“Who do you love most?”
Name: Alistair Stewart
Student Number: n8889279
Tutor: Michelle Newcomb

The emotional effects and consequences of drug addiction and the impact it has on Australian lives.

A social and cultural analysis of the use of illicit drugs and addiction throughout Australia.

Who do you love most?.jpg
“The Heart of Addiction” (SMH, 2013)

‘The Heart of Addiction’ represents an emotional attachment developed by drug users to illicit substances. This image displays an individual's feeling towards drugs and clearly demonstrates the emotional role drugs play in his or her life. The image symbolises the severity of drug use and the ‘love’ that one feels when addicted to these substances. The image also displays the diversity of substances taken by addicted individuals and the major role that drugs play within their lives. In layman’s terms an image of a heart represents love, devotion and emotional attachment. In the image above the heart is a representation of the love, devotion and emotional attachment users have towards drugs. This is the problem that modern society of Australia is facing today and steps must be taken to change this before it is too late.

The Public Health Issue:

The use of illicit drugs is a growing problem within Australia. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Wellness “38% of Australians aged 14 years and over had used any illicit drug at least once in their lifetime.” (AIHW, 2011). There are many associated health risks when it comes to drug addiction. Drug use affects all six health and wellness dimensions within a person ranging from their emotional wellness to their overall physical and social wellness (charles B. corbin, 2013). As well as risks to the user, drug abuse affects the broader spectrum of society in the form of increased crime rate, sexual abuse and homelessness (AIHW, 2011).

Literature Review:

What is Addiction and why does it occur?

The word addiction is derived from a Latin term meaning “enslaved by” or “bound to” (Helpguide.org, 2012). Addiction can also be characterised as a complex brain disease that leads to compulsive and at times uncontrollable drug cravings and desires that persist despite potentially devastating consequences. Addiction is influenced by a number of different factors; these include biology, environment and development. Biology can be defined as the genes in which people are born with. These genes can pre-dispose a person to addiction vulnerability. Environment can be described as the social setting to someone’s life. Factors such as influences from family and friends, socioeconomic status, sexual abuse, stress and the quality of parenting all contribute to the escalation of drug addiction within a person. Finally, development can be described as the stage when the genetic and environmental factors interact with the crucial developmental stages in a person’s life to affect their personal addiction vulnerability. It can also be said that drug use is more likely to develop into serious abuse and addiction within a person when that person begins taking drugs at a young age (NIH, 2012).

The users Emotional Attachment to drugs -

Drugs contain chemicals that tap into the brains communication system and disrupt the way in which nerve cells normally send, receive and process information (NIH, 2012). Stemming from experimental use, regular use and daily preoccupation emotional dependence can occur within a person due to drug use. Emotional dependence on drugs has dire consequences for the user and usually results in several potentially fatal outcomes. These include; the user being unable to face daily life without using drugs, total denial of the problem, a decline in overall physical condition and a “loss of control” when it comes to drug use. As well as this, the problem may worsen leaving the user with broken family ties, in financial ruin and possibly contemplating suicide (Dugdale, 2010). Addictive substances strongly affect a person’s emotional state, so drawing them towards the use of illicit drugs. Drugs are designed to enhance some feelings such as happiness and pleasure and numb others such as sadness and pain. Through the use of drugs these negative emotions are reduced but only momentarily. As time progresses increased amounts of illicit substances are required in order to produce the desired emotional effect, this is known as tolerance. Eventually tolerance becomes so high in users that the amount of substance required to produce an emotional high is so large that it become dangerous to the user usually resulting in an overdose or other serious health conditions (Henderson, 2001). An emotional addiction to drugs is also prominent when users take steps to reduce their drug use habits and so experience emotional withdrawal. Withdrawal can be defined as: “The period a drug addict goes through following abrupt termination in the use of narcotics, usually characterised by physical and mental symptoms.” (Moore, 2007). These physiological symptoms are caused due to decreased amounts of illicit substance within the blood stream and tissues of a person. The various symptoms of withdrawal experienced by users may vary due to the combination of illicit drugs used however, some common symptoms may include; Abdominal pain, nausea, sweating, nervousness, seizures and in extreme cases death (Henderson, 2001).

The effect of drugs on personal relationships -

Users who spend an extended amount of time under the influence of drugs begin to suffer the demise of their personal relationships. It is generally the case that people under the influence of these illicit substances become consumed with the thought of drugs on a day-to-day basis and often neglect their family and friends (Ahmad, 2004). Some close family and friends to drug users become codependents. Through fear of losing the users affection these codependents take it upon themselves to conceal the addicts drug habits from the greater public. Codependents go to extreme lengths to achieve this and they often provide money for rent and other living essentials to the user. Some codependents are outwardly opposed to drug use however; they find themselves unable to discontinue assisting the user with daily financial aid (Ahmad, 2004). Elizabeth Henderson, author of the novel “Understanding Addiction” further explores the effects of drug use on the family. Henderson states “Addiction is a family disease” (Henderson, 2001). Upon contracting the “disease” a family’s primary task orientation changes. The new role of the addict is to manipulate their family into allowing the continued use of illicit substances and the new role of the family is to manipulate the addict into ceasing their drug use habits. It is this manipulation that sparks a physical and emotional change within the family and the addiction takes center stage as the most important aspect of the family. Alongside this however, is the families desire to display “normalcy” to the greater public in order to avoid embarrassment due to the users encounters with the law, loss of employment and social exile. Through this act a tendency to displace and assign blame emerges within the family unit. Issues of trust and intimacy will then develop and the addict’s behavior will most likely have permanent effects on the family and their lives (Henderson, 2001).

The effects of drug use on the community -
As well as affecting the users individual family relationships, drug abuse also has major effects on the wider community. The drug production industry costs the government upwards of one hundred and ninety three billion dollars annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care (NIH, 2012). Drug abuse within a community is a breeding ground for crime and unlawful behavior. It is common that drug use will lead to violence and in extreme cases murder (Health, 2013). Drug driving is another serious threat to the wider community. Drivers who operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs lose their motor skills; reaction time and judgment due to the impairment drugs have on the brain. Drug drivers frequently run the risk of not only harming themselves but innocent passengers, pedestrians and other motorists using the roads (NIH, 2012). The effects on children within the homes of drug abusive parents are greater still. These children are often exposed to harsh chemicals through inhalation of illicit substances and are frequently exposed to violence, crime and poor living conditions (NDIC, 2006). Drug use within the community is also a major contributor to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Through intravenous drug use and needle sharing HIV/AIDS can transmit from user to user and affect entire communities (NIH, 2012). HIV/AIDS can also be transmitted when any kind of drug is traded for sex or other high-risk behaviors when users are under the influence of illicit substances (HHS, 2011). The cost of these activities to the community is eleven billion dollars and continued disturbances to the lives of not only drug abusers but the wider community as well (NIH, 2012).

Cultural and Social Analysis:

From a public health perspective it is important that the social and cultural groups that are most at risk of drug addiction are recognised.

The greater public -

Figures show that people between the ages of 20-29 are at a higher risk of using illicit drugs. They also show that thirty one percent of males and twenty four percent of females have had a history of using illicit substances (AIHW, Drugs and Young People , 2011).

Indigenous population -

According to a recent survey by the National Drug Strategy Household of Australia: The level of drug use over the past twelve months within the Indigenous population above the age of fifteen and living in non-remote areas is at twenty eight percent. This figure is more than double the drug use of non-indigenous Australians of the same age (Catto, 2008).

Illicit drug use in Australian Prisons -

In Australian prisons the prevalence of illicit substance abuse among prisoners is continuing to grow. In Australia it is reported that seven out of ten or seventy percent of prison inmates used drugs in the twelve months prior to beginning their sentence. It is also reported that of these inmates seventy one percent were male and sixty one percent were female (AIHW, Illicit drug use, 2013). Robert Douglas, Director for the National Centre for epidemiology and Population Health Australia continues to speak about the drug related health issues that occur in Australian prisons. Douglas states, “ The Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a massive challenge to public health and is changing the human face of our planet. Nowhere is the challenge more complex than in the prison systems of the world” (Douglas, 2007). Douglas also goes on to declare, “Human sexuality and the intravenous injection of drugs, are two areas of great social sensitivity.” With the sharing of needles and spread of HIV in prisons such a predominant issue in Australia needle sharing programs have been introduced in the aim to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS (NSP, 2005). It is important that Australian public health experts address drug use among prison inmates. Through the use of harm reduction services and awareness programs inmates will be able to lead more positive lifestyles whilst serving their sentences.

Why is Awareness of this Issue Important?

It is important that awareness of this issue is prevalent in society in order to reduce the negative health and social consequences bought about by drug abuse (NCBI, 2005). It is also important to address this issue in society so that necessary assistance can be given to those suffering from drug addiction. If society does not become aware of this issue statistics on drug related deaths in Australia would continue to rise. In 2010, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 8.3% of Australian deaths in males were drug related. Furthermore the Australian Bureau of Statistics also recorded that in 2010,4.5% of Australian female deaths were also caused by the use of illicit substance (ABS, 2013). As a result of this analysis public health experts should be focusing their attention on social groups of Australian indigenous and prison inmates that are most affected by this issue and begin implementing programs to reduce drug supply, demand and addiction within Australia.

Analysis of the Artifact and Learning Reflections:

Through completion of this investigation I have developed a deeper and clearer understanding of just how extensive illicit substance abuse is in Australia. As a result of this assessment piece I have learnt the seriousness and extensive effect drugs can have on an entire community and not just the users themselves. I have also been exposed to the importance of drug use and abuse is a very serious issue that is rapidly growing in our communities and taking the lives of not only users but innocent bystanders as well. “The Heart of Addiction” is a good ‘case in point’ as it strongly represents the emotional role drugs can play in the lives of addicted users. On a deeper level the artifact also represents the level of which drugs consume users until the point when substance use is their entire life. As a result of this assessment piece my future learning and approach to illicit substances will be permanently changed. In future I will aim to be more open minded when creating an opinion of drug addicts. I will aim to explore the addict as well as his or her family life, socioeconomic circumstances and cultural background. Also, in the future I will aim to raise more awareness of drug recovery and health based programs in the hope of helping to improve the lives of drug addicts. As an aspiring teacher and as a result of this investigation I will also make it a priority of mine to better educate younger generations on the risk of drugs and just how easy it is to become emotionally consumed by these dangerous and life altering substances.

Learning engagement and Reflection Task

Say No to Drugs, Say Yes to life: http://healthcultureandsociety2013.wikispaces.com/+“Say+No+to+Drugs%2C+Say+Yes+to+Life”
A Casual Cruelty: http://healthcultureandsociety2013.wikispaces.com/A+Casual+Cruelty


ABS. (2013, 1). Drug indicated deaths. Retrieved 10 7, 2013, from Australian Bureau of Statistics: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4125.0main+features3260Jan%202013
Ahmad, D. S. (2004). Abuse of drugs. Retrieved 10 15, 2013, from Ause Of Drugs.: http://www.homeoint.org/site/ahmad/abusedrugs.htm
AIHW. (2011). Drugs and Young People . Retrieved 10 4, 2013, from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=10737419639&libID=10737419638
AIHW. (2013). Illicit drug use. Retrieved 10 8, 2013, from Authoritive information and statistics to promote better health and wellbeing: http://www.aihw.gov.au/prisoner-health/illicit-drug-use/
AIHW. (2011, 11). Tobacco, alcohol and drugs. Retrieved 10 12, 2013, from Drugs in Australia 2010: http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=10737420455
Catto, M. T. (2008). Review of Illicit drug use among indiginous peoples. Retrieved 10 8, 2013, from Australian Indigenous Health Info Net: http://www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/health-risks/illicit-drugs/reviews/our-review
charles B. corbin, G. J. (2013). Concepts of Health and Wellbeing (Vol. 10). McGraw-Hill.
Douglas, R. (2007). AIDS in Australian Prisons What are the Challenges? AIDS In Australia Prisons , 23-28.
Dugdale, C. D. (2010, 11 2). Drug Dependence. Retrieved 10 4, 2013, from Trusted Health Information for You: http://www.nlm.hih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001522.htm
Health, V. D. (2013). Community Impact from Methamphetamine . Retrieved 10 13, 2013, from Department of health, Agency of Human Services : http://healthvermont.gov/adap/meth/community_impact.aspx
Helpguide.org. (2012, 5). What is addiction. Retrieved 10 2, 2013, from Understanding Addiction: http://www.helpline.org/harvard/addiction_hijacks_brain.htm
Henderson, C. E. (2001). Understanding Addiction. MS, USA: University Press of Mississippi.
HHS. (2011, 6 20). substance abuse/use. Retrieved 10 3, 2013, from aids.gov: http://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/prevention/reduce-your-risk/substance-abuse-use/
Moore, B. (2007). Australian Pocket Oxfor Dictionary (sixth edition ed.). melbourne.
NCBI. (205, 2 4). Prevention of substance abuse: a brief overview. Retrieved 10 6, 2013, from US National library of medicine National institute of health : http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1414714/
NDIC. (2006, 1). The Impact of Drugs on Society. Retrieved 10 12, 2013, from National Drug Intelligence Centre: http://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs11/18862/impact.htm
NIDA, N. (2001). The essence of Drug Addiction. Retrieved 10 13, 2013, from The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology: http://science.education.nih.gov/supplements/nih2/addiction/guide/essence.htm
NIH. (2012, 11). Retrieved from Nation Institute on Drug Abuse: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction
NSP. (2005). Needle & syringe Programs . Retrieved 10 7, 2013, from A review of the evidence : http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/83AAED699516CE2DCA257BF0001E7255/$File/evid.pdf
SMH. (2013). Drugs . Retrieved 10 30, 2013, from Sydney Morning Herald: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/drugs