Drug Abuse: Causes and Consequences in the Society

Drug and Substance Abuse In The Society

Drug and substance abuse is a global problem across all age groups.

The increasing production, distribution, promotion and easy availability of substance together with the changing values of society has resulted in rising substance abuse-related problems emerging as a significant public health concern in Nigeria.

Moreso, mental health stakeholders, teachers and administrators have identified substance use and abuse as a critical public health problem.

Despite attempts to limit access to psychoactive substances by young persons, the use of such materials is everyday among adult, adolescents and growing in some groups.


A pharmaceutical preparation or a naturally occurring substance used primarily to bring about a change in an existing process or state (physiological, psychological or biochemical) can be called a drug.

In simpler terms, any chemical that alters the physical or mental functioning of an individual is a drug.

Importantly, a drug may or may not have medical uses; its use may or may not be legal.

The use of a drug to cure an illness, prevent a disease or improve health is termed ‘drug use’.

Drug and Substance Abuse

Drug abuse is a situation whereby a drug is taken for reasons other than the medical one.

Or if taken in any amount, strength, frequency or manner that causes damage to the physical or mental functioning of an individual.

Surprisingly, even a drug with medical uses can also be abused.

Basically, drug abuse defined by World Health Organisation and the American Psychiatric Association, is “the illicit consumption of any naturally occurring or pharmaceutical substance for changing the way, in which a person feels, thinks or behaves, without understanding or taking into consideration the damaging physical and mental side-effects that are caused”.

Substance abuse’ refers to the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs.

Firstly, the most common substances abused are alcohol, cannabis, various kinds of cough syrups and pharmaceutical opioids (tramadol, codeine, morphine).

Moreso, it also includes volatile solvents/inhalants (glues, perfumes, chemicals), sedative tablets, heroin, cocaine, tobacco, amphetamines etc.

When a substance is abused, it is also referred to as drug abuse.

Addiction and Tolerance

Firstly, substance abuse leads to substance addiction with the development of tolerance and dependence.

Meanwhile, tolerance refers to a condition where the user needs more and more of the drug to experience the same effect.

Subsequently, smaller quantities, which were sufficient earlier, are no longer useful, and the user is forced to increase the amount of drug intake.

Secondly, slowly, drug dependence develops. Both substance abuse and addiction require a maladaptive pattern of substance use.

Substance abuse criteria include use, resulting in an inability to meet significant role obligations, legal problems, and an increase in risk-taking behaviours or exposure to hazardous situations.

Causes of Drug and Substances Abuse

The reasons for the abusive of substances may vary from person to person, and more than one ideas could be responsible for it.

Importantly, the causes of substance abuse can be as follows:

Social factors:

Peer pressure (One of the essential reasons)


Easy availability

Conflicts (usually within a family or interfamilial)

Lack of social or familial support

Social attitude


Rapid urbanisation

Psychological Factors:


As a novelty

Social rebelliousness (disobedience)

Early initiation

Poor control

Sensation seeking (Feeling high)

Low self-esteem (Anomie)

Poor stress management

Childhood loss or trauma

As a relief from fatigue or boredom

To escape reality

No interest in conventional goals

Psychological distress

Biological Factors:

Family history, genetic predisposition

Pre-existing psychiatric or personality disorder, or a medical disorder

Reinforcing effects of drugs

Withdrawal effects and craving

Biochemical factors

Consequences of Drug and Substance Abuse

There is the enormity of the problem in Nigeria and other developing countries.

Therefore, systematic research needs to be undertaken to document the combined effects of social, economic, health and psychological impact of substance abuses.

However, even the limited available data indicate the association of substance abuse-related problems with several spheres of life.

Worldwide, the harmful use of alcohol results in 2.5 million deaths each year.

Importantly, about 320,000 young people between the age of 15 and 29 die from alcohol-related causes, resulting in 9 % of all deaths in that age group.

In 2018, more than 14.3 million people between 15 and 64 years of age had used drugs in Nigeria.

Conclusively, cannabis was the most widely used substance in the past year.

Then, followed by pharmaceutical opioids (mainly tramadol) and cough syrups containing codeine or dextromethorphan.

Young people who persistently abuse substances often experience an array of problems.

It includes academic difficulties, health-related problems (including mental health).

Furthermore, poor peer relationships and involvement with the juvenile justice system is familiar to them.

Additionally, there are consequences for family members, the community, and the entire society.

Broadly, the effects of substance abuse and or addiction can be explained in the following headings:


Majorly, declining grades, absenteeism from school/college and other activities are common effects of a student addict.

Again, there is usually an increased ability for dropping out of school/college.

Conclusively, cognitive and behavioural problems experienced by alcohol and drug-using youth may interfere with their academic performance and also present obstacles to learning for their classmates.

Health and Safety

Firstly, Psychoactive (mentally acting) drugs affect the central nervous system and act by altering a person’s feelings, thoughts and behaviour.

Basically, they act by directly affecting the brain or the central nervous system (CNS) leading to various complication and health and behavioural problems.

Majorly, injuries due to accidents (such as car accidents), physical disabilities and diseases, and the effects of possible overdoses are among the health-related consequences of youth substance abuse.

Disproportionate numbers of youth involved with alcohol and other drugs face an increased risk of death through suicide, homicide, accident, and illness. Trauma, violence, organ system damage, various cancers, unsafe sexual practices, premature death and poor nutritional status of families with heavy drinking fathers are associated with substance abuse.

Mental health

Firstly, depression, developmental lags, apathy, withdrawal, and mental health problems are linked to substance abuse among adolescents.

Mainly, substance-abusing youth are at higher risk than nonusers for mental health problems, including depression; conduct problems, personality disorders, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, and suicide.

Furthermore, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. Marijuana use, which is prevalent among youth, has been shown to interfere with short-term memory, learning, and psychomotor skills.


Wordy of mention, substance-abusing youth often are often stigmatised by their peers.

Moreso, adolescents using alcohol and other drugs also often disengage from school and community activities, depriving their peers and communities of the positive contributions they might otherwise have made.

Social and economic consequences

In addition to personal adversities, the abuse of alcohol and other drugs by youth may result in family crises and jeopardize many aspects of family life, sometimes resulting in family dysfunction.

Importantly, substance abuse can drain a family’s financial and emotional resources.

Much more importantly, many of the families with a substance user always had difficulty in running the day-to-day activities of the household.

This has a great psychological impact on other family members.

Consequently, this leads to a disturbing emotional and psychological state among family members, which in turn affects their level of happiness and mental stability.


There is an undeniable link between substance abuse and misconduct.

Moreso, they often bring about school and family problems.

Again. Substance abuse leads to involvement with negative peer groups, a lack of neighbourhood social controls, and physical or sexual abuse.

Possession and use of alcohol and other drugs are illegal for all youth.

Beyond that, however, there is strong evidence of an association between alcohol and other drug use and delinquent behaviour of juveniles.

Conclusively, substance abuse usually leads to violent and financial crimes by youth.


In terms of work, many substance users had missed going to work, frequently borrowed money from colleagues and friends.

Again, they had shown poor productivity and faced a lack of respect from employers and colleagues.

Conclusively, many of them if warned by their employers about their hazardous drinking practices, usually resulted in frequent arguments and quarrels with their employers and colleagues, thereby demeaning the individual.


Substance abuse has become a massive phenomenon in Nigeria in the past two decades affecting all segments of society.

Firstly, the use of alcohol, tobacco, various drugs is a widespread phenomenon among youths.

The abuse of psychoactive drugs among youths is an issue of national importance.

Moreso, Concerns have focused not only on the physiologic and behavioural impact of substance abuse on the youths but also on the public health hazards.

Substance abuse is increasing at an alarming rate, causing severe threats to every nation, by deteriorating health, increasing crimes, hampering productivity, destroying relationships, eroding social and moral values and impeding the overall progress of societies.

Much more importantly, young people are becoming the most massive hostage of the threat of substance abuse, and their vulnerability is increasing gradually.


We can conclude that consequences of substance abuse on the society in general and on youths, in particular, are incredibly negative on every aspect of life which needs immediate intervention with the collaborative effort of all stakeholders.


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