The social, economic, and health effects of recreational drug use on the elderly in Australian society are tremendous (Crespigny 1996). Many people in Australia use drugs (such as alcohol) regularly and this negatively affect their lives. At one time, or another, drug abusers in Australia suffer from the tremendous effects associated with drug abuse. Over 20,000 deaths are reported in Australia as a result of drugs, particularly alcohol and tobacco use (Crespigny 1996).
Crespigny (1996), states that young people die as a result of injury or intoxication emanating from drug abuse. On the other hand, elderly people greatly suffer from adverse negative side effects of drug use and this leads to their hospitalization, permanent incapacitation, and many of them suffer from traumas that could have been avoided in the first place (Burton 2004).
It is approximated that almost 25% of acute hospital beds are occupied by elderly patients suffering from alcohol and other drug related problems that are directly linked to medical diagnoses (Crespigny 1996). It is also estimated that a very large proportion of Australian society, at some time, as a result of drugs abuse requires social in conjunction with other forms of psychological assistance (Australian Drug Federation 2010).
In spite of the preventative nature of many disorders emanating from drug abuse in addition to the call for reduction of injury as stated by Holt (2005), timely interventions as well as assistance for the large numbers of Australians attending health facilities, community health and psychological health services, health care workers are yet to efficiently assist the community in getting rid of and responding to the diverse effects of drug abuse (Burton 2004).
Drug abuse among the elderly people in Australia, as pointed out by Australian Drug Federation (2010), results in psychological disorders with grave consequences such as depression, anxiety disorders, incapacitation of mobility as well as functioning, general ill health, and premature deaths. These effects are aggravated by the fact that the elderly have limited access to mental health facilities. Drugs in Australian Society
The commonly abused drugs in Australia include: alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, methaquinolone, alkaloids, minor tranquilizers, and other illegal substances such as cannabis and methamphetamine in addition to some prescribed drugs such as benzodiazepines and oxycodone (Holt 2005). Some of these drugs can be beneficial if used according to doctor’s prescription, but are harmful if abused. Various effects of drugs abuse in society are: physical injury, chronic diseases, and premature deaths, in addition to devastating social and economic effects (Holt 2005).
Drugs, such as alcohol, have an intricate role in Australian society. Very many people in Australia consume alcohol for purposes of leisure, enjoyment, sociability, and relaxation. They do so at levels that leads to minimal adverse effects (Australian Drug Federation 2010). However, as Burton (2004) asserts, a significant number of Australians consume alcohol at levels that result in an increase in the risk of alcohol related injury. For quite a number, alcohol is the major cause of health related problems and economic hardships.
Alcohol in Australia is a significant burden of death, illness and harm (Crespigny 1996). Harm that results from alcohol consumption, according to Holt (2005), does not only affect consumers and their families, but also the whole community. Alcohol affects consumers in different ways and due to this reason; there is no quantity of it that can be set as safe for everyone. Some of the negative consequences associated with excessive consumption of alcohol, as illustrated by Burton (2004), include negative emotional, social and physical effects.
Instant harms related to alcohol consumption include accidents, severe injuries, decreased academic performance, increased violence, irritability, high probability of indulging in risky sexual behavior, in addition to driving under the influence of alcohol (Holt 2005). The other recreational drug that is commonly used in Australia is tobacco. Even though smoking rates have declined over the last few decades, the use of tobacco remains one of the major causes of preventable illnesses in Australia.
Smoking among women is also a matter of concern due to the fact that it adversely affects their general health, maternal health and pregnancy outcomes (Burton 2004). The other negative effect of recreational drugs in Australia is founded on drug trafficking. Illegal drug trafficking takes place in many countries around the world (Crespigny1996). Presumption that drug trafficking is a criminal practice usually involving foreigners generates less concerns politically as compared to purely domestic illegal production as well as consumption.
Involvement of foreigners makes illegal dealings seem less of a home based concern. None of the countries in the world is safe from drug trafficking. Drug trafficking tremendously affects Australian families due to the fact that the elderly use other family members to deliver drugs (Australian Drug Federation 2010). This practice leads to family members being involved in illegal drug taking and alcoholism (Burton 2004). This habit affects the elderly relatives due to the fact that they are used for money to distribute the drugs and are also abused incase a family member is drunk.
Abuse of recreational drugs may result in substance dependence or addiction (Crespigny 1996). Addiction involves an increased urge to go on taking substances in spite of negative consequences associated with them. Dependence on the other hand entails mental processes whereas substance abuse mirrors an intricate interaction between an individual, the society and the substance abused. Crespigny (1996), states that depression and abuse of recreational drugs are common phenomena among the elderly in Australia and occur together mainly by chance as personal troubles.
There is, however, a distinct relationship between these two features; an elderly person may take excess recreational drugs with intent of getting rid of depressive symptoms or to escape a problematic situation that is stressful in life. People suffering from extreme depression may also use recreational drugs with an aim of ending their life. On the other hand, depressive symptoms may emanate from excessive consumption of recreational drugs (Crespigny 1996). Those who opt to drink should realize that there will always be a health risk no matter the quantity of alcohol they consume.
Nevertheless, there are various strategies that have been implemented aimed at minimizing health risks associated with alcohol consumption. These strategies are designed in such a way as to give Australians a fundamental knowledge as well as understanding concerning alcohol and other drugs and their impacts to enable them make well informed decisions in order to minimize health and socioeconomic risks associated with drug abuse (Queensland Government 2010). Alcohol misuse and abuse of other drugs is a serious community matter that needs to be successfully handled by a practical health promotion framework (Crespigny 1996).
It is crucial that various strategies be implemented to take care of some of the causal factors that results in numerous social problems The national and state policy of the government of Australia in the fight against rampant drugs abuse is strengthening various prevention strategies which form the most significant section of the National Drug Strategy, the Queensland strategy for chronic diseases, and the Queensland harm minimization strategy (Queensland Government 2010).
Minimization of harm, according to Queensland Government (2010), is the groundwork of the endeavors of reducing the harmful effects as well as drug uptake in Australia and Queensland. These strategies ore based on the belief that policies on drug as well as measures taken to regulate and minimize drug related problems have to be evidence based, reverence human rights, and be humane (Australian Drug Federation 2010).
People who regularly consume drugs along with those who experience adverse effects as a result of drugs should be treated with equal respect and be provided with the same basic rights as other people who do not consume drugs (Crespigny 1996). Queensland response to drug problems takes into account the cultural as well as political values of Australian people (Queensland Government 2010). The elderly are given the rights in addition to freedom which allows them to conduct themselves as per their individual and traditional values.
The principle of harm minimization recognizes the necessity to employ a wide range of strategies in tackling drug related injury, including reduction of supply and demand for drugs. The government of Queensland agrees that it has a vital role to play to strengthen the public health objectives of minimizing the uptake of potentially harmful drugs as well as reduction of the adverse effects of legal and illegal drugs to persons and society (Queensland Government 2010).
It also accepts that enlightening the youth along with the elderly concerning the harmful effects of various drugs of abuse such as alcohol, tobacco, among others is a fundamental preventative strategy in the current endeavors of tackling drugs and drugs related adverse effects (Queensland Government 2010). The government of Queensland has endorsed a harm minimization strategy as the primary principle that governs development of policies and programs in Australia to take care of the adverse effects of legal and illegal drugs in society.
The main approach of the harm minimization strategy, as per Queensland Government (2010), is promotion of people’s right to abstain from drugs both legal and illicit. Harmful minimization strategy aims at maintaining open communication in relation to tobacco, alcohol, and other substances that are socially unaccepted with those who are currently consuming them (Marlatt 2002). In spite of the efforts of the government of Queensland, some people both young and old continue with their habit of consuming drugs (Queensland Government 2010).
This should not be interpreted to mean that the government of Queensland condones that behavior. Minimization of harm does not mean that use of illicit drugs has been approved. This also should not be seen as equal to the support for legalization of drugs. But rather, it is a strategy whose main aim is to minimize harm that emanates from use of legal and illicit drugs both to an individual and to the community at large (Queensland Government 2010).
The Queensland drug strategy employs the following principles in its fight against illicit drugs: whole of government approach; cooperation as well as partnership with non governmental agencies; minimization of harm incorporating a balance between reduction of supply, reduction of demand and strategies for reduction of injury; evidence based strategies; and preventions strategies which incorporates broad-based interventions to tackle general determinants of problems of social and well being of individuals and the community (Australian Drug Federation 2010).
The partnership and whole of government strategies recognizes that, factors that lead to drug abuse as well as their effects on individuals and communities do not always fit into compartments. A wide range of governmental, non-governmental and community agencies work together in collaboration across conventional boundaries to tackle these issues. The harm minimization strategy of Australia focuses on both legal and illegal drugs and incorporates prevention of harm as well as reduction of actual injury (Holt 2005).
Minimization of harm is in line with an all inclusive approach that integrates a balance between reduction of supply and demand of legal and illegal drugs in addition to control of licit substances (Marlatt 2002). Marlatt (2002) clearly states that minimization of harm strategy focuses on non-judgmental information concerning a variety of drugs, their characteristics and impacts, concerning the legal issues and rights, about the way to reduce risks as well as where to obtain assistance if needed.
Harm reduction assists youth and the elderly to develop numerous skills in judgment, communications, assessment, controversial issues resolution, assertiveness, safer use and decision making. Harm minimization is founded on practicality, humanitarianism, and a scientific public health strategy (Marlatt 2002).
The main beliefs of harm minimization, according to Marlatt (2002), are that use of drugs is not abnormal; it contains both benefits and risks; though it cannot be completely eliminated the risks and harms associated with it can be reduced; many young people may grow out of use of drugs; it necessitates an open dialogue with both the elderly and young people and reverence for their rights to allow them make their own decisions; it should emphasize on positive peer assistance instead of divisiveness (Holt 2005).
Supply reduction, according to Holt (2005), is an approach aimed at bringing to an end the production along with supply of illegal substances in conjunction with control of licit substances. Demand reduction is an approach aimed at reducing the uptake of harmful drugs (Marlatt 2002). This approach, according to Marlatt (2002), employs abstinence and treatment strategies to minimize consumption of harmful substances. Harm reduction on the other hand, is an approach that brings down substances-related injury to both individuals and the community.
The main aim of harm reduction is to minimize the adverse effects of drug consumption (Marlatt 2002). By contrast, conventional strategies focused on minimizing the frequency of drug consumption. Harm minimization, however, sets up a hierarchy of objectives with the more urgent and achievable ones as the initial steps in the direction of risk free consumption or, if suitable, abstinence (Marlatt 2002). Drug consumption habits leads to effects that are either helpful, for example saving life, neutral or harmful in case of abuse.
Assigning a negative or benefit value to such effects is prejudiced and subject to controversy; however, harm minimization structure at least provides a pragmatic way through which outcomes can be evaluated without prejudice (Marlatt 2002). Prevention refers to various strategies aimed at limiting uptake of drug use in conjunction with strategies that safeguard against risk and bring down harm linked to supply of drugs and their use. Prevention incorporates initiatives to tackle the general causes of various problems that affect an individual’s social and physical wellbeing.
Serious consequences as a result of use of recreational substances generate many questions for nurses. These disorders lead to difficulties in determining the most suitable treatment intervention. Conventional strategies, as indicated by Crespigny (1996), only tackled some of the diverse problems associated substance abuse and this frequently resulted in recurrent relapses into recreational substance use and successive hospitalization. In order to prevent hospitalization of elderly people, who use recreational substances, evidence based decisions must be used to tackle various disorders that emanate from these substances.
Even though it has been prevalent for long, abuse of recreational substances has been inadvertently exaggerated by the community mental health reform movement (Crespigny 1996). One of the most important features of this movement was a logical deinstitutionalization of the elderly, and this resulted in a large number of the elderly being left homeless. Together with homelessness came the rise in the consumption of drugs and alcohol in conjunction with other recreational substances among the elderly.
Elderly people are susceptible to exploitation by others, especially the shrewder and street-wise addicts. It is very hard to generate a meaningful distinction between simple use of recreational substances and actual substance abuse with the elderly population due to the fact that even small quantities of recreational drugs can have detrimental effects to this population. The pattern of recreational drugs use in Australia among elderly people varies from one person to another (Crespigny 1996). Some may use these drugs for purposes of enjoyment whereas others use them to escape real life challenges.
Excessive consumption of recreational substances subject the elderly people to repeated hospitalizations as a result of adverse effects associated with them (Crespigny1996). However, patients may fail to follow treatment schedule and, instead increase uptake of recreational substances resulting in an intensification of psychological problems and a subsequent hospitalization. Health care workers are usually frustrated by patients’ non-cooperation and this may negatively affect the way they treat a patient suffering from addiction (Burton 2004).
The abuse of recreational drugs, according to Burton (2004), has reached epidemic proportions in Australia and poses a risk of overpowering the social, economic, and heath systems. It is a real challenge to the health care workers who have to manage and take care of patients presenting with adverse effects associated with these drugs. It appears that the use of recreational drugs have been normalized among the elderly as well as the youth in Australia (Crespigny 1996). There are various factors that determine the use of recreational drugs among the elderly implemented by community health nursing in Australia (Galizio and Maisto 1985).
Social workers, alcohol and drug and mental health community nurses, and nurses especially those who offer support to the elderly in their homes have established various determinants of recreational drug use in society. These include the adverse effects that result from drug abuse such as depression, fatigue and anxiety among others (Galizio and Maisto 1985). Withdrawal symptoms can also be used to determine whether a person abuses recreational drugs. Nurses also use socio-economic factors as determinants of recreational drugs use in society.
This is due to the fact that as abuse of recreational drugs adversely affect the financial status of a person as well as well as his/her social wellbeing. Efficiency of a person is also another factor used to determine whether he/she is abusing recreational drugs (Galizio and Maisto 1985). Conclusion It can be concluded that abuse of legal and illegal drugs in Australia is a serious issue that calls for urgent attention. The social, economic, and health effects of recreational drug use among the elderly as well as the youth in Australian society are tremendous.
Alcohol and tobacco are the most abused recreational drugs in Australian society. Even though these drugs are used for purposes of leisure, enjoyment, sociability and relaxation their effects to an individual and the society are detrimental. Effects of drugs, especially alcohol, to consumers manifest in different ways and due to that reason there is no quantity of it that can be set as safe for everyone. Harm minimization is one of the main strategies employed by the government of Queensland to minimize the excessive use of recreational drugs, which is a serious danger to the public health of Australian society.
Bibliography Australian Drug Federation 2010, Drug Issues: Our Views, viewed on May 15, 2010 from http://www. adf. org. au/browse. asp? ContainerID=drugissues Burton, Kate 2004, Illicit Drugs in Australia: Use, Harm and Policy Responses, viewed on May 15, 2010 from http://www. aph. gov. au/library/intguide/sp/illicitdrugs. htm Crespigny, C 1996, Alcohol and other drug problems in Australia: the urgent need for nurse education, Collegian: Journal of the Royal College of Nursing Australia, Vol 3: 3, 23-29
Galizio, Mark and Maisto, Stephen 1985, Determinants of substance abuse: biological, psychological, and environmental factors, ISBN 0306418738: Springer Holt, Martin 2005, Young people and illicit drug abuse in Australia, social research, Vol 3 Marlatt, Alan 2002, Harm Reduction: Pragmatic Strategies for Managing High-Risk Behaviors, ISBN 1572308257: Guilford Press Queensland Government, 2010, Queensland drugs strategy, viewed on May 15, 2010 from http://www. health. qld. gov. au/atod/documents/31976. pdf