Name: Cayton Ortiz
From: Phoenix, Arizona
A Modern Pandemic in a Post-Pandemic World
The insidious disease of addiction dismantles communities nationwide. In 2019, the CDC reported 70,980 drug overdose deaths in the United States. Over 50,000 of these deaths were reported to have resulted from opioid abuse. All the while, alcohol related deaths claim approximately 95,000 lives each year. Even more staggering, 480,000 deaths result from tobacco alone. There is no debate to whether or not addiction plagues our country. However, it becomes difficult to pinpoint why this disease has festered to the size it currently has.
Liquor stores, drug dealers, the dark web, and dirty doctors offer an uncanny availability to mind altering substances all across the country. The modern world has progressed at a previously unfathomable rate. The easy access to drugs and alcohol consistently tempt the struggling addict, and lead astray the generation to come. It would seem that for every problem man’s technological advancements have solved, two additional issues arise.
The glorification of substance abuse compounds this societal issue further. Movies, television, sports, and music all contribute to a skewed concept of addiction. Perhaps the most easily influenced in our communities, the youth, are especially at risk. Drug addiction and alcoholism often develop in adolescence when the brain has yet to fully develop. Addiction rewires the reward centers of the brain and catastrophically creates psychological and physical dependence. From here, the cycle becomes very hard to break.
Addiction and alcoholism inadvertently effect everyone in the communities where this disease is found. Family members, friends, and the addicts loved ones can become directly devastated by the addict/alcoholic’s actions. Losing a loved one to drugs or alcohol destroys families all across America and, even the world. Addiction does not discriminate against race, creed, social status, or religion. Everyone is effected in some way, big or small.
Addicts often experience a sense of hopelessness and try to escape this feeling by self medicating. Escaping uncomfortable feelings and emotions caused by addiction later becomes one of the biggest motivators for the addict to continue using. This vicious cycle often ends in incarceration, insanity, or even death. However, hope is never truly lost and addicts can recover!
Education, rehabilitation, support systems, and understanding are all key to eradicating addiction from our communities. Teaching the youth at an early age the unfiltered dangers of substance abuse can potentially save lives. It is not enough to teach children to ‘just say no.’ It would be wise to teach the youth that addiction is a disease of the brain, that does, in fact, influence behavior. Rehabilitation centers offer some of the most promising results to addicts who are currently struggling with the mental and physical obsession of addiction. Support systems are crucial to the success of an addicts recovery, as it is nearly impossible to ‘white knuckle’ sobriety by hanging on to will power alone. Understanding and sympathy are my suggestions to those who are not afflicted with this terrible disease. It is important to understand that the addict or alcoholic must truly want the change for themselves before aid is given. Toxic and co-dependent relationships often hurt the addict more than they help them.
For such a complex problem, I wish I had more of a simple solution. As a recovering addict myself I know that, somedays, sobriety is that simple. On the hard days I try to remember that even those aren’t as bad as they seem. While I was here writing this essay, I remembered how very lucky I am. I remembered my dearly departed friends and what they meant to me. They all had such beautiful souls. For a long time, I had tried to forget and escape the pain I had felt initially as I grieved their loss. I know now that they are never truly lost to me. It’s just as the clichés you might hear people say at funerals. Perhaps that is why they are said at all. I hope you know, whoever you are, that the fight is worth it. Push yourself to be uncomfortable, abandon all your creature comforts, and I promise you will love who you will become when doing what is right.