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Substance Abuse a Global Problem

While many articles regarding substance abuse focus on the issues and concerns of young people in the United States, the problem of substance abuse is actually a global issue.


Addiction to either drugs or alcohol is a trend that is on the rise throughout the world, regardless of whether or not these individuals reside in developed/rich countries or underdeveloped/poor countries.


These trends also exist in all countries without regard to illegality or legality of their manufacture and use.  Where certain drugs are illegal, they are still able to exist through underground trade.

Global trends in substance abuse illustrate that approximately 230 million individuals across the world have used some form of illegal drug at least once over the last five years.


Of this number, over 30 million individuals have a form of substance abuse problem that impacts their daily lives.  Over 15.3 million people have a substance abuse problem that can be considered an addiction.  The most popular form of drug is marijuana, with up to 230 million users in the world.


While some users are involved with marijuana because of health conditions and use a form of medical marijuana, many users are abusers and have a rate of use that adversely impacts their daily lives.


Other forms of popular drugs are the stimulant drugs or amphetamines such as cocaine, methamphetamine (METH) and a variety of prescription drugs.  The use of METH worldwide is a growing trend with up to 35 million estimated users.

Drugs that are traditionally legal in a number of countries such as alcohol and tobacco still cause the most health issues.  While the traditionally known illicit drugs have a morbidity rate of .8%, the morbidity rate for tobacco is 4.1% and for alcohol it is 4.0%.


Rates of alcohol use are high at 82 percent worldwide.  The common problems of prolonged alcohol abuse such as cirrhosis of the liver have a high cost to both the abuses and society as a whole.  Over 2.5 million people die each year from alcohol abuse.


Tobacco kills over 5 million people a year.  Injecting drug users are reported for up to 148 countries and have added health issues, including higher rates of HIV infections.

The illicit drug trade generates a lot of violence around the world.  At least 200,000 deaths each year are somehow related to drug trafficking.  These statistics are undoubtedly higher due to the fact that not all drug-trade murders are reported as such by various countries.


In addition, there is a tendency for agencies and governments to under-report crime rates.  Hundreds of thousands of individuals in the United States alone are imprisoned on drug-related charges, adding to the costs of substance abuse.

Substance abuse is expected to continue to rise across the globe, with up to 65 million abusers by the year 2050.  Developing countries are the hardest hit by substance abuse issues with a lack of treatment and prevention programs.


Closer to the UK, treatment services like this alcohol/substance treatment service in Peterborough can help users find help.


The costs on the world economy in terms of health impacts, mortality rates and legal issues are huge.


Many of the poorer countries are doubly impacted by rates of substance abuse and all of the negative impacts for these affected populations.

Impacts of Substance Abuse

There are two main effects of prolonged substance abuse that  impacts most users:  declines in health and lifestyles.

Health Issues

The greatest health risk for long-term substance abusers is death.

However, there are a number of escalating health conditions and issues that can plague users of both drugs and alcohol.


Alcohol abuse leads to liver disease, kidney problems and other health conditions.


Depending on the drug that is being abused, users can end up having hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, cancer, stroke, heart attacks, seizures and coma from their abuse.


These issues can all be magnified from improper care and treatment, late diagnosis of disease and the inability to pay for care due to lack of finances and lack of adequate health insurance.


Additional health issues resulting from long-term drug use on the body include loss of teeth, skin problems, brain damage, low blood pressure, headaches and a host of psychological issues such as paranoia, anxiety, depression and erratic mood swings.


The psychological problems associated with long-term substance abuse harm the emotional health of abusers much like their physical health.  Chronic depression results from needing more amounts of the substance of choice to achieve the feelings of euphoria that were initially achieved through abuse.


These individuals may become increasingly paranoid, especially if they have to engage in illegal or dangerous activities to obtain such substances.


Withdrawals and fears of not obtaining enough drugs or alcohol may make some individuals feel anxious about how they will get their next fix or find the privacy and time to abuse.


Abbeycare Scotland have developed an online calculator tool that feeds back potential negatives involved in you intake level, based on units consumed and gender. Try the Alcohol Demotivator here.


Declines in Lifestyles

The greatest toil for substance abusers can take place within their quality of life. Prolonged substance abuse can have a profound impact on the lifestyles of affected individuals.


Abusers often lose their close friends and family.  Addicts break trust with those who love them by stealing money or engaging in manipulative behaviors that cause emotional harm.  Family and friends get tired of watching the users in their lives repeatedly choose drugs over them.


As users’ behaviors become more unpredictable and erratic, loved ones are pushed away.  Often times these relationships end up beyond repair.  As a result, substance abusers are often left without any friends or family support.


Many engage in domestic abuse or child abuse, which can cause them to lose custody of children and lead to measures that prevent them from engaging with family members.

Work and school lives suffer for abusers.  As they become more involved and addicted to their substances of choice, they fail to care about the things that used to matter to them.


Students miss classes, get in trouble with teachers, stop studying for exams and completing assignments, get suspended and maybe even expelled and eventually drop out.


Working adults face a similar fate of chronic lateness, absenteeism, disciplinary action and termination.

Serious substance abuse can easily led to homelessness with loss of family life and loss of income, as individuals become more and more isolated and on their own.


They may get kicked out of their family homes or face eviction due to loss of income. Living on the streets or with random strangers or fellow users are situations that are unsafe and prone to situations in which such users could be victimized and prayed upon.


Homelessness due to alcoholism and drug addiction has increased recently in the UK, Cardiff has shown particularly high increases in these statistics. Help is available in this location via Cardiff rehab options.


Many long-term substance abusers get caught up in legal problems. Some are in the legal system due to the use of illegal substances, but some are there due to traffic accidents, theft, assault and violence associated with the purchase of illegal drugs.


Repeat offenses can lead to incarceration and sometimes life-long sentences.