Name: Anthony Mitchell
From: Glendale , Arizona
Addiction in America
Addiction in America
One of the biggest epidemics in recent times, before the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020, was and still is the opioid crisis. Many American people who have been claimed by drug overdose were simply addicted to a substance and succumbed to their addiction. On the surface it seems clear cut and dry, obviously we just need to regulate substances more, perhaps we could develop some safer alternatives. While this is certainly a place to start, the main issue facing America is far more insidious than this. Looking at the statistics, anxiety and depressive disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting 40 million adults age 18 or older every year (adaa.org, 2020). In addition, 20 percent of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder, such as depression, also have an alcohol or other substance abuse disorder (adda.org, 2020). That is half of the afflicted population, a shocking statistic. This is a much bigger issue that seemingly goes unnoticed, be it the taboo nature of mental health disorders in America, the falling prevalence of religion, the number of attributing factors is substantial. It clear to see that there is a shockingly large portion of Americans who feel helpless and have a sense of lost purpose. This loss of purpose can lead to anger, confusion, impulsivity, and this state of mind has a great potential to turn one to vices, to forget about the darkness of the days ahead of them.
Alcohol is a very readily available, legal, and often cheap vice that many can access. This substance is a depressant, slowing the processing ability of the brain, leading to decreased inhibitions, feelings of euphoria, and physical impairments that are deemed “fun” by society. While enjoyed responsibly, these are all true statements, however, when afflicted with an undiagnosed/unmedicated mental disorder, this is a recipe for disaster. Escaping reality only lasts so long and is only so effective so many times. Without treating the underlying issue, this is what begins to sink the roots of addiction into an addict. For the individual, this is the beginning of a long, dark path of self-destruction and harm. For society, it is the beginnings of another statistic, another overdose, another addition to the underlying problem.
Opioids are analgesic medications that bind to the opioid receptors in our brain and stop moderate to severe pain in patients that use them, they are also highly addictive. Notice how the keyword here is “patients” well, this clearly cannot be a vice, it is prescribed and heavily regulated. While this is true, 31,355 overdose deaths, nearly half of all drug overdose deaths in 2018, were synthetic opioids (CDC, 2018). Why is this happening? One could speculate that simply medicating the pain, instead of pursuing alternative methods of pain management, is the leading cause of this. As stated, these medications are heavily regulated and highly addictive, they require a prescription from a physician, and they require an additional prescription from the same physician to obtain a refill. What happens when an individual no longer receives that prescription but are still in pain? They begin to pursue other unregulated avenues. Fentanyl is one of those synthetic opioids, an extremely potent opioid at that, and it is also one of the more prevalent drugs on the street that dealers get their hands on. The same slippery slope that applied with alcohol can also be applied here, and this one is much more deadly, as a lethal dose of fentanyl is incredibly small, many have succumbed to this drug.
As a result, addiction in America has now been plastered on the front page, no longer able to be ignored, no matter how ugly and taboo. So how does one fix this? On the individual level the answer is not easy. Everyone is different, the struggles are unique to them, so there is no one answer that will fix everything. However, as discussed in the previous paragraphs, the clear root of all of this is a feeling of hopelessness and a lost sense of purpose, which leads to seeking out vices. If there was anything that would make trillions of dollars annually if it were able to be put in a pill, it is certainly exercise. One simply cannot ignore the benefits on the physical and psychological level that exercise offers. This wont work for everyone, but its certainly a broad enough foundation to start from. Being productive throughout the day is also an excellent stimulus to the mind and body. Taking pride in completing a task is a wonderful way to feel validated. Utilizing these two options as a foundation to deal with the acute effects of life is a rational place to start, and as an individual develops discipline through these activities, more and more of their life will begin to be in their control, through discipline they shall have freedom. On a personal level this has certainly been effective for me and has prevented myself from becoming a statistic as well.
On a societal level, one of the simplest things that can be done is to de-stigmatize mental health issues. Through this people will not feel forsaken to tackle this enormous task of fixing their mental health all by themselves. It is also an inexpensive solution and is already starting to be put into practice via social media. Through the de-stigmatization of mental health issues, one will be more open to ask for help, which will dig out the root cause of addiction in many, as well as avoid deaths linked to mental health disorders. One of the more advanced things that can be done is to pursue alternative methods of pain management in patients. When it is applicable, preventative methods would be the most feasible avenue to venture down, as avoiding things that create chronic pain, such as arthritis and fractured bones from falls as we age, can be prevented with proper diet and exercise. When prevention is no longer applicable, opioids are still very useful in the clinical setting. However, a good place to start in fixing addiction caused by these is to offer the patient more education on the medication they are being given, as well as offering alternative analgesics that are non-opioid in nature for when they no longer need them. These also have slowly been implemented in hospitals, and there are already results from this, as prescription opioid overdoses have declined by 13.5 percent from 2017-2018 (CDC, 2018).
Facts & Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved November 10, 2020, from https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
New Data Show Significant Changes in Drug Overdose Deaths. (2020, March 18). Retrieved November 10, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p0318-data-show-changes-overdose-deaths.html