Name: Andrea Valle
From: North Highlands, California
Addiction: Let’s Educate it Away
Addiction: Let’s Educate it Away
By: Andrea Valle
Addiction is the urge or the craving to do something that is hard to control and more importantly, it’s hard to stop. Addiction is a word that all of us can be familiar with in some way. That familiarity often comes from experience, be it with a family member or in a personal sense. At the least, the familiarity can be seen on the television, in books, or in magazines. According to the addiction center, almost 21 million Americans have at least one addiction and what’s worse? Only 10 percent of those people seek treatment (Yerby, 2020). Something has to be done. A large part of helping this cause has been to raise awareness and educate people on what substance abuse looks like and what its longterm effects are. It’s important to understand why substance abuse might occur, and the signs it is occurring. The more we know, the more we can help any situation.
One of the first steps to change is understanding why it is happening in the first place. I believe there are a few reasons addiction is so prevalent in our nation. One of the reasons is that more Americans are treating chronic pains. Statistics show that 126 million Americans complain of pain that needs treatment by medication (Yerby, 2020). Personally, I have friends that broke a bone or got into a car accident, and they were prescribed norco or hydrocodone. When their medication ran out, they bought more pills through dealers. For a lot of these friends, the pain was chronic, but for some of my friends, the pills became a way of life. And several of my friends moved on to harder drugs like oxycodone and heroin. There is no doubt about it, pain medications can be very addicting. However, pain is just that, pain, and people are forced to seek treatment, simply to get through their day to day functions. This leads to my next point. Americans are understanding and dealing with their own stress. There are quite a few stressors in our world right now… People work longer hours and more days to maintain a comfortable income… Politics have been all over the place as the country struggles with feeling more divided than ever… Covid hit us this year, and stalled people’s livelihoods. There are so many reasons people have started leaning on to substances to make it through the day. People use alcohol to calm their minds and manage some of their stressors. There are drugs that create euphoric feelings. There are medications to numb pain. Substances take off the edge, but at what point is every day use of substance due to a bigger problem than life stress? Lastly, substance abuse and addiction has become more prevalent in our nation due to the fact that casual drug and alcohol use has become acceptable in society. The 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s took the party scene to the next level (Why Is American Drug Use On The Rise and What Can Be Done? 2020). Our favorite rock stars were getting drunk and high right on the television. As years went on, we’ve entered the 2000’s desensitized to substance abuse. Furthermore, casual use of alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, and pills has been seen as a normal part of life experimentation. I think once it became normal to have tried a little of bit of this and a little bit of that, the qualitative measure of “little bit” has been skewed. One person’s little bit of party drug use can be once a month, and another person’s might be once a week. All in all, it’s all substance abuse that can lead to addiction.
So what are the consequences? There are a lot of consequences to be discussed, but the major ones include personal consequences, the affect of the abuse on those around us, and a simple financial burden. There is a personal consequence. Substance abuse is detrimental to your health. They’re hard on the body, and they’re hard on the mind. Abuse of alcohol harms the liver, affects our physical appearance, and even can cause sexual dysfunction, like impotence. Alcohol is also a depressant, and causes a blocking of chemical signals in the brain. Drugs affect outward appearance, as well. Substance use is seen in our skin, our hair, and even our teeth. Each drug will have its own pitfalls in our body, but all of the drugs affect the way our brain processes chemical functions. This means that our brains are forever affected. Chemical processes do not occur as they normally would. Our regular function isn’t quite so regular anymore (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020). Another consequence of substance use is the way abuse affects life around us. Use of drugs or alcohol on a regular basis will be noticeable to our loved ones. Even the most tolerant of user will absolutely affect a loved one in some way. It’s very hard not to notice when something becomes a habit to someone close to us. Most people, while using, actually have a noticeable effect. That intoxication is typically visible and will cause worry for our friends, significant others, family, and children. I grew up with a dad that’s an alcoholic, and even though the man had built a significant tolerance, I knew when he was drunk. He was easily agitated and rude. He didn’t follow through on plans. He was louder and irritated. He scared me. I watched him drink beer after beer, and it became very easy to see the correlation in behavior change and beverage consumption. Our loved ones are affected by the use of substances. The other major consequence is the effect substance abuse has on our wallets. These items are costly. In the amounts that a substance abuser uses, they are extremely costly. Also, use of one substance is absolutely a gateway to another. As inhibition falls, it doesn’t just fall for that one thing a person is craving. The fiscal impact of substance abuse starts at just casual use and can end at a person losing their home or livelihood, due to improper use of spending to feed an addiction.
The impact of substance abuse is heavy in our nation. What can we do to stop it? Firstly, we recognize the problem. The issuance of opioid prescriptions has gone down significantly from the early 2000’s to now. The problem was recognized. The pharmaceutical world was contributing to a dependence to painkillers. There are non dependent drugs that are being administered more often, and prescribing opioids has become more regulated to slow down this dependency to opioids (Yerby, 2020), Border patrol does what it can on its fight against drug trafficking. Our local police and detective divisions do their part to reduce access to substances. Keeping a person from physically receiving the substance of their choice is great, but it’s not enough. Alcohol is legal after the age of 21 in the United States. Marijuana is also slowly becoming legal within the nation. And yet, there is a dependency in these two substances that can affect your body, your loved ones, and your wallet. Therefore, the next best thing we can do is keep educating. People need to be kept aware of the affects these substances will have on their life. They need to be able to watch for warning signs of dependency, and they need to have options for help if things fall out of their hands. Education for all, including our youth. The more you know, the more you can help. The absolute most wonderful goal would be that educating our youth leads to a steady decline of use of substances as years go in. As for parents, we are the prime example for our child. That alone is enough of a reason to maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle. These are the preventative measures that will make the most impact. That want and desire to take care of ourselves and set a precedence for the youth around us. The last thing I want is for my daughter to lose her existence to substance problems. Preventative measures are very important. For those that are already struggling, the acknowledgement that society has a problem is leading to more programs available in the now. There are helplines. The internet has exploded right in front of us full of ways to reach out for help. All that is needed is the want to do it. I hope as more and more people understand substance abuse and addiction, that want to take care of ourselves, and our society, will grow. I want the want to be in the know and educated on what we can do to better our society and future becomes the new addiction… This will be how we can change and have a healthier nation.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, July 10). Drugs and the Brain. Retrieved November 13, 2020, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain
Why Is American Drug Use On The Rise and What Can Be Done? (2020). Retrieved November 13, 2020, from https://unityrehab.com/blog/american-drug-use-trend-on-the-rise/
Yerby, N. (2020, September 18). Addiction Statistics – Facts on Drug and Alcohol Use. Retrieved November 13, 2020, from https://www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/addiction-statistics/