There is a strong mutual relationship between substance abuse and psychology. This study has found that the problem of substance abuse is caused by psychological contexts in which an individual undergoes and, therefore, psychological interventions are necessary as ways to control it. In the study too, it has been found that substance abuse has accounted to many mental and other psychological problems to addicts. The research has reviewed literatures from various sources: online psychological periodicals, research articles, white papers, books and experts views from psychologists. In this regard, it has defined substance abuse and discussed ways in which psychology is related to substance abuse. In this respect too, psychological theories explaining causes of drug abuse have been discussed. Moreover, effects of dangerous drugs on mental and other psychological wellbeing have been discussed. The paper ends with proposing psychological interventions to the problem of substance abuse.
White (2014) defined substance abuse as a pattern of using a harmful substance for the purpose of altering one’s mood. According to several sources, substance abuse is related to psychology in that, as explained by several psychological theories, it is a psychologically caused problem. Therefore, apart from other treatments such as medication, it is important that psychological interventions be considered. On the other hand, substance abuse has been noted by various researchers as one of the major causes of many mental disorders. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimated that about 50% of people who have suffered from severe mental disorders, have been affected by the abuse of harmful substances. Moreover, the Alliance has noted that about 29% of people diagnosed with mental disorders are usually addicted to harmful substances (para. 1-3).
Psychological Explanations of the Courses of Substance Abuse
Personality trait theory asserts that people with substance abuse problems normally have different traits. Hence, they are the traits that make them associate with alcohol and other people that are addicted to it. Therefore, psychologists establish that the traits can express themselves through heavy drinking and associations with fellow abusers (Horvath et al. 1). Secondly, psychodynamic theory focuses on emotions, self-esteem, unconscious motivation, interpersonal relationship and self regulation. In this respect, according to its proponent, Sigmund Freud, alcohols are used by people who want to escape the reality in their life due to unresolved conflicts, leading them to begin self destructions. The other theory is learned behaviors and cognitions that, has found that the use of harmful drugs involves two learning mechanisms: classical conditioning and operant conditioning. For classical conditioning, it explains that by the body being frequently paired with the harmful substances, an individual’s tolerance level of them rises. When the body becomes tolerant to some level of alcohol, he will go on to take more of it to compensate the level that should avert the crises he is undergoing; this explains why people get addicted. For classical operant, although the person may try to abstain from the harmful substances, he is likely to get overwhelmed by stimuli, especially when he sees his old friends, or similar drinks (Baker et al. 33-51). Furthermore, the Bandura’s theory of social learning has emphasized that an individual, rather than being passively involved in alcohol consumption, may get himself actively involved in learning how to abuse harmful substances (Walters and Rotgers 9-20). The other theory that is gaining momentum is self-medication theory that has explained that adolescents and some adults take drugs to cure themselves of health problems (Gunnarsson 24). Nonetheless, the behavior problem theory asserts that indiscipline children are likely to fall in the trap (Gunnarsson 25).
Substance Abuse Causes Common Psychological Problems
Substance abusers may cause some problems to people who are close to them due to their social interaction problems. These will include poor coping skills, educational problems, low socioeconomic status, and traumatic experiences. Within their families, they will encounter problems such as low family cohesion, negative communication, poor relationship and poor parental management or discipline techniques. Generally, his parental role as a model will be negative (Headspace para. 2-6).
Effects of Substance Abuse on Mental Problems
When a person abuses harmful drugs, he will continue experiencing harmful changes in his behaviors, which will result in personal and social problems. In fact, some studies have noted that some effects of toxic substance abuse can mimic mental illness. It has been established that substance abuse may cause damage to one’s brain, causing significant mental distress. Moreover, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has noted a very strong relationship between harmful substance abuse and other mentally induced disorders. In this regard, substance abuse can induce persisting dementia, psychotic disorders, anxiety disorders, induced sleeping disorder and persisting perceptual disorders (The Australian Psychological Society 5-6; NCB n.p.).
Psychological Treatment of Substance Abuse Problem
Apart from other interventions, the problem of substance abuse also needs psychological interventions. In this regard, psychological interventions such as behavioral marital therapy have been started to aid couples intervene in their own situations by communicating better to bring long term solutions to problems such as substance abuse (Walters and Rotgers 138). The other method is motivational interviewing whereby psychiatrists facilitate the patient to involve in intrinsic motivation to change his behaviors. Community reinforcement approaches, based on operant conditioning, have been employed to make the whole community change in their lifestyle by becoming harmful drug free (Smith 3-4; Walters and Rotgers 35). In exposure therapy, if the patient drinks because of depression or fear to face the reality of his life, he can be made exposed to the feared object (reality) so that he becomes familiarized with it (Walters and Rotgers 28). Contingency theory which emerged from behavior therapy, states that the patient should be rewarded when he shows positive behaviors in abandoning alcohol consumption (Walters and Rotgers 81). Moreover, family therapy and acquisition of positive social skills are also gaining a lot of momentum. The family therapy does not only include the family helping an individual to socialize well with others, but also managing his social environments (Smith 3-4; Walters and Rotgers 34).
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