The state of drug dependence or addiction arises from repeated administration of a drug on a periodic or continual basis. Drugs are substances which have a debilitating effect on the mind, central nervous system and general health. Addiction undermines the physical, mental and spiritual competence of individuals. The addictive process usually begins with what is considered to be normal or accepted within society. To take alcohol or chemicals to alleviate strain and stress has a long and almost universal pedigree. It is in the nature of addictive substances that an increasing dosage is required which activates the desire to take the next dose. This is the accumulative effect of drug taking.
Drug dependence has become a world-wide problem, but it seems what was a problem among the lost generation of drop-out youth in the West has turned East, presenting Asia with a vast home-grown problem. In Malaysia, for example, the government has declared the heroin problem the 'No 1 enemy'. Sixty percent of the world's heroin output is now consumed in Asia, and despite increasingly punitive laws against its use, heroin addiction is still increasing at an alarming rate among Asia's teenagers and young adults. In 1984, in Malaysia there were known to be 9,000 addicts, though the actual figure is reckoned to be nearer 500,000; in Pakistan the number has grown to 100,000 in only three years; in Thailand, of 33,000 addicts in treatment centres, nearly 30,000 are heroin cases. In 1990 it was estimated that about 5.5 million people in the USA required treatment for drug dependency, namely over 2% of the population. It was further estimated that the costs to the USA of drug-related crimes was $5 billion in tangible losses to victims of 9 million drug-related crimes, and a further $30 billion in other annual costs relating to such crimes.
Alcohol use and abuse is seen as the most serious element in the whole spectrum of drug or substance abuse. Alcoholism, drug abuse and smoking are increasing at an alarming rate in every nation. Young people and ethnic minorities are amongst those most heavily effected and they continue to be a target of the promotional efforts which seek to increase the sales and profitability of these substances. The root cause of this appalling global problem may be found in the social and economic conditions which lead to fear, unemployment, isolation, loneliness, dissatisfaction and the need to be socially accepted. The economic and political forces behind the traffic of alcohol and drugs are powerful and efforts to restrict, control or legislate the traffic have met strong resistance, not in the least because of the financial implications of decreased production and consumption. Few commodities are advertised as ruthlessly as alcohol and tobacco. A recent WHO Study reveals massive advertising and exploitation in the third world: 'Indeed, in the third world countries, the alcohol and drug problems constitute a serious obstacle to socio-economic development and threaten to overwhelm the health services'. (WHO 1980)
The social use of alcohol, tobacco and tranquillizing drugs is old and widespread. The majority of moderate users show no signs of any ill-effects. The economy of many nations would be seriously disrupted by the ending of trade in alcohol and tobacco. The profitability of large pharmaceutical industries in some developing countries depends on the widespread use of dangerous drugs.