Sample Expository Essay: Overview of Drug Abuse in the United States of America in 2024


Below we will present you with a few different samples of essays on the "Effects of Drug Abuse in America". That should help you formulate your own ideas and write your own argumentative essay on drug abuse or expository essay on substance addiction.

Sample essay 1

Essay title: "Overview of Drug Abuse Problem in America in 2024"

Drug abuse involves excessive and frequent use of chemical substances so as to attain a certain feeling. Drug abuse has commonly been defined as unrelenting or erratic excessive drug use inconsistent with or unrelated to acceptable medical practice. Drug abuse is not a question of faulty willpower or moral flaws but rather it is a vicious cycle that brings about changes in the brain resulting in impulses being stronger than they previously were. Continuous use of chemical substances with the purpose of obtaining a certain feeling can lead to drug or substance abuse and addiction. Drug abuse can occur as a result of using either the prescribed drugs for enjoyment rather than for the purposes for which they were prescribed or as a result of constant use of illicit drugs (Patel, 2003). 

Drug abuse is an effect of diverse factors. Some of the risk factors for drug abuse include family history of drug addiction, history of mental disorders, untreated physical discomfort, and peer pressure. In a family where drug addiction is prevalent, there is an interaction between environment and genetics thus the individuals in such families are at a higher risk of drug abuse. It is possible that a family with a history of mental disorders can be a cause of drug abuse because mental illness can create new symptoms among them being drug abuse. If a patient is allowed to take drugs without any medical supervision being provided, pain medication can be addictive or abuse of these drugs can be realized. Teenagers are likely to abuse drugs due to peer pressure which may cause them to have difficulties resisting it (Saisan, Segal, & Cutter, 2009). 

The effects of drug abuse vary depending on the drug that is being abused. For example; drugs such as methamphetamine or cocaine cause the person to experience the feeling of rush and trigger the initiation of sensitivity of ceaseless energy. Drugs like benzodiazepines, heroin, and prescribed drugs such as Oxycontin can cause the person to experience feelings of calmness and relaxation. Without realizing by the abusers, these drugs cause changes to the brain by causing overstimulation and consequently altering the chemistry of the brain. The effect on the chemistry of the brain is then exhibited by the abuse of drugs because the individual feels extremely uncomfortable and sometimes in pain when he or she does not take the drug (Saisan, Segal, & Cutter, 2009). 

There are several signs and symptoms that can be used to determine whether or not a person is a drug abuser. For example, an individual exhibits a series of augmented energy, inability to sleep and restlessness, abnormally slow speech, movement or response time, disorientation, confusion, abrupt loss or gain of weight, series of oversleeping behaviors, mysterious roach clips, pipes, and roach clips, snorted drugs, chronic nose bleeding or sinusitis, severe bronchitis or coughs which result in coughing up of excess blood or mucus, and progressive chronic dental issues. Furthermore, drug abuse causes a person to have changes in mood e.g. increased irritability, anger, depression, delusions, and hallucinations among others (Saisan, Segal, & Cutter, 2009). 

In dealing with the problem of drug abuse, the abuser can take the drug abuse prescriptions which will be beneficial either psychologically or medically. However, the patient should use the drugs appropriately because it is often difficult to deal with the problem of drug abuse. This is attributed to the adverse effects of the disorder such as the risk of other infections specifically hepatitis B and HIV due to sharing of syringes, brain damage, lung disease, arthritis, heart problems, and even death when the drug is taken in excess. It is therefore advisable for those close to the abuser to seek medical advice and provide support to the individual (Patel, 2003).


Saisan, J., Segal, J., & Cutter, D. (January 2009). Drug Abuse and Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Effects and what you can do . Retrieved May 13, 2009, from

Patel, V. (2003). Where there is no Psychiatrist: a Mental Health Care Manual . Iowa: RCPsych. Publications

Sample essay 2

Essay title: "Drug Abuse as a Global Social Issue in the World"

The last two centuries have brought about sweeping changes that improved life for countless people and societies. Advancements in science and technology as well as changes in the way people think have made life for many longer, easier, and more fulfilling. But the 21 st century is far from the utopia many in the past envisioned it would be. Right now, the world is gripped by the raging COVID-19 pandemic, which has not only claimed millions of lives and infected more but also ravaged the global economy. But COVID is not the only problem the world faces today. Even before the pandemic emerged, there were already other problems of similar magnitude facing the world, one of which is the issue of drug abuse. As this term paper will show, this is a problem that exists in virtually every country. Despite massive efforts to stamp out the trade of illegal drugs, drug abuse remains a global social issue that eats away at millions of people’s individual health and the welfare of nations, a fact that necessitates new and often counterintuitive approaches.

To understand why drug abuse is such a tremendous problem, it is necessary to first understand what drug abuse is. Drug abuse is sometimes used interchangeably with terms like substance abuse, drug addiction, drug use, and more recently psychoactive substance misuse. While there are differences in their respective definition, these conditions are often related and have significant overlaps. According to the World Health Organization [WHO], this condition is defined as the “Use of a substance for a purpose not consistent with legal or medical guidelines, as in the non-medical use of prescription medications” (WHO, 2021a). Meanwhile, the National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA] defines drug addiction as “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain” (NIDA, 2018). Differences between the definitions notwithstanding, it can be said that drug abuse is the use of drugs for purposes contrary to prescription and this includes the use of illegal and regulated substances.

What qualifies as drug abuse, however, changes over time. Marijuana and drug abuse, for instance, were inseparable for many decades. Possession, trade, and use of marijuana were all criminalized, which resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of millions. However, research into the medical purposes of marijuana led not only to the reconsideration of the tightness of access to the substance but also to a deep foray into its reputation. Findings of numerous studies not only confirmed that marijuana has medicinal properties but also debunked many of the myths surrounding the plant, thus resulting in legalizing medical marijuana as well as marijuana for recreation. Today, drug abuse comes in various forms. For one, it involves the abuse of illegal substances considered as having no therapeutic value and are highly detrimental to well-being such as heroin and cocaine. For another, it also refers to the abuse of prescription drugs. Drug abuse in this case refers to use that exceeds prescription or use for purposes inconsistent with medical advice (Casarella, 2020).

For many decades, the prevalence of drug abuse was considered primarily a criminal issue. As such, acts that constitute possession, use, and trade of illicit drugs were treated as criminal offenses. Governments around the world responded to the crisis by launching drug wars of varying degrees of intensity. In the United States, the war on drugs began in the early 20 th century, when the government started to pass laws classifying drugs and regulating access to those considered dangerous or harmful. For instance, a number of laws were passed in the 1930s to regulate marijuana, such as the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act of 1932 and the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act in 1970, which classified substances according to use (US Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA]). In 1971, then President Richard Nixon officially declared the war on drugs, calling it the country’s biggest enemy. More laws and policies were passed in the subsequent decades, thus giving local, state, and federal governments the instruments for prosecuting drug-related acts. Nixon’s official policy and narrative were adopted by many other countries, thus resulting in a global war on drugs.

The emphasis on curbing drug addiction resulted in staggering numbers of arrests. But despite all these, the war on drugs has not succeeded in ending the crisis. In fact, numerous studies show that it has only contributed to deepening the problem. For one, the drug war has resulted in the unnecessary arrest, prosecution, or imprisonment of millions. According to recent statistical data, one person in the United States is arrested for drug possession every 25 seconds. More than 1.3 million people are arrested every year now for drug possession, which is a three-fold increase in the number of arrests since 1980. The number of people arrested for possession is six times higher than the number of arrests for trading drugs. Moreover, drug-related cases represent 20% of the prison population (Pearl, 2018). The numbers point to the fact that the drug trade is alive and well and that there is a growing market for these substances.

Despite the widespread crackdown on drugs, the drug war has not been successful. In fact, many experts have already admitted that the war on drugs has been a failure (Coyne and Hall, 2017). Statistical data show that more people suffer from drug addiction than before. According to the American Addiction Centers (2021), as high as 38% of the American adult population has struggled with substance abuse. Across the globe, 269 million people used drugs in the past year, while 35 million are currently battling drug addiction (WHO, 2021b). And these are just the reported cases. The war on drugs also exposed institutional discrimination as shown by racial disparities in apprehension and imprisonment. For example, 30% of drug-related arrests are among blacks, despite the fact that blacks represent only 12.5% of drug users. Blacks and Latinos represent 80% of prisoners doing time for drug offenses (Pearl, 2018). Finally, the war on drugs has tremendous financial costs. Over $1 trillion dollars have been spent on the drug war since 1971, but the problem persists to this day (Pearl, 2018).

The failure of the drug war cannot be more apparent today, given how the pandemic has intersected with the problem of drug addiction. While the countless deaths due to the virus are the most salient issue today, the pandemic has also brought new challenges to curbing the rate of drug abuse. Stress, anxiety, and depression are just some of the psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, these effects have also contributed to an increase in drug dependence. Recent statistical data shows that the number of overdose deaths in the first nine months of 2020 increased by 12% (Morhaim, 2021). As the pandemic takes its toll, people are finding it more difficult to cope, prompting many into taking up drugs or increasing their drug intake.

With millions of people around the globe still battling drug addiction, it is more than evident that the drug war is not the solution to this issue. Criminalizing drugs has resulted in millions of arrests and countless years of incarceration, not to mention exposed institutional racism in the judicial system and related social institutions. With the drug war a failure, different approaches are needed. One such approach is to consider drug addiction as a public health issue. This approach is neither new nor radical. In fact, substance abuse has been considered a mental health disorder for decades now, with the medical community calling upon the government to decriminalize drug use and have those affected treated. Studies have shown that treating this as a public health issue rather than a criminal one is more effective (Volkow et al., 2017). More novel approaches also offer promising results. For instance, researchers have determined that the results from studies that examine the brain development of adolescents can be used for the formulation of educational material (NIDA, 2020). As researchers gain a better understanding of how young people’s minds work, they can design more effective educational material that will encourage the youth to avoid drugs.

The drug war has been raging for over five decades now, but it is yet to produce any significant results. Millions of people around the world still suffer from drug addiction. The punishment-centered approach, with its high number of arrests and imprisonment, has neither stopped the drug trade nor discouraged people from turning to illegal substances. On the contrary, the issue has only grown, exacerbated as it is by the current pandemic. It is therefore time to change the way drug addiction is addressed. Through a combination of effective approaches both old and new, along with others that are in development or yet to emerge, society may finally achieve results that the drug war failed to deliver.


American Addiction Centers. (2021, April 7). Alcohol and drug abuse statistics .

Casarella, J. (2020, September 29). What is substance abuse? WebMD.

Coyne, C. J. and Hall, A. R. (2017, April 12). Four decades and counting: The continued failure of the war on drugs . CATO Institute.

Morhaim, D. (2021, March 8). The war on drugs has not only failed, it’s worsened drug use in America. Baltimore Sun .

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, July). The science of drug use and addiction: The basics. NIH.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, July). Preventing drug misuse and addiction: The best strategy. NIH.

Pearl, B. (2018, June 27). Ending the war on drugs: By the numbers . Center for American Progress.

US Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.). Drug Scheduling. DEA.

Volkow, N. D., Poznyak, V., Saxena, S., and Gerra, G. (2017). Drug use disorders: Impact of a public health rather than a criminal justice approach. World Psychiatry, 16(2), 213-214. doi: 10.1002/wps.20428

World Health Organization. (2021a). Abuse (drug, alcohol, chemical, substance or psychoactive substance). WHO.

World Health Organization. (2021b). Drugs (psychoactige). WHO.


Research paper title: "Understanding Drug Abuse, Treatment Programs and Rehabilitation in America"

Drug abuse disorder is a serious condition that negatively affects patients’ lives. Drug abuse disorder patients can potentially harm themselves or those around them because of the effects of a substance. This potential harm is not only violence-related. It also includes damage to their career, relationships, and other similar aspects. While treatments exist for drug abuse disorder, the variety of addictive substances can require specific methods for treating patients. This makes drug abuse disorder a complex issue, varying from one patient to another. This sample essay will discuss how drug abuse disorder manifests, affects patients, and how these patients can go clean.

Defining Drug Abuse Disorder

Drug abuse disorder or DAD is excessive drug use that turns the patient into a substance-dependent individual. The Johns Hopkins Medicine website (n.d.) defined the disorder as a behavioral pattern where substance use causes problems in a patient’s life. Drug abuse disorder can lead patients to become a burden to their family and social groups, as well as increase the risk of other problems (Grant et al., 2016). For instance, excessive drug use may be preventing an individual from going out and attending to their professional responsibilities. The substances of abuse can either be legal drugs, such as nicotine and prescription medicines, or illegal substances, such as marijuana and methamphetamine. As long as a substance has an addictive characteristic, it can become a substance of abuse and cause a user to develop a drug abuse disorder.

Since different substances have varying addictive qualities, patients can develop drug abuse disorders differently. Alcohol users may take longer to develop disruptive behavioral patterns while methamphetamine users can become addicted quickly because of the high-addiction risk of the substance. Furthermore, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, (2013) categorized substance use disorder as a spectrum disorder (cited in Koob, 2021). They identified four levels; beneficial use, casual/low-risk use, high-risk/harmful use, and chronic dependence/substance use disorder (Spectrum of Substance Use, 2019). The leftmost side of the spectrum is "beneficial use" which pertains to healthy substance use, such as medication for mental illnesses. On the opposite side of the spectrum is "chronic dependence/substance use disorder" which refers to compulsive drug use, leading to negative effects. Patients can enter the spectrum at different levels, depending on the substance of abuse and other external factors, such as existing mental illnesses.

Causes of DAD

Similar to other behavioral problems, drug abuse disorder has various causes. According to Jahan & Burgess (2020), the causes include psychological, biological, sociocultural, and environmental factors. Psychological factors include existing psychiatric disorders that may stem from other factors, such as biological and social. For instance, ADHD patients have an increased risk of drug abuse disorder because of their condition (Jahan & Burgess, 2020). The behavioral pattern from their condition may instigate the abusive use of substances. This makes them susceptible to the dangers of DAD, especially when family members or friends fail to notice the behavior.

Aside from genetic factors, psychological factors include traumatic events that can cause DAD. Traumatic events include violent experiences, such as assaults, and societal crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies have shown that the recent pandemic has led DAD patients to increase their drug use, shift to another substance, and experience relapse. For non-DAD patients, the feeling of fear, uncertainty, and anxiety due to the pandemic has led to the development of mental illnesses, such as DAD (cited in Chiappini et al., 2020). This also showed that multifactorial causes of DAD as one factor can become a cause for another, leading to the increased risk of the disorder.

Studies have also shown that drug abuse disorder can manifest more in certain groups. Grant et al. (2016) found that Caucasians, Native Americans, men, single young individuals, divorced adults, lower-educated individuals, lower-income individuals, western-U.S. citizens, and disabled individuals had higher risks of drug abuse disorder. This trend can be due to various factors, such as mental conditions and the successful legalization of marijuana in Western U.S. states. For the case of disabled individuals, the co-morbidity factor explains the trend as they have a significant risk of DAD compared to the general population. The study showed that DAD affects a specific demographic, providing insight into the psychological and environmental conditions of these groups and how they may result in the development of disruptive behavioral patterns.

Diagnosing DAD

As mentioned earlier, DAD involves substance abuse along with disruptions in a patient’s life. However, recognizing this pattern is only one step in the diagnostic process. Jahan & Burgess (2020) stated that patients must undergo historical and physical assessments, laboratory tests, and the DSM-5 test. The historical and physical assessments are standard procedures to get an understanding of the patient’s overall condition. Laboratory tests, which include blood alcohol level and urine drug screen, complete blood count, liver function test, hepatitis panel, and pancreatic enzyme serum level test, help determine if a patient’s body contains an unhealthy amount of addictive chemicals. These tests are necessary to ensure that a patient’s behavior is related to drug abuse and not other illnesses.

Finally, the DSM-5 test aims to determine the substance of abuse for a DAD patient. The test involves 11 criteria pertaining to behaviors that a patient may have developed over 12 months (Jahan & Burgess, 2020). Most of the criteria involve behavioral descriptions regarding a patient’s intent, substance amount taken, and response relating to the use of a substance or lack of access to it. When a patient meets at least two criteria, physicians can identify the substance of abuse. For instance, a patient may meet the criteria for continued use of heroin despite social and occupational impairment and withdrawal symptoms after discontinued use of the substance. These two criteria, out of the 11, are enough for physicians to determine that the patient is addicted to heroin.

How Patients Can Go Clean

Once physicians diagnosed a patient, they can proceed with treatments for drug abuse disorder. However, treating DAD is a complex process since each type of addiction responds to different treatments. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (2019) even stated that there is no single treatment for drug abuse disorder patients. As such, the American Society of Addiction Medicine created a set of criteria to help physicians provide the correct treatment for each patient. The criteria involve current mental health, medical history, willingness to change, intoxication/withdrawal potential, relapse potential, and living situation (Williams et al., 2016, cited in Jahan & Burgess, 2020). Attending physicians will have to assess a patient and place them into programs based on their criteria placement.

Despite the complex process, most treatments for DAD include behavioral counseling, medication, medical applications use, and treatment of co-occurring mental health problems (Treatment Approaches, 2019). Behavioral counseling involves the modification of patient behaviors either through outpatient or inpatient behavioral treatment. In outpatient behavioral treatment, patients will undergo multiple therapy sessions which decrease in quantity as their recovery improves. In inpatient behavioral treatment, patients remain in medical facilities. This type of behavioral counseling is mostly for severe cases where patients have become a threat to themselves and those around them (Miller, 2022). They may be exhibiting violent behaviors due to withdrawal or in a state where they cannot function properly without medical supervision. Still, this type of counseling aims to provide therapy, mostly in the form of community-based therapies, to help patients overcome their addictions.

Other than therapies, medications are effective for treating drug abuse disorders. The type of medication that a patient will take will depend on the substance of abuse and their current medical condition. Methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine are effective medications for opioid addiction while acamprosate and disulfiram are effective for alcohol addiction (Treatment Approach, 2019). Other medications can help suppress withdrawal symptoms and detoxify a patient’s body. There are also innovative medication methods, such as the FDA-approved reSET®, a mobile application that aids in behavioral therapy. Patients can use them in conjunction with medications, such as buprenorphine. Finally, there is Koob’s (2021) research regarding the use of medications and therapies to reset a DAD patient’s brain. Koob (2021) focused on the concept of hyperkatifeia, or the negative emotional response to withdrawal, and how medications can reverse the response. However, the framework is still in the development stage and there is a need for more research.


Drug abuse disorder is a life-changing condition that comes from multifactorial causes. The availability of addictive substances, both legal and illegal, makes the disorder a concerning issue. This is especially true for specific demographics that are at a higher risk of developing DAD. Still, recognizing that the disorder affects a certain demographic can be beneficial in addressing the issue and understanding how to approach patients. Experts are continuously developing new methods to help treat DAD patients and as more studies bring to light information about the disorder, the more effective treatments can become.

Let’s get your assignment done!

place an order