Social Problems: Alcohol & Other Drugs
Even occasional over consumption of alcoholic beverages can have dire consequences, especially when combined with driving an automobile.
There were 16,694 alcohol-related fatalities in 2004 – 39 percent of the total traffic fatalities for the year. Of the 16,694 people who died in alcohol-related crashes in 2004, 14,409 (86%) were killed in crashes where at least one driver or non-occupant had a BAC (Blood Alcohol) of .08 or higher. The legal limit for BAC is currently .08 in all states in the US.
Traffic fatalities in alcohol-related crashes fell by 2.4 percent, from 17,105 in 2003 to 16,694 in 2004. Although this is definitely an improvement, it is still a lot of dead fellow citizens. To put this in perspective, it is equivalent to a fully loaded Boeing 747 crashing, and leaving no survivors, every nine days all year long – over 39 airplanes in total.
The 16,694 fatalities in alcohol-related crashes during 2004 represent an average of one alcohol-related fatality every 31 minutes.
NHTSA estimates that alcohol was involved in 39 percent of fatal crashes and in 7 percent of all crashes in 2004.
In 2004, 21 percent of the children age 14 and younger who were killed in motor vehicle crashes were killed in alcohol-related crashes. An estimated 248,000 people were injured in crashes where police reported that alcohol was present — an average of one person injured approximately every 2 minutes.
The rate of alcohol involvement in fatal crashes is more than 3 times higher at
night than during the day (60% vs. 18%). The highest percentage of drivers in fatal crashes who had BAC levels of .08 or higher was for males and drivers ages 21 to 24.
The percentages of drivers with BAC levels of .08 or higher in fatal crashes in 2004 were 27% for motorcycle operators, 22% for passenger cars, and 21% for light trucks. The percentage of drivers with BAC levels .08 or higher in fatal crashes was the lowest for large trucks (1%).
In 2004, 85 percent (11,791) of the 13,952 drivers with BAC of .01 or higher who were involved in fatal crashes had BAC levels at or above .08, and 51 percent (7,084) had BAC levels at or above .16. The most frequently recorded BAC level among drinking drivers involved in fatal crashes was .18.
The problem of alcohol and other drugs is one of abuse and not merely of use. Various drugs have various affects, and the effects depend on the method of administration, the amount taken and the social situation as well as the chemical composition of the drug. Alcohol is the most widely used drug, and its effects can be extremely deleterious. Many experts consider alcohol abuse much more serious than abuse of other drugs.
Around 1980, drug use of all kinds began to decline for the first time in two decades. In the 1990s, patterns of use fluctuated. Although less than in the peak years, use and abuse are still quite high. More than one-half all Americans drink and more than a third say that drinking has been a source of trouble in their families. Millions of Americans indicate that they are current users of marijuana. Many users tend toward multiple drug use. Most alcohol abusers are young and male but not poor, whereas other drug addicts tend to be young, male, poor, and a minority.
The meaning of the drug problem for the quality of life is seen in the consequences for physical health, psychological health, interpersonal relationships, and economic costs. Abusers suffer various undesirable effects in all areas, and they inflict suffering on others. The nation as a whole also suffers great economic cost because billions of dollars per year are involved in lost services and in efforts to combat the deleterious effects of abuse.
Major hazards associated with tobacco use:
Nicotine is a toxic, dependency-producing drug that is responsible for about one in every five deaths it the United States. People who smoke have a greater likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and/or cancer of the larynx, mouth, and esophagus. Even those who do not smoke may be subjected to the hazard of environmental tobacco smoke—the smoke in the air as a result of other people’s tobacco smoking. Infants born to women who smoke typically have lower than average birth weights and sometimes have slower rates of physical and mental growth.
Problems associated with the use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs:
Some prescription drugs have the potential for short-term abuse and long-term psychological and physical dependence. This form of dependency is known as iatrogenic addiction-drug dependency that results from physician-supervised treatment for a recognized medical disorder. Over-the-counter drugs, which are widely advertised and readily available, may be dangerous when combined with alcohol or other drugs.
Categories of people which are most likely to use marijuana:
Most marijuana users are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five; however, use by twelve-to-seventeen-year-olds more than doubled in the 1990s. More men than women smoke marijuana, but teenage girls are slightly more likely than boys to have used marijuana at least once.
Major stimulant drugs in the United States:
Cocaine and amphetamines are the major stimulant drugs abused in the United States. Cocaine is an extremely potent and dependency-producing stimulant drug. Amphetamines can be obtained legally in the form of diet pills and pep formulas when they are prescribed by a physician.
Depressants and their health-related risk:
Depressants depress the central nervous system; they also may have some painkilling properties. The most common depressants are barbiturates and anti-anxiety drugs or tranquilizers. Users may develop both physical addiction and psychological dependency on these drugs. There is also the risk of potentiation-the drug interaction that takes place when two drugs are mixed together and the combination produces a far greater effect than that of either drug administrated separately.
Other drugs widely abused in the United States:
Narcotics or opiates, including natural substances (e.g. opium, morphine, and codeine), opiate derivatives (e.g. heroin and Percodan), and synthetic drugs with opiate like effects (e.g. Darvon and Demerol) are frequently abused. Hallucinogens or psychedelics such as mescaline (peyote), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), phencyclidine (PCP), and MDMA (Ecstasy) are also widely abused.
Drug addiction viewed by biological and psychological perspectives:
Biological explanations of alcohol and drug addiction focus on inherited biological factors and on the effects of drugs on the human brain. Psychological explanations of drug abuse focus on personality disorders and the effects of social learning and reinforcement on people’s drug-taking behavior.
Among social psychological factors is the alienation of users from the larger society. Many people believe drug use produces desirable psychic effects. These positive attitudes toward drug use combine with group norms and various ideologies that develop in groups. The ideologies explain and validate drug use.
Alcohol and drug addition view by sociological perspectives:
Interactionists believe that drug use and abuse are learned behaviors that are strongly influenced by families, peers, and others who serve as role modes. People are more prone to accept attitudes and behaviors that are favorable to drug use if they spend time with members of a drug subculture.
Symbolic interactions emphasize social meanings of drugs. Prohibition, for example, has been analyzed as a symbolic crusade: As the old order lost political control, it attempted to dominate society morally by wrapping itself in abstinence (morality) and associating drunkenness (immorality) with the newcomers.
Applying the symbolic interaction perspective pharmaceutical companies, with the cooperation of the medical profession, play a central role in getting Americans’ to define drugs as a first choice to relieve the stresses of everyday life. Defining problems of living as medical matters, known as the medicalization of human problems, includes defining unruly children as sick and in need of medication.
Various structural factors contribute to the problem. An important one is group norms. Integration into a group that approves drug use is one of the most reliable predictors of use. Role problems, including role conflict and undesirable role change, create stress in the individual and that stress can lead to abuse. Abusers are more likely to come from homes in which family members are abusers, from broken homes, or from hoes with problematic relationships.
Functionalists believe that drug-related problems have increased as social institutions such as the family, education, and religion have become fragmented and somewhat disorganized. However, use of alcohol and other drugs serves important functions even though some aspects of their use are dysfunctional for society.
Applying functionalism: Legal drugs are functional for the medical profession, their patents, and those whom manufacture and sell these drugs. Illegal drugs are also functional for their users, manufacturers (or growers), and distributors. The dysfunctions of drugs include miss-prescribing, arrest for breaking the law, and abuse that harms people physically and socially. A major latent function of illegal drugs is to support agents of social control.
According to conflict theorists, people in positions of economic and political power are responsible for making the sale, use, and possession of some drugs illegal. Conflict theorists also point out that powerful corporate interests perpetuate the use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and other legal drugs.
Applying conflict perspective: Drugs have been criminalized to maintain interests of people with access to power. Opium, for example, was made illegal in an attempt to overcome the economic threat that cheap Chinese labor posed to white workers. Similarly, marijuana legislation was a tool directed against Mexican working class in the United States. Some see the heroine trade as a means of defusing revolutionary potential.
The purpose of prevention and treatment programs:
Primary prevention programs seek to prevent drug problems before they begin. Secondary prevention programs seek to limit the extent of drug abuse, prevent the spread of drug abuse to other substances beyond the drugs already experienced, and teach strategies for the responsible use of licit drugs such as alcohol. Tertiary prevention programs seek to limit relapses by individuals recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction.
They may be based either on a medical model or the therapeutic community. The best-known therapeutic community is Alcoholic Anonymous (AA).
Other factors to be taken into account in efforts to reduce the drug problem:
Alcoholism and drug abuse are intertwined with other social problems such as dramatic changes in the economic and technological bases of the society, the growing gap between the rich and poor, and inequalities based on race/ethnicity and gender.
In treating the problem, efforts to help the individual abuser or reduce the supply available to users have far exceeded efforts to get at the social roots of the problem. If it is to be dealt with effectively, both approaches are needed-attacks on the social factors as well as the treatment of individual abusers.
What constitutes drug abuse is a matter of definition. What is considered drug abuse at one time or in one society may be considered drug use at another time or in another society. From the historical record, we know that drug use and abuse are ancient.
Americans have a strong pro-drug orientation, although they consider some drugs to be disreputable, and those who use them to be part of a social problem. People generally consider the particular drugs that they use to be outside the realm of a social problem.
A major problem in drug abuse is addiction—becoming dependent on a drug so that in its absence one feels the stress of withdrawal. One of the most highly addiction drugs is nicotine. Heroin appears to be less addicting than previously thought. The narcotics are addicting but in and of themselves do not cause crime or destroy people’s work incentive or health. Street addicts deal with a black market that demands exorbitant prices and motivates them to commit predatory crimes. Street addicts buy drugs whose purity are far from guaranteed—and suffer the consequences. Physician narcotic addicts, in contrast, maintain normal lives because they need not deal with a black market and are able to obtain pure drugs.
Developing an adequate social policy is difficult because drugs arouse strong emotions and biases. At a minimum, an adequate social policy would involve drug education that presents scientific findings honestly, whether they are favorable or unfavorable to any particular drug. It would also break the addicts’ dependence on a black market and provide help for their multiple problems. Alcoholics Anonymous appears to be a model recovery program.
It can be anticipated that the future will bring more use of drugs in the workplace, more effective products from pharmaceutical companies (which will further increase the demand for drugs), and social policies similar to those we now have: illegal status for drugs that are out of favor, stigmas for their users, and overflowing coffers for members of organized crime.
A previous article entitled International Drug Abuse Research Society ( IDARS ) provides information... BZP, Ecstasy ve IDARS
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