign ("Legalizing Marijuana," 2002) and have initiated campaigns to decriminalize its standing. According to Kirk Muse (2005),

If marijuana were sold in licensed business establishments where it could be regulated, controlled, and taxed, the bootleg 'grow operations' would disappear in a heartbeat -- just as our bathtub gin operations disappeared in a heartbeat when alcohol was relegalized (p. 8).

The Case of Marijuana

Advocates of this process feel as though court cases targeting marijuana offenders congest the legal system and assert that marijuana usage achieves certain medicinal purposes (McKinley, 2007). Since contingent usage is supported by politicians such as former Washington DC mayor Marion Barry ("Barry endorses," 1997), and US Representatives Barney Frank ("Medical-Marijuana," 2005) and Dennis Kucinich (Hardison, 2004), some feel that our society is one step away from aggregated legalization ("Medical Marijuana," 1994). Critics of marijuana legalization point to health risks that accompany its use, including stressful emotional withdrawal and cognitive impairment such as short-term memory loss and marred physical coordination that may interfere with driving (Joffe & Yancy, 2004). Furthermore, smoking marijuana imparts lung damage akin to long-term tobacco usage. In endorsing the legitimization of marijuana, many people point to the fact that marijuana has less perilous societal consequences than alcohol and is not as physically harmful or addictive as either alcohol or tobacco, rendering its slanderous reputation undeserved. However, Alain Joffe and W. Samuel Yancy point out that legal recognition of marijuana would not eradicate the ill effects of alcohol and tobacco; quite the contrary, it would cause more collective health-related damage. One might examine weaponry as an analogy to illustrate this point: during the course of a physical altercation, guns are more powerful and efficient in imparting damage, therefore rendering them more lethal than an average fistfight. However, the rationale that a weaponless physical assault should be legally sanctioned is dangerous and unconvincing.

In a nationwide poll examining substance abuse patterns among thirty-five-year old Americans, a significant gender configuration emerged, in that men outnumbered women on heavy alcohol consumption (32 percent for men, 13 percent for women) and illicit drug use, including marijuana (13 percent to 7 percent) and cocaine (6 percent to 3 percent). However, women reported a slightly higher dependency (8 percent) toward prescription drugs compared to their male counterparts whose reliance rate was 7 percent (Prevalence of Alcohol, 2004). Substance abuse patterns among adolescents in the United States have slightly dropped since the 1990s, although a considerable amount of youth are still using drugs and alcohol. According to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 39 percent of high school students reported drinking within the past thirty days, and 40 percent have smoked marijuana at least on one occasion during their lives.

In a study conducted by Alastair Roy, Chris Wibberley, and Jon Lamb (2005) that took place over five years (1997-2001), students between the ages of fifteen and sixteen years old and enrolled in several Manchester schools were examined on both the prevalence of their current substance use, as well as their views surrounding such matters. During this five-year time-frame, there were several notable pattern shifts, particularly regarding an increase in cannabis usage, while alcohol consumption remained consistently high throughout the course of the study. For example, in 1997 the student body was polled and 45.8 percent indicated that they had, at some point in their lives, experimented with cannabis, a figure that rose to 53.5 percent in 2001. During this same span of time almost all students had consumed alcohol at least once, including 97.4 percent in 1997 and 96.5 percent in 2001. Furthermore, there was an increase in ecstasy experimentation (3.2 to 8.3 percent), and a decline in amphetamine usage (23.1 to 8.3 percent). When asked if they agreed with the following statements about a hypothetical friend dabbling with cannabis, results changed significantly throughout the study's five-year duration. Statements included: "It wouldn't bother me, because I don't see anything wrong with it" -- with which student agreement increased from 47.7 to 58 percent over the five-year period, and "It wouldn't bother me, it's their choice, nothing to do with me" -- which also grew substantially (60.6 to 76.7 percent). At the same time, results to the following statements decreased: "I would be worried and I'd talk to them, to try to stop them using it," (46 to 32.1 percent) and "I would be worried if they brought it into school" (67.6 to 54.8 percent) (Roy, Wibberley & Lamb, 2005, p. 310, Table III).

Further Insights

Social Implications

Substance abuse and acts of violence correlate together...

(The entire section is 4247 words.)