Understanding Substance Abuse
- Created on December 8th, 2005
- By Journey to Wellness
The reasons why far too many African–Americans become victims of substance abuse are as complex as the lives we lead. Poverty, opportunity, ignorance, experimentation, illness, cultural beliefs, thrill seeking and social pressure may all play a role. Whatever the reason, substance abuse – the misuse of legal and illegal drugs and alcohol – continues to undermine the stability of Black individuals, their families and our communities by promoting addiction and the breakdown of body, mind and spirit. However a person comes to abuse drugs and alcohol, understanding the serious life–changing results of this behavior is key to prevention, treatment and reclaiming one’s life, if addicted. It’s not just about alcohol or illegal drugs, any medication from aspirin to prescription medications can be abused. All can be lethal and lead to addiction, AIDS or death.
So who is at risk?
Every African–American who has access to alcohol and legal or illegal drugs – virtually every Black person in America – is at risk. Substance abuse is often not intentional. Self–medicating for real or imagined physical or emotional problems can lead to substance abuse. Experimentation, peer pressure or attitudes that say, "I’m stronger than drugs and alcohol," can lead to substance abuse. Mental depression or social isolation can lead to substance abuse. Failure to use self–control in social situations can lead to substance abuse. Adults should monitor themselves and their use of alcohol and prescription drugs as carefully as they monitor young people who may be more inclined to abuse illegal drugs.
What are the signs of abuse?
The warning signs of someone abusing drugs or alcohol are varied. Typically, substance abusers place more emphasis on the substance they are abusing and the temporary feeling of well–being it creates than on life priorities like personal health, family, work, school or internal values like self–worth, honesty and responsibility. So, marked changes in behavior like anger, apathy, loss of motivation, irritability, confusion and sleeplessness are clear signals to watch for. They may also engage in anti–social acts like violence and theft.
Don’t coddle the abuser
The idea that substance abusers have to be "ready to change" for treatment to be effective is only partially true. Parents, families and community have important roles to play in demanding that a substance abuser get help. Co–dependency – a behavior on the part of loved ones that aids an abuser in continuing his or her abusive habit – is as destructive as substance abuse itself. Family therapy is called for. Don’t wait. Begin your journey to wellness now by getting more information about substance abuse and the many ways your community can help you and your loved ones. Check the phone directory for local chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al Anon.