Name: Sydney Mae Anderson
From: Gilbert, AZ
Addictive Personality: The Forgotten American Drug Crisis
Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign
Seasons in Malibu
17 September 2020
Addictive Personality: The Forgotten American Drug Crisis
As seasons come and go, the American public passes through phases of soft, sterile care and detached dissent towards those who have fallen victim to drug and alcohol addiction. There is an annual campaign blitz pushing for a firmer understanding of the psychological toll of addiction; there is always a call for better, cheaper treatment and the humanization of its victims. However, once the dust settles and the bitter, callous face of alcoholism and drug abuse shows its face the greater public is scared away and those in need of help are left abandoned again. Everyone wants to care for the ill until they have to care for the symptoms too.
In the summer of 2018, a group of four siblings were separated from their parents, the reasoning being: the youngest child was born addicted to heroin. This was not the first time the family experienced something of the sort, but it would be the last. As the children filtered back into the state’s detached care, the oldest being only eleven years old, they knew the drill and were under the impression that they would be returning home as soon as there was an opening at the courthouse. Each one had been born with some affliction, each one worse than the last. However, they always found their way back to the start, with their parents. Despite this, the months dragged on and parental visits spaced farther and farther apart. Eventually, it was discovered that the parents signed away their rights to the children; they would be wards of the state and bounce from foster home to foster home until an adequate adoptive family was found. Drugs were more important than four kids, one still suffering in the intensive care unit. How did drugs outweigh family, and how has the system allowed it?
As a nation, America has an extended record of mismanaging addiction crisis’. Most notably, the Reagan administration welcomed in an era of hostile criminalization disproportionately aimed towards communities of color, especially black communities. Harsh, false stereotypes were placed on the people in these neighborhoods that have failed to fade up to now. This promoted the incongruous idea that the drugs rampant in communities of color were due to the fault of individuals and they should be held responsible for the “war on drugs”. This led to a spike in police presence that directly caused a rise in criminal charges and imprisonment. In turn, a facade spread over the American public that pointed the blame to a single source. The commencement of the War on Drugs highlighted existing racial tensions and minimized responsibility from affluent communities. If authority figures have a set vision of the cause of America’s drug crisis (especially if this vision maintains their authority and opulence) this is the reasoning that will be fed to the general public. However, this was beyond counterproductive and did more harm than help; pointing blame at a sole source for a prevalent matter of contention sprouts misconceptions and misinformation, making matters worse.
Recently, America has only begun to reassess how to combat the drug crisis, with the widespread legalization of marijuana and Oregon going as far as decriminalizing all hard drugs in a delayed attempt at retracting past grievances. Established laws have already put countless in prison, convicted of crimes that are no longer crimes, and attempts at revising these are met with unbridled discontent fueled by decades of misinformation. It is easy to reason why decriminalizing substances thought to be nothing more than life-ruining would invoke negative emotions. However, a single step forward is better than nothing at all, and when addiction makes headline news it forces viewers to evaluate their views on the subject matter.
Addiction is a cycle; it can be generational or independent, but the characteristics remain. Being born addicted already establishes a heightened sensitivity to becoming addicted to some harmful substance or action; their brain is already wired to crave that connection. Additionally, receiving a single charge related to illegal substances — such as selling, distributing, or carrying — can lead to hefty fines or prison time (which also induces monetary dilemmas that often provoke continued abuse) and makes it incredibly difficult to find employment and rise out of the depths of addiction. This is why a common mantra expresses the belief that a single mistake should not be a life sentence. Forcing a disadvantaged position is entrenched in the American legal system and actively goes against campaigns fighting for education and aid towards addiction. Actions speak louder than words, and it is well past the time to start acting like the lives of addicts matter and can be helped.
America has dug its heels into a facade of a War on Drugs and the remedy is overdue. The track now depends on accessibility to accurate information and reprising old, dangerous legal doctrine. Children of drug addicts are punished for existing with more force than put into ending the drug crisis. Living in a disorganized foster system has an ugly track record of doing nothing against drug usage. Additionally, the parents are allowed to carry on as though nothing happened; rehabilitation is recommended but scarcely enforced due to the cost and lack of public options. These centers are not widely accessible, so a substitute is offered — personal support groups based around friends and family. No explanation is offered for those who live in a community of substance abusers except to miraculously leave that toxic space. A public option is necessary; more often than not those facing substance-related charges cannot afford the private sector and live a disparaging life not supporting recovery.
This is why Oregon is on the right track; rather than imprisoning offenders, it is made easier to seek rehabilitation. However, the crucial step is education. Providing resources and information to the greater public allows destigmatization and directly prompts seeking help. Addicts cannot be helped if they are not the ones looking for it. There is an unimaginable path ahead, and undoubtedly will face animosity, but for the sake of public health and wellness, it is the path that must be taken. Those four siblings are still missing home, and continue to struggle with accepting the fact that their parents gave them away for continued drug use. America has forced addicts into a box of cyclical self-harm, and there is no point in waiting to take action. Make care and education accessible.