Name: Idaly Lopez-Barraza
From: Cheraw, Colorado
There is no doubt that the United States of America is dealing with an addiction crisis. Whether it is caused by peer pressure, prescriptions, or substance abuse, the American Addiction Centers statistics state that almost 74% of adults and 4% of adolescents of ages 12-17 are suffering from a substance abuse disorder. That is such an unimaginable percentage! Adults discuss the statistics of drug abuse, but rarely do they talk about the reason why those numbers are extremely high. First of all, it is absurd that drugs and alcohol are encouraged! Teenagers get encouraged by peer pressure and sometimes even encouraged by their parents by letting them do what they wish. Nowadays, consuming alcohol, smoking marijuana, and vaping have become socially acceptable. How did it become acceptable? A huge number of people experience some sort of mental problem, whether it is stress, depression, or anxiety. Because of that, they reach for either alcohol or drugs to make them feel better. That plays a huge factor in becoming addicted to a substance. For example, If this creates a feeling of happiness, the person will continue reaching for that substance until their system builds up a tolerance, and they have to search for stronger substances to obtain the feeling of happiness. I believe that any sort of mental health program should be as easily accessed as nicotine, and with the same stigma. This leads to the topic of accessibility. Drugs are so incredibly easy to access. For example, opioids. Opioids have to be prescribed by a doctor, and when patients “claim” they are in pain, the doctor takes their word and prescribes the medicine. Oftentimes, pain was not the real reason, getting high was the motivation.
An endless list of consequences can occur for the individual as well as the society. Consequences for the addicts include, but not limited to: becoming dependent for life, going to prison, broken homes, and even death. Consequences for society, branches off the consequences for an individual. For example, if a person has become dependent on a drug for a very long time, there will be an increase in homelessness, increase in loss of child custody, increase risk of addiction for their children, increase in crime, and the list goes on. Who financially pays for this? Citizen’s tax dollars. Another reason our society is affected, the child of an addict will take the examples of their parents into account and continue the same path through future generations. People are not doing enough to prevent addiction in society, and if some are, there are not enough people willing to step up.
I have witnessed almost every student at my school inhaling juuls, including middle school students. There are three reasons why those students might carry juuls: they were peer pressured, they want to be cool, or they experience a mental health problem. I personally know teens that suffer from mental health problems, some that suffer from peer pressure, and some that suffer from acceptance. Their reasons for carrying a juul are different, but they all carry them nonetheless. The great news, it is not impossible to change. Our generation can provide a cure for this tragic crisis happening still to this moment. To the readers reading this, you as the individual can teach your children to stay away from drugs. Families can become role models and set good examples by avoiding using any addictive substances and by having conversations about the hazards of using illegal substances. Schools can substantially educate their students and demonstrate the dangers of drugs. States can ban juuls and increase drug testing. The nation as a whole can change the way we view alcohol and drugs. It’s odd how our nation views alcohol as okay but alcoholism is shameful. Smoking marijuana is seen as okay but to use it as a gateway drug, it is also considered shameful. Don’t make it shameful for the people currently suffering from addiction to go to rehab and reach out for help. Instead, make it socially acceptable to get that help so recovering addicts can share their struggles to prevent the youth of our country from becoming dependent on illegal substances. Once our leaders take action to slow down this addiction crisis, then we will see a positive and greater impact for future generations to come.