Use and Misuse of Alcohol and Drugs 437
Why people misuse drugs and alcohol
Many people end up misusing drugs and
alcohol in order to escape from problems
in their lives.
All types of people do this. But people
whose parents misused alcohol or drugs
are much more likely to try and solve their
problems in the same way. This is because
a ‘weakness’ to misuse drugs or alcohol
may be passed from parents to children.
And as children watch their parents use
alcohol or drugs to escape problems, they
learn this same behavior.
Alcohol and drug misuse is also common among people
who do not feel any hope about changing the miserable
conditions of their lives. People who are displaced from their
homes or facing desperate problems—like losing their jobs
or way of earning a living, losing family members, or being
abandoned by a partner—are also more at risk for misusing
drugs and alcohol.
Women often begin to misuse drugs or alcohol because
they do not feel that they have any control over—or power
to change—their lives.They may feel dependent upon, or at
the mercy of, their partner or male family members. And if
women have low status in the community, it may be hard for
them to value themselves.
Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol usually make all these
problems worse, and people feel even less able to improve
their lives. Instead of looking for ways to improve their
situations, most people who misuse drugs or alcohol spend
their time, money, and health on trying to avoid and forget
Dependence and addiction
When a person misuses drugs or alcohol, both the mind and the body can
begin to feel an overpowering need for the drug. When the mind feels this
need, it is called dependence. When a person’s body feels such a strong need
for the drug that she gets sick without it, it is called physical addiction.
Alcohol and some drugs can cause addiction. Once a person becomes
addicted, she will need more and more alcohol or drugs to feel their effects.
(For information about overcoming the physical addiction caused by alcohol,
see page 441.)
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012