Nursing Assignment Paper on Socio-Cultural Determinants of Substance Abuse

Socio-Cultural Determinants of Substance Abuse

            Substance abuse around the world today, takes place in pandemic proportions. It occurs in a socio-cultural environment with various factors affecting its use. The environment determines the availability, desirability and acceptability of the abused substances. Consequently, the drugs that an individual is exposed to and his/her behavior under the influence of drugs are determined by the individual’s position in the societal set up. This paper describes the socio-cultural factors that underline the emergence of drug use and its implications to the society. It will also explain the drug addiction defense mechanisms (Ruiz, Strain & Langrod, 2007).

            Low socio-economic status is known to have a correlation with substance abuse. Studies conducted to find a link between the two indicate that social conditions associated with poverty strongly increase an individual’s vulnerability to drug use. Poor quality of education, for example, is linked to low economic status and the likelihood of engagement in perilous behavior such as substance abuse. Parents in low-income setups often work long hours and, therefore, do not have time to bond with their children and supervise them. Their performance in school dwindles and without prospects for future employment, there is increased risk of drug use. This leads to a vicious cycle of poverty and drug abuse (Ruiz, Strain & Langrod, 2007).

            A survey conducted in the United States indicates that hopelessness also increases an individual’s chances of becoming a drug user. The incidences of substance trafficking and abuse were found to correspond with high rates of hopelessness among a cross section of the youthful population. Lack of personal vision for the future coupled with the lack of motivation and role models reportedly predispose the youth to drug abuse. The hopelessness experienced by a person’s family members and close peers also increases the risk of substance use (Ruiz, Strain & Langrod, 2007).

            The social exclusion experienced by the members of the low social class predisposes them to drug abuse. The access to medical and social facilities is limited; hence, living conditions cannot improve. They are unable to get effective rehabilitation from the healthcare providers. This implies that the numbers of drug abusers increase, and diseases that arise from drug use also spread (Ruiz, Strain & Langrod, 2007).

            Social set ups that are related to criminal neighborhoods increase the chances of one becoming a substance abuser. Studies show there is a relationship between crime and the ease of access to illegal substances. People who live in crime-ridden neighborhood, therefore, have access to the drugs because the criminal gangs also deal in illicit drugs. There are increased chances of young unemployed youths being used to ferry the drugs. This process exposes them to the drugs and consequently increases the risk of substance use among them (Ruiz, Strain & Langrod, 2007).

             Research indicates that the drug addicts spend all if not most their money to sustain their habit. They often ignore all other responsibilities as provision of food, clothing and shelter. Indirect cost arises in the form of payment for rehabilitation and health services for drug users who develop addiction related disorders and family members often incur these or the government through health insurance. Family members of the drug users also suffer from psychological torture by seeing one of their own suffer from drug abuse (Ruiz, Strain & Langrod, 2007).

            Certain Drug abuse disorders interfere with a person’s neuro-motor capabilities. This has led to accidents when controlling machinery and vehicles. Reports indicate a correlation between drunk driving and road accidents. Drug abuse also leads to increased levels of crime among the users. This is because of the desire to disobey authority that is characteristic of drug related mental disorders. Drug users often engage in criminal activities in order to get money to buy drugs because they are unable to secure jobs due to their condition (Ilgen & Kleinberg, 2011).

            Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States and research suggests that substance abusers are at an increased risk of taking their own lives. Studies reveal that men with substance abuse disorder are three times likely to die from suicide than non-substance users. Among women, the risk is higher and similar observations further show that individuals who abuse more than one substance are at an even higher risk of committing suicide because of multiple substance-induced mood disorders (Ilgen & Kleinberg, 2011).

            Drug abuse is also strongly linked to violent tendencies. In a recent survey of addicts, 75 out of 100 drug users report having engaged in one form of violence. It also shows that drug users with suicidal tendencies are the most likely to engage in violent acts. This leads to poor interpersonal relationships between the drug users and family members (Ilgen & Kleinberg, 2011).

             One of the defense mechanisms developed by drug users is denial and a user in denial is blind to health and other risks that he is exposed to due continued abuse of drugs. The mind of the user is cannot perceive of the consequences of drug use due the intense craving he experiences. The user, therefore, feels no compulsion to seek for help with the addiction. Repression is another mechanism in which addicts use drugs to manage stress, relieve painful feeling and cope with anxiety. Due to the abuse of drugs one’s ability to deal with these situations naturally diminishes, and the addiction persists (Whitbourne, 2011).

            Reaction formation as a defense mechanism entails the expression of behavior in the outside that is completely opposite of one’s feeling on the inside. An addict, for example, may feel that abusing drugs is inward, but on the outside, he continues to abuse the drug. Intellectualization involves the ‘wishing away’ of thoughts that are undesirable. In this defense mechanism, a person accepts the existence of a situation but refuses to think about the emotional consequences (Whitbourne, 2011).

            Rationalization in defense mechanism means explaining a problem away and in offering an explanation, individuals often find a way of blaming others or outside forces for their situation. It involves mental construction of causes beyond one’s control and blaming them. An addict, for example, may blame the person who availed the drugs or the government for failing to control the supply (Whitbourne, 2011).

            Finally, in displacement as a defense mechanism, a person transfers his feelings of anger or hatred from the original target to a harmless victim. A person who harbors hatred against the society may transfer the feeling to himself by engaging in substance abuse. Another example occurs when a person is annoyed and in this instance, instead of hitting a person who has provoked him, he goes ahead and hits a windowpane. In this act, he displaces the anger from the person to the window (Whitbourne, 2011).

            In summary, substance abuse has negative ramifications on the society and these effects are caused by the interaction between social and cultural factors. In an attempt to ameliorate the situation, interventions must not focus on incarceration and drug control only but must also incorporate policy that focus on the social-cultural determinants. This will ensure success in the global fight against drug and substance abuse (Ruiz, Strain & Langrod, 2007).


Ilgen, M., & Kleinberg, F. (2011, Jan 20). The Link between Substance Abuse, Violence and          Suicide. Retrieved from:            between-substance-abuse-violence-and-suicide

Ruiz, P., Strain, E. C., & Langrod, J. (2007). The substance abuse handbook. Philadelphia:            Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Whitbourne, S. K. (2011, Oct 22). The Essential Guide to Defense Mechanisms. Retrieved from:

    any-age/201110/the-essential-guide-  defense-mechanisms