Substance Abuse: Addiction Science

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 3
Words: 632
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College


Substance abuse is among the greatest social problems around the world. In this article, substance abuse is discussed and the impact it has on the US is examined. The supra-cultural theory is used to explain one of the causes of substance abuse and finally a conclusion is drawn.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a huge social problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it entails “harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs” (WHO, 2013, p. 1). Repetitively abusing these drugs makes a person completely dependent on them. A person who is substance dependent typically has an uncontrollable urge to take the substances. At this stage, the person is said to be suffering from dependence syndrome. He or she finds it very hard to control his or her use of the substance and continues with the intake even when there are clear harmful consequences of doing so.

The person prioritizes substance intake over other duties and obligations, and his or her tolerance towards the drugs taken increases thus, he or she ends up taking more and more dosages. At this stage, the victim cannot do without drugs and he or she becomes a real and painful social problem to the society. If the victim is a breadwinner, his or her funds first have to meet his or her drug needs before other needs such as food for his or her family come in. Attending to work or school equally becomes secondary to drugs. In essence, drugs take over the victim’s life and in everything he or she does; drugs take the top priority (WHO, 2013).

Substance Abuse in the US

Substance abuse in the US has far reaching effects. As shown in the diagram below, drug abuse has led to widespread addiction, social problems such as homelessness, complicated medical conditions and adverse effects on the economy (NIH, 2012).

(NIH, 2012)
(NIH, 2012)

The US economy suffers heavily from substance abuse. Healthcare costs, loss in productivity and accidents related to drug abuse cost the US an average of 524 billion dollars annually. Statistics show that substance abuse is the cause of almost a third of the US AIDS deaths. The number of babies born with opiate withdrawal is on the rise; “every hour, one baby is born suffering from opiate withdrawal” (NIH, 2012, p. 1).

Theoretical Explanation for the Causes of substance abuse

Sub-culture theories attempt to explain causes of drug abuse in a comprehensive manner. Peer pressure is one of the many causes of substance abuse. Social learning theory can be used to explain how peer pressure causes substance abuse. According to this theory, a person learns to go against the norm with the help of another person who is considered significant. In this cycle, a person or a group of persons influences others into accepting a certain behavior and turn it into a normal behavior within that cycle of socialization. In the context of substance abuse, social learning theory suggests that peer pressure will draw a social circle into abusing substances if some significant members of that circle engage in drug abuse. In this case, substance abuse forms part of the identity of such a group and any new member wishing to join it is involuntarily drawn into drug abuse (Goode, n.d).


Substance abuse has been shown to be a great social problem. Victims of substance abuse heavily become dependent on drugs after repetitively abusing the drugs. Once a person becomes substance dependent, all his or her efforts and resources are channeled towards satisfying the craving desire to have more intake of the drug. This creates a lot of social problems and costs the government a lot of resources. The supra-cultural theory suggests that the societal view of psychoactive drugs determine their use within that society.


Goode, E. (n.d). Theories of Drug Use. University of Missouri-St. Louis. Web.

NIH. (2012). Addiction Science: From Molecules to Managed Care – Introduction. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Web.

WHO. (2012). Substance Abuse. World Health Organization. Web.