Name: Brendan Armstrong
From: Tempe, Arizona
Addiction Awareness Scholarship
November 20th, 2020
Addiction Awareness Scholarship
Addiction is a very deep and intricate word that holds a different meaning, painful memories and experiences for each and every human being. We all have some type of experience with addiction and have been effected by it in someway whether it is someone we know or if it is ourselves. I have first hand experiences with battling an addiction to nicotine, and even though it is legal it still helped me understand the dependency and loss of control so many people face with addiction. It is one of our countries most significant problems and we need to find a solution because as a result of addiction to drugs we have lost more than seven hundred thousand American lives due to overdoses from 1999 to 2017. If there was a virus going around killing that many Americans we would lose our mind and find any solutions we could so why are we not fixing our addiction problem.
I believe that America is a top front runner in the addiction crisis around the world. I believe that our society/culture, drug companies, influencers and privilege all play a huge factor in the problem. Some may blame individual specific things but I think it is one broad build up of contributions from all sorts of areas of our lives. First off looking at society itself you can link it to addiction problems in America, even though it may be on of the less obvious contributors to point out it is a huge player. We live in a consumer society where you have to fit into a specific “mold” or you are doing something wrong. “You need to get your college degree or you wont succeed in life”, “you need to look like this model or you are overweight, you need to wear these newest clothes and have this makeup to be attractive” there are millions of standards set by our culture and society that form one giant mold of the “model person”. I think nowadays we have so judgement around us in our lives and are so pressured to be like everyone else that it leads millions and millions of Americans to depression which in turn to cope with the feelings of sadness etc. people turn to drugs or alcohol to solve the problem. Using these things to cope, eventually leads to dependency on them and begins the terrible path of addiction. Moving on to drug companies, in 1999 pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients did not need to worry about being addicted to prescription pain killers. These pain killers were mainly opioids and they started to be prescribed at an alarmingly fast rate. The fallout was disastrous and for the last eighteen years the United States has watched the fallout of how addictive these painkillers were and how many people have died as a result of them. In the topic of influencers, I am referring to movie stars, musicians, social media stars and so on. These “idols” of society have definitely contributed and even fell victim to the addiction crisis in many different ways. For the last sixty years and on musicians have been referring to drugs in their music as a way to cope with problems or take the edge off, which has created a whole phenomenon in the music industry. It has led to a whole culture based on drug use as a “cool” thing to do and kids want to try these drugs to be like their favorite artist who raps about “popping pills” among other things. Even to movie stars and social media influencers, this drug popping alcohol drinking lifestyle has been built up into what it means to live like a “Rockstar” and this has definitely added to the problem. Our privilege and access to prescriptions also does not help our case as a country fighting this crisis. It is so easy to go to the doctor and explain some type of pain or problem and get written a prescription for some drug. I’m not downplaying the medical industry but more focusing on the fact that due to insurance and access to so many options, its extremely easy for Americans to get prescription painkillers. These are all reasons that America has an addiction crisis but lets look at the consequences.
At any given time , approximately 10 percent of the US population is abusing drugs and alcohol. The costs associated with drug and alcohol abuse as a result of addiction are a whopping 600 billion dollars in lost revenue, health care, legal fees and damages a year. The question of how addiction affects society itself and even us as individuals is extremely easy to understand once we look at what it directly effects and then proceed to examine the trickle down or chain effect that these initial changes lead to. Drug abuse and addiction is associated with higher rates of foster care child placements, child abuse, college sexual assaults, work related injuries and lost productivity. Addiction leads people to commit crimes in order to obtain the funds to be able to get more of whatever drug or substance that they are addicted to. So in a nutshell, as a result of the health care burden from addiction, we as tax payers actually have to end up paying more in tax dollars to cover the burdens of these expenses. Addiction leads to many imprisonments as well and with nearly fifty percent of federal prison populations incarcerated due to drugs, us as tax payers are left again to pay more in taxes to cover the expenses of keeping these inmates in prison. We are effected by addiction financially without even directly knowing it and that blows my mind. As a college student I have seen and even written essays about many students addicted to alcohol and how we have to find some type of solution. Ninety five percent of violent crimes on college campuses across the country, including sexual assault are as a result of alcohol and with thirty three percent of college students admitting to binge drinking and having an alcohol addiction it is pretty clear that these two things go hand and hand. We are in more danger, paying more in taxes and insurance premiums, we have increases in child abuse and neglect, we have more criminals incarcerated and more deaths all as a result of this addiction crisis in our country.
The relieving thing to know about many of the problems that we are presented as human beings is that there is usually a solution for the good majority of them. As a society we can make sure that there are more resources available to our citizens in all aspects of daily life so nobody is without the opportunity to get help, these can be things like billboards with crisis hotlines, therapists, support groups and addiction centers. We could also let the public see the effects and hear the stories of what addiction does to families, communities and individuals to raise awareness and fear of addiction. We can also put more funding into better practices and therapies for pain management that are not drugs or even addictive drugs. Over time we have found much healthier remedies for physical pain such as physical therapy so the more we can unlock safer remedies for pain the more progress we will have. Speaking first hand out of experience, as someone who was addicted to nicotine I know how intense it can be and how it can takeover your life and thoughts. On a more individual level we can aim more at not letting companies like JUUL, mass advertise nicotine products to teenagers across the country. JUUL caused millions and millions of teens across the country to be addicted to nicotine so with better restrictions on companies advertisements we can avoid these problems. As a country we have to get more Americans to understand the intensity and fallout effects of addiction on us as individuals and a society. By doing this, we can open up more doors of solutions and be more unified on a common cause to fight the crisis together. With determination, focus and knowledge of the problem we can end this crisis and save lives.