Drug abuse, sometimes also called substance abuse, is a term used to describe the use of both legal and illegal drugs for non-therapeutic and/or non-medical purposes. Alcohol and nicotine are sometimes included in this description, as well as prescription medication that is used incorrectly and inappropriately.
It is estimated that close to 5% of the global population abuses illegal drugs each year, and the number rises higher when the abuse of alcohol, nicotine and legal drugs is added as well. One of the many side effects of drug abuse is an impairment in communication functions.
Drug Abuse and CommunicationDrug abuse affects all of the body because, when drugs are ingested or otherwise consumed, they enter the bloodstream and are carried all over. This means that harmful substances enter the brain, and when these substances affect the communication control centre then impairments in speech and language can occur. At a very basic level, drug abuse can be seen as a method of injuring the brain.
This may mean that memory and vocabulary are impaired, that the messages sent to the muscles involved in producing speech are mixed up, that the muscles involved in producing speech can weaken, that the ability to comprehend what others are saying is lowered, and that abilities in writing, reading, listening and even math skills are also affected. Depending on the type, length and severity of drug use, all types of communication can be impaired.
Speech TherapyIf speech is impaired by drug use, speech therapy may be able to rehabilitate an individual’s speech and language abilities to some extent. What occurs in speech therapy will depend upon many variables including the age of the individual, the speech difficulties experienced by the individual, the length of the session (usually between 30 and 60 minutes), whether the session is private or a group session, and the location of the session.
If individuals can still verbally communicate then activities and drills designed to boost vocabulary, learn correct grammar, practice tone and pacing and more may be the basis of therapy sessions. If individuals cannot verbally communicate then the speech therapist may be able to introduce communication aids such as books, charts or computers, or possibly even teach sign language, which may allow the individual to communicate through alternates to verbal speech.
Speech SupportIf speech has become impaired due to drug abuse then a full medical check-up should take place to ensure that no other areas of health have been affected. At this time the medical professional should be able to offer further information about the speech difficulty and possible treatment options. Speech therapists and pathologists will also be able to provide further information and support for individuals experiencing speech difficulties.
Regardless of the cause of a speech difficulty or disorder, there are a number of organisations that exist to support individuals with speech problems in the United Kingdom. Many of these organisations are devoted to providing information and advice to those who suffer from a speech disorder, while others are also committed to fundraising for further research in a specific area. Just a few of the organisations operating in the UK today include The British Stammering Association (www.stammering.org) Speakability (www.speakability.org.uk) and Talking Point (www.talkingpoint.org.uk). These organisations will be able to provide further information on specific speech disorders, as well as possible local resources for those experiencing speech difficulties.