Some patients knowingly abuse the healthcare system to obtain drugs and substances, which only adds to the complexities of the substance misuse relationship with the medical community. In 2008, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported approximately 4.7 million Americans used pain medications for non-medical use within the last month (Fishbain et al., 2010). This statistic is only one indication of the substance misuse prevalence and its inherent demand on the medical community.
The medical community not only combats substance misuse in adult patients, but must also address misuse among adolescents. The years of adolescence are widely regarded as an age defined by curiosity and experimentation (Crome, 2004). Adolescents are continuously trying to identify with their world and engage in new experiences. Within this context, taking drugs and experimenting with such substances as alcohol and tobacco can be understood within a setting of normal behavior. The time of adolescence, however, is also signified with emotional stress and hormonal changes, which compel adolescents to act on the sake of their independence and want to engage with adult behaviors. In this instance, substance use can be seen as a way to conduct adult behaviors during youth; the lack of emotional maturity can lead adolescent users to misuse (Crome, 2004). The prevalence of misuse among adolescents is difficult to establish as many young people will not disclose illegal activity and cannot be included within the majority of government surveys (Crome, 2004).
Although precise prevalence is difficult to measure, the long-term use and misuse of substances by young people causes adverse effects to their health and community. Substance misuse in adolescents can lead to poor academic performance, impact social and interpersonal skills, inhibit individuals from employment, and cause lasting health effects (Crome, 2004). The negative consequences associated with substance misuse among adolescents raises questions about its impact on society. If the growing incidence of substance misuse within the adult population coincides with greater incidence among adolescents, how will this influence communities and societies? Poorer academic performance can translate to larger dropout rates, which can lessen an adolescent's potential to obtain employment. Upon employment, being under the influence of drugs and substances can cause poor job performance and impact the individual's ability to maintain steady work. How will these individuals contribute to society? Who suffers the economic loss and who pays for healthcare expenses? Substance misuse within the youth population produces more questions than answers. Substance misuse among adolescents causes profound concerns for local economies, healthcare resources, and societal structure. Directing attention towards prevention of abuse and misuse of substance for adolescents could be the greatest use of resources to reduce incidence of substance misuse and lessen the severity of proposed societal consequences.
A multidisciplinary approach is required to fully examine the multifactorial issue of substance misuse. Substance misuse is not only a medical issue, but encompasses lasting impacts on economies, healthcare resources, and societal structure. The very foundation of substance misuse is defined within historical context; historians report the use of drugs and substances as a fulfillment of the long standing human need to experience altered consciousness and states of physiology. The historical human need to experience these altered states intersects with medical relevance. The medical environment of the 21st century advises pain management and unintended opioid dependency as a significant reason for the growing prevalence of substance misuse. Knowing hundred of millions of prescriptions are written for pain management every year (Fishbain et al., 2010), the medical component of substance misuse imparts economic implications. The combination of historical evidence, medical relevance, and economic significance raises concerns for societal structure, most notably, how the incidence of misuse among adolescents will influence various components of society. Substance misuse reveals a multitude of implications across several disciplines, which only adds to its diverse and complex nature.
The misuse of illicit and licit drugs has been affecting the human race for centuries. Substance misuse refers to the overuse of prescription drugs, illegal drugs, alcohol and other substances. Although substance misuse has long been affecting the global population, the development of prescription pain killers and their subsequent mass distribution within the last sixty years has significantly increased the rate of substance misuse. The incidence of substance misuse raises interdisciplinary concerns regarding its influence on various aspects of human culture and society. When asking why individuals misuse substances, one can examine the historical and medical logic behind the human need for drugs and substances. The historical perspective offers insight into the longstanding human need to experience an altered state within our physiology. The medical component explains the higher incidence of drug misuse as a consequence of over medicating pain management patients with opioid therapy. The second question associated with substance misuse investigates the effect of substance misuse within the economy; who experiences the economic wealth and who experiences the economic downfall of substance misuse? The misuse of prescription drugs is associated with profits for pharmaceutical companies, and substance misuse is an economic burden for healthcare providers and patients.
The growing incidence of substance misuse makes one question its influence on the medical community. The vast number of individuals who misuse drugs and substances causes strain on healthcare professionals due to the high demand of medical resources to both combat misuse and inadvertently supply habitual substances. The substance misuse issue also has significant implications for the youth population. If the number of adolescent misusers increases, there could be a host of societal consequences ranging from increased use of medical resources to address long-term health issues, to the reduction in local economy due to unemployment. Substance misuse is a serious issue that has implications for a variety of disciplines that intersect and influence one another. Fully addressing the complexities of substance misuse requires examination from medical, economic, and societal viewpoints.
Crome, I. (2004). Young people and substance misuse. London, UK: Gaskell.
Fishbain, D., Johnson, S., Webster, L., Greene, L., & Faysal, J. (2010). Review of regulatory programs and new opioid technologies in chronic pain management: balancing the risk of medication abuse with medical need. Jounral of Managed Care Pharmacy, 16(4), 276-287.