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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 substance use disorder. 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 percent 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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

  • Binge Drinking in College
  • Prescription Study Aid Abuse
  • College Drug Abuse vs. Addiction
  • Treatment for College Students
  • College Drinking Facts and Stats
  • Preventing Substance Abuse in College
  • Drinking and Drug Abuse in Greek Life
  • Eating Disorders in College


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 Effects of Teen Substance Abuse
  • Teen Co-occurring Disorders
  • Teenage Substance Abuse Prevention
  • Teen Addiction Treatment
  • Underage Drinking

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.

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.

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