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Understanding Substance Abuse and Addiction

Contributor: Yvette McBride Thomas

Intrapersonal Abuse and Addiction

  • Intrapersonal abuse involves the misuse of objects or substances that were produced for one purpose, such as healing (prescriptive medication) or entertainment (video games), but are exploited excessively to the detriment of the person involved.
  • The result is that often an addiction (a state of physiological or psychological dependence) occurs with excessive amounts of time and effort being devoted to the object or substance.
  • Three C’s of addiction conceptualize its core characteristics: loss of control over addictive behaviors; compulsive use; and continued use regardless of negative consequences.

Substance Abuse and Addiction

  • The habitual misuse of intoxicating and addicting substances, such as alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.
  • Drugs – any substance other than food that can affect the way a person’s mind and body works, including stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens.
  • Abuse and addiction cause mental, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual damage.
  • A major public health issue found across all demographic areas.

The Nature of Substance Abuse and Addiction

  • Occurs frequently as a mental health problem in the US.
  • One of 10 adults in the US has a significant problem related to alcohol use.
  • Alcohol abuse/addiction is believed to be greater among Native Americans.
  • A significant percent of patients who are hospitalized abuse alcohol.
  • Health care costs are doubled among alcoholic families.
  • Drug abuse/addiction among adolescents affects development and well-being more than crime, social pressure, grades, or sex.
  • Approximately 3 million teenagers are addicted to or abuse alcohol,
  • Half a million are marijuana users, and
  • One out of 10 teenagers has tried cocaine.
  • Substance abuse/addiction affects more than just the individual.
  • Other than the abuser, up to four others are being adversely affected including family members, friends, or associates.

Polysubstance abuse/addiction

  • Abuse of two or more substances at the same time is a growing problem.
  • Social conditions may evoke other substance abuse/addiction, such as smoking.
  • Conditions related to smoking
    • Unsatisfactory life rooted in poverty and hopelessness
    • Peer pressure
    • Poor school performance
    • Parental smoking
    • Minority ethnic status
    • External locus of control
  • Addiction
    • A behavior pattern with biological, psychological, sociological, and behavioral components .
    • A persistent and intense involvement with and stress upon a single behavior pattern, with a minimization or even exclusion of other behaviors, both personal and interpersonal.
    • Addiction is characterized as a preoccupation with one object that controls behaviors and limits other actions over time.
  • Reference:
    Gladding, S.T. (2011). Counseling: A comprehensive profession (7th ed.). Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson-Merrill.


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