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Substance abuse is a mental health disorder caused by multiple biological, emotional, psychological and environmental factors. 

It follows the same progression of remission and relapse as any chronic disease. It is regarded by some as a self-acquired health problem. Long-term substance abuse alters the neurological pathways in the brain that makes it harder to motivate a substance abuser to get treatment. It is estimated that 205 million people in the world have a substance abuse problem and of this number, 25 million people abuse illicit substances.

Substance abuse through intravenous drug use, a form of illicit substance abuse is responsible for the spread of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and C mainly because of sharing of needles between infected and non-infected people. Substance abuse through ingestion of substances also increases the spread of sexually transmissible diseases because these induce high-risk behaviour in drug users and abusers.
Substance abuse is usually associated with criminality and criminal behaviour as the substance abuser will have to support his substance dependence. It has been shown that substance abusers often take to small-time dealing to support their habits. It is also associated with poverty due to loss of income and productivity as well as due to the traffic and work accidents caused by the substance abuse.
Substance abuse and drug dependence are treatable. The best treatment is under a broad-based community care program. The treatment must be a multi-disciplinary approach involving psychosocial interventions. For a substance abuse treatment to be successful it must be accessible, cost-effective and it must be user-friendly.
The law enforcement community and legislators must work together to ensure that substance abusers are encouraged to enter treatment. The consequences of untreated substance abuse are an increase in crime rate, health deterioration among significant segments of the population and family and societal dysfunction. 
World Health Organisation (2008). Principles of Drug Dependence Treatment. United Nations Office of Drug and Crime. World Health Organisation [online]. Available from: [Accessed 07 May 2013]

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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