Substance abuse can simply be defined as a pattern of harmful use of any substance for mood-altering purposes. Medline's medical encyclopedia defines drug abuse as "the use of illicit drugs or the abuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs for purposes other than those for which they are indicated or in a manner or in quantities other than directed." Generally, when most people talk about substance abuse, they are referring to the use of illegal drugs. Most professionals in the field of drug abuse prevention argue that any use of illegal drugs is by definition abuse. Those drugs got to be illegal in the first place because they are potentially addictive or can cause severe negative health effects; therefore, any use of illegal substances is dangerous and abusive. Others argue that casual, recreational use of some drugs is not harmful and is merely use, not abuse. The most vocal of the proponents of recreational drug use are those who smoke marijuana. They argue that marijuana is not addictive and has many beneficial qualities, unlike the "harder" drugs. 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. (A)
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. Crime
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. Fatalities
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.
Drug and alcohol abuse constitutes a significant problem in most communities. Large cities and poorer towns generally have a higher number of substance abusers than suburban or rural areas, but the problem stems from more than just economic circumstances. Communities can adopt approaches at a local level to curb problem drinking and drug abuse. Treatment Concerns
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. Prevention Programs
While critics of prevention programs argue that they are not as effective...