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Substance Abuse Disorders And Contribution to Conflict

Photo by thom masat on Unsplash

Last updated on September 11, 2022

“I didn’t do it. I know what you’re talking about. No, I don’t. No. No. No.”

The above illustrates the inner dialogue of someone in a state of denial. Often, we think of denial as simply a negative trait a person may practice. Instead, it is a time-evolved self-preservation tool humans cling onto desperately, especially when a substance abuse disorder is at play.

The term alcohol use disorder is used to refer to alcoholism nowadays.

According to the American Psychological Association, six major contributions to the conflict originate from substance abuse, such as alcohol use.

(1)Serious morbidity

(2)Co-occurring mental health problems and suicide

(3)Domestic violence

(4)Child neglect

(5)Reduced food scarcity

(6)Increased poverty

This article will analyze how each aforementioned factor contributes to conflict and make conclusory statements regarding how a substance abuse disorder contributes to conflict.

(1) On obesity and how alcohol (substance) use disorder contributes to this type of conflict: according to the Obesity Action Coalition, studies are finding similarities in the pathways that involve both overeating and drinking excessively; if taken to extremes it can be fatal. In fact, a certain brain protein posited as neuropeptide -Y involves alcohol use and appetite.

In light of this recent research and in association with the University of North Carolina, Todd Thiele states, “Every day, we learn more about how eating and drinking are inextricably linked at the physiologic level. These physiologic commonalities help to explain why the behaviors of excessive food intake and excessive alcohol consumption share so many similarities.¨

Obesity and alcohol use are significant issues for many citizens in America; not only do these toxic habits affect the individual in a harmful way – but it affects everyone else in that addict’s life.

According to Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute for Drug Abuse, “Addiction and obesity are two of the most challenging health problems in the United States. This research opens the door for us to apply some of the knowledge we have gathered about addiction to studying overeating and obesity.”

According to the National Library of Medicine, those who suffer from alcohol use disorder are 20 to 60 times more likely to engage in suicidal behavior than those who had never previously suffered from any mental health diagnosis. Further, 40% to 60% of all suicides are those who chose to end their life rather than continue on in misery, unable to control their alcohol intake to a responsible level.

More to the point, not only do these individuals suffer from a lack of constraints to excessive alcohol intake, but researchers are also finding a connection between impulsiveness, alcohol use disorder, and suicide risk.

Even more complex and likely to increase the risk for suicide are those with bipolar disorder and or borderline personality disorder. In one study done by Environ Res Public Health, 99 out of 239 patients with borderline personality disorder had a history of at least one suicide attempt.

Factors that are already robust in the aforementioned mental health diseases illustrate a level of instability, yet alcohol abuse exacerbates impulsivity, potential hostility, and disinhibition of certain otherwise unimaginable behaviors leading to permanent consequences such as committing self-harm or committing suicide.

A study executed by Environ Res Public Health published in 2010 found that ¨In the last 45 years, suicide rates have increased by about 60% worldwide, with global suicide figures potentially reaching 1.5 million deaths by the year 2020.¨ Lastly, according to Psychinfo and Medline electronic databases, studies indicate that ¨Multiple genetically-related intermediate phenotypes might influence the relationship between alcohol and suicide.¨

(2) On domestic violence and how AUD can lead to this type of conflict: before analyzing how alcohol contributes to domestic violence, it is first important to define domestic abuse.

According to the Alcohol Rehab Guide, domestic abuse includes physical violence, economic coercion, isolation, mind-games, using children to threaten property, name-calling, manipulation tactics regarding jealousy issues, controlling and possessive methods with their partner, leveraging gender privilege, etc.

In the words of a local Oregon woman, Desiree Coyote of the Umatilla Indian Reservation shared with The UnderScore, published on July 10, 2022, “Everybody thinks that domestic abuse is a physical thing,” she said. “It’s not … when they take who you are away, piece by piece when they dehumanize you, make like you’re less than — that’s when it all begins.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 55% of abusers responsible for domestic violence were drinking before their assault. Additionally, it is estimated that abused women are 15 times more likely to abuse alcohol themselves.

According to the Florida Alcohol and Drug Rehab and the WHO, roughly 15 million citizens in America suffer from alcohol use disorders. Cases of domestic violence typically involve some alcohol abuse but not always; therefore, alcohol use disorder is a factor that is conducive to domestic violence (DV), not necessarily indicative of DV.

Further studies from the WHO found reasons for how alcohol can lead to domestic violence.

First, alcohol affects an individual’s cognitive and physical function. Secondly, alcohol abuse can lead to a marital stressor as the addiction can easily wreck one´s finances, leading to more escalation.

Lastly, those who have been previously abused as a child or young adult and drink excessively are more likely to have poor self-impulse control and lash out due to the perceived familiarity and modeled behavior by early child-parent interactions.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, ¨Females made up 70% of victims killed by an intimate partner in 2007, a proportion that has changed very little since 1993. Females were killed by intimate partners at twice the rate of males.¨

As for how alcohol use leads to child neglect, the parent no longer becomes concerned with how to be the best for their child.

Instead, most of their time and resources go towards seeking alcohol. In turn, drinking excessively reduces the parent´s responsible and authentic presence with their child, and they may have a harder time regulating their emotions.

According to the Children’s Bureau List (CBL), in 2012, 31% of children that were removed from their original homes and put into foster care were taken out of homes with a substance abuse issue.

The risk factors for children who grow up with parents (s) who drink alcohol excessively are indeed a burden to overcome: (1) stunted emotional, cognitive, and social health, (2) led to depression, (3) anxiety, and (4) health issues.

More studies from the CBL indicate that “Today, just over 1 in 10 children in the US live with a parent who suffers from a substance use disorder (SUD) or dependency; 7.3 million specifically deal with an alcoholic parent.¨

According to the ¨National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism¨, Miller and colleagues (1997) have suggested the following three possible theories:

(1) The cognitive disorganization hypothesis posits that alcohol abuse increases the likelihood of violence because it interferes with communication among family members and results in misinterpretation of social cues, overestimating perceived threats, and underestimating the consequences of violence.

(2)The deviance disavowal hypothesis suggests that the perpetrator attributes the violence to his or her alcohol abuse and thus avoids or minimizes personal responsibility for the violent behavior.

(3)The disinhibition hypothesis proposes that alcohol’s pharmacological actions on the brain interfere with the actions of those brain centers that control (i.e., inhibit) socially unacceptable behaviors.

Next is the fifth conflict example: alcohol use disorder contributes to food scarcity.

According to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, a study was done from representative data of 14,786 US young adults aged 24–32 years old who already suffered from alcohol use disorder (AUD).

The study showed that 12% of this age group with a SUD were found to be more at risk for food insecurity. Those dealing with food security were 23% more likely to have a higher chance of perpetuating other problematic behavior.

Other problematic behavior such as engaging in other substance abuse such as excessively smoking cigarettes.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture 6-item Short Form Food Security Module, this follows as the international standard for what meets the criteria for food insecurity based on these questions:

(1) “(I/ We worried whether (my our) food would run out before (I/We) got money to buy more”, (2) “The food that (I/we) bought just didn’t last, and (I/we) didn’t have money to get more” and (3) “(I/We) could not afford to eat balanced meals.”

Those who answered ¨often yes¨ or ¨sometimes true¨ over the past twelve months were considered to be food insecure.

In alternative words, according to the National Library of Medicine, food insecurity can be further defined by both the physical pain of hunger and worrying about having enough nutritious food to eat.

In a logistical regression analysis of both women and men who smoke cigarettes found that both genders engage in food scarcity, yet only men engage in heavy alcohol, in addition to cigarette smoking, known as ¨dual substance use¨- a modern and evolved nourishment method used often in low-income urban settings.

Since tobacco is known for suppressing appetite, many individuals use dual substance abuse for personal means of self-preservation to fulfill their daily, career, familial, etc. obligations.

Simultaneously, this individual gains an incentive to save any incoming cash flow for immediate or future substance possession and curbing their appetite so they can distract themselves from the emotional, mental, and physical distress food insecurity causes to a person.

Such a lifestyle’s burdens include a significant decrease in cognitive function, disrupted sleep, and emotional dysregulation.

Lastly, it is important to emphasize the cyclical nature of substance abuse, DV, food insecurity, and obesity. Smoking and dual substance abuse is an alarming public health concern and is heavily associated with American obesity and mortality rates.

Not only does food insecurity seep back into the other toxic habits such as relying on dual substance abuse, but it also fuels more depression for an individual and can unconsciously lead to not only poor diet regulation but, for some, eventually – eating disorders, despite their food scarcity resolve.

Food insecurity reinforces potential behavior and lifestyle patterns that can perpetuate DV. If a woman attempts to quit cigarettes, she may receive disapproval from her also tobacco-smoking partner, who isn’t ready to quit as an individual yet, and therefore lashes out due to guilt and self-shame, and resentment for the women’s appearing stronger willpower, for example.

More to the point, many people with dual substance issues are aware of the negative effects of the lifestyle on their livelihoods, personal relationships, and career goals.

Yet, they continue to seek substances instead of food to avoid the social stigma that is inevitably associated with seeking food assistance programs and/or local social aid/ support.

The sixth and final factor that substance abuse, such as alcohol, contributes to is poverty.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, a study found that 38% of homeless people were also alcohol dependent.

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, published by Spitznagel, found that those with earlier onset alcohol use disorders (AUD) were more likely to experience homelessness, and those with AUD were homeless earlier than those who did not suffer from AUD. Further, those with severe AUD were more likely to experience chronic homelessness.

An article titled, ¨From Substance Abuse to Homelessness or Vice Versa?¨ published in the journal Social Science and Medicine by Moschion J and McVicar D in 2015 noted that the dynamics of homelessness and substance abuse indicated that heavy alcohol use increases one’s chances of housing insecurity by 11% in the next six months.

Unfortunately, once it gets to the point of lacking legitimate housing, it is considerably difficult for an individual to exit their harmful environment and cut off their addictions, as being without housing generally indicates a lacking social support network, reliable income, reliable meals, and lack of personal hygiene which severely affect mood management and mental health.

More to the point, homelessness and substance abuse are like someone who aids and abets in a crime; both are conducive to poor health and lack an urgency for an individual to be proactive for their own safe recovery. Misery enjoys its company, as the old adage refers. Many people who experience homelessness turn to substance abuse to cope with their distressing life scenarios.

According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), approximately 257,000 homeless people have a severe mental health impairment or a chronic substance abuse disorder. Further, according to (HUD), 580,466 people experienced homelessness in the US on a single night in 2020, increasing by 2.2% since 2019.

An article written for an online source, Alcohol Help, published by McCrackin on March 22, 2022, captured one man´s painful journey of homelessness and a chronic alcohol use disorder. James, a 56-year-old Puerto Rican who lost his family at a young age, does what he can to earn $8 a day and moves from shelter to shelter, relying on his chronic alcohol dependency to cope.

“Drinking is a way I can cope, you know? I just miss my family so much,” James shared with the author.

Ultimately, substance abuse greatly leads to social conflict in these six significant ways: serious morbidity, co-occurring mental health problems and suicide, domestic violence, child neglect, reduced food scarcity, and increased poverty.

For there to be more progress and help received by those who experience substance abuse disorders, there absolutely has to be less punitive measures and stigma against those seeking help, a higher emphasis on harm reduction methods, and relentless reinforcement of continuing programs for relapse prevention.

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