The Effects Of Addiction On Society

Drug and alcohol addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is a far-reaching epidemic that can affect anyone – regardless of cultural background, age, or socioeconomic status. Many of us know at least one person who is currently battling a SUD. Sadly, many others know someone who lost their fight – due to violence, illness or fatal overdose.

Communities throughout the United States experience the negative impact of substance abuse on varying levels. A vast number of the nation’s top public health and social concerns are attributed to drug or alcohol dependency.

Top concerns related to addiction include:

  • Drunk driving

    Nearly one-third of drunk drivers are repeat offenders, which is a major indication of an alcohol abuse issue.

  • Cardiovascular diseases

    Research shows a strong connection between a dependence on certain drugs – like cocaine, nicotine and heroin – and heart attacks.

  • Mental illness

    Chronic drug and alcohol use causes major changes in the brain, which can worsen the symptoms of a mental illness. Conversely, individuals with mental illnesses often use drugs and alcohol to cope with symptoms.

  • Crime

    With nearly 50% of jail and prison inmates diagnosed with a SUD, many criminal offenses are often fueled by drug and alcohol addiction.

In order to address the tremendous impact of substance abuse throughout communities, national officials and policy makers are working toward an approach that focuses on prevention, awareness and recovery. Changing the conversation about addiction and depicting it as a disease that requires treatment – rather than a crime that should be punished – will help shatter the stigma of substance abuse. By ridding the stigma attached to addiction, more people will feel confident in their decision to seek the help they need.

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Who Addiction Affects

No one is immune from addiction. Regardless of a person’s age, financial standing or education, anyone can be prone to addictive behaviors. Factors like genetics, environmental influences, and brain chemistry also dictate who is more at risk for developing a SUD within a community. Fortunately, rehab centers across the country have programs that specialize in treating demographics most at risk for addiction.


    The LGBTQ community faces many societal challenges that make them more prone to addiction than the general population. The number of LGBTQ-specific treatment centers across the nation are rising, which address the unique needs of LGBTQ individuals.

  • Seniors

    There are many reasons why seniors turn to substance abuse later in life – such as a loss of income, the death of a spouse, pet, or close friend, relocation or placement in a nursing home, retirement, trouble sleeping, family conflict, and/or a decline in physical or mental health. Individuals over the age of 65 who need substance abuse treatment can find programs across the nation that offer specialized services, including counseling, case management, and family therapy.

  • Medical Professionals

    Doctors and nurses have some of the highest rates of drug and alcohol abuse among the professional workforce. Because of this alarming trend, many programs are tailored to help medical professionals recover while ensuring they can retain their license and continue practicing after treatment.

  • Veterans

    Many veterans suffer from co-occurring mental disorders like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Rehab programs for service members often address a dual diagnosis, providing individuals the best chances of successfully returning to peaceful civilian life.

  • Pregnant Women

    Soon-to-be mothers who struggle with alcohol dependency or drug addiction often suffer from an underlying mental health condition. Rehabs that treat pregnant women understand the delicateness of their situation, so they strive to provide compassionate care that helps mother and baby heal.

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College Students

For many students, going away to college brings forth a newfound sense of freedom and independence. College is a time of intellectual growth and self-discovery; however, it’s also a time when students are often presented with the opportunity to experiment with drugs and alcohol.

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Heavy drinking and drug experimentation are widely accepted activities among college students. As a result, this demographic has some of the greatest chances of developing addictive habits.

Studies show that a majority of students will drink or use drugs at least once during their college years. If you’re a current college student – or about to become one – it’s important be aware of risky situations you may find yourself in. Arming yourself with the facts can help keep you safe, and lower the chances of succumbing to drug or alcohol dependency.

Explore the topics related to college students and addiction below.


Many adolescents are tempted to experiment with substances due to stress, peer pressure or a variety of other reasons. However, because a teenager’s brain is still developing, drug and alcohol use can have a much more damaging impact on adolescents than adults.

Excessive substance consumption as a teen can lead to addictive patterns and behaviors later in life. In fact, a majority of adults who develop addictions first experimented with drugs before they turned 21.

On the other hand, adolescents who struggle with substance abuse may be dealing with an underlying mental health condition, such as depression. If left unaddressed, toxic abuse patterns among teens can evolve into something more difficult to escape, such as a substance addiction.

Learn more about how addiction can affect teenagers below.

Health And Safety Risks Of Addiction

Addiction tends to have a complicated relationship with some of the most pressing issues facing communities. Oftentimes, health and societal problems arise as the result of drug or alcohol use. In other cases, drugs and alcohol are used as a mechanism for coping through these problems.

Domestic Violence And Substance Abuse

Research shows that nearly 80 percent of all domestic violence crimes have a connection to addictive substances. An intimate partner’s abusive behavior can be aggravated by drug or alcohol consumption. In turn, a victim may use substances in an attempt to soothe trauma and fears of future abuse.

Learn more about domestic violence and its correlation with substance abuse.

Many substance abuse treatment centers are equipped to address intimate partner violence as a co-occurring issue. Programs are available to help both partners overcome addiction and abusive behaviors, allowing them to move forward with their lives.

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Over 3 Million people have turned to BetterHelp for professional online therapy.

Take the quiz and get matched with a therapist.

  • Access to Therapy 24/7
  • Easy Online Scheduling
  • 20,000+ Licensed Therapists

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HIV/AIDS And Illicit Drug Use

A person who is under the control of an addiction is more likely to engage in risky behaviors – such as unprotected sex. These risky sexual behaviors can lead to the contraction of human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. Intravenous drug use and needle sharing can also lead to the transmission of HIV. HIV damages a person’s immune system, causing acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Continued drug use can aggravate symptoms of HIV/AIDS, causing faster progression of the disease.

Read more information about how HIV/AIDS is connected to drug use.

A treatment program can help individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS learn to maintain sobriety. Through counseling and therapy, a person will have the highest chance of decreasing the progression of HIV and living a fulfilling life.

Finding Resources In Your Community

Every community presents unique issues and connections with substance abuse, and with varying availability of resources, finding affordable treatment can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. There are treatment centers available that take into account financial standing (i.e., covered by insurance, the Affordable Care Act, private funding, or grants). Also, rehab locators are available online to connect individuals with treatment centers in their vicinity. The price and location of treatment should not bar an individual from receiving the care they or a loved one needs for recovery, but it is an unavoidable factor. For more information on treatment options, contact a treatment provider.



Jeffrey Juergens

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  • Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffrey’s desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffrey’s mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.

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Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional:

Theresa Parisi

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  • Theresa Parisi received her bachelor’s degree in Addiction Science and Psychology from Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota in 2010. She is currently working towards her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), Certified Behavioral Health Case Manager (CBHCM), and International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) by the Florida Certification Board. Theresa is passionate about recovery having gone through addiction herself.

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