Name: Briaunna Berger
From: Annapolis, MD
Everyone Has a Story
Addiction is when someone is dependent on something, believing they can’t function without it. Regarding drugs, addicts become a prisoner to them, giving up their entire life just to feel the high. 8.8% of our nations people have used heavy drugs just in the past month. The fact that this percent exists is frightening because of all the genetic, environmental, and developmental factors that influence risk for addiction. In other terms it is becoming more and more common for someone to try a drug once in their life and get instantly hooked to it. There is about 86% of teenagers who know someone who uses drugs or drinks, along with 50% of teenagers who follow in their footsteps. Therefore, in order to prevent the start of drug use we must start teaching the younger generations about the hard truths concerning drugs and their consequences on lives. We must normalize involvement in different mental health programs and treatments to reassure that kids and teens know healthy and useful ways to handle their situations.
“I’ll be back, I’m going to stay the night at my friend’s house.” The phrase from a mother to her daughter seems harmless from the outside looking in. It would seem that the daughter shouldn’t fear, her mother will be back by the morning. The daughter doesn’t need to stay up until 3am waiting for a phone call or text, her mother will be back by the morning. Again, these are things people from the outside looking in would assume. They wouldn’t think about the 12% of children who have a parent dependent on a drug or substance. They wouldn’t know that same mother told her 11-year-old daughter she would be back in an hour but didn’t return for 4 years. The thing that most people don’t understand is how addiction effects far more than just the addict alone.
My mother has had a dependency on drugs my entire life. However, it did not start to drastically affect my life until I was eleven, when she left the family for her dependency. It was a constant emotional rollercoaster. I would not hear from her for days, weeks, or months, but when I did hear from her, she would make promises she couldn’t keep. On my 12th birthday my mom called and said she would come to my birthday party (after not seeing her for about a year). I was the most excited I have ever been in my life. I wore my best clothes and a smile all morning. When I got to my grandmother’s house my mom called explaining that she missed the train she was supposed to take and would take the next one available. As time went on my dad had to sit me down and tell me that my mom called and told him she was not coming. When he told me, I was defeated. Tears streamed down my face as my family tried comforting me. After a while, my nana decided to take a different approach and created a “therapeutic cupcake smashing rage”. I smashed and destroyed all my cupcakes that were prepared for me as the rest of my family cheered me on. Though this story had a humorous ending, it does not take away the pain that my mother’s actions had on not only me but everyone in the family that witnessed the chain of events. When we think about addicts and addiction, we need to realize that person belongs to a family of people that needs them to get help as much as the addict alone needs it.
My mom endured a lot of trauma while growing up, which caused her a lot of emotional pain. This led her to turn to drugs, masking the pain that she had built up. She used drugs to cover up the feelings she had pushed down throughout her entire life. What a majority of society fails to understand is that everyone has a story which holds reasoning behind their actions. If we want to lower the number of addicts in society rather than focusing on their addiction, we must focus on the why and how they can get help. In 2019 there was a total of 15,961 substance abuse treatment facilities in the United States, however in just 2015 alone there were roughly 21 million Americans that had a substance abuse problem. One of the reasons this number has just been rising through the years is because there isn’t enough awareness and availability in treatment facilities for the amount of people that need them. A way to be sure that these facilities are accessible for everyone who needs them could be to create more programs throughout the United States and having people in a position of authority influence the advantage of them. In 2010 the Affordable Care Act(ACA) was passed, expanding coverage to health insurance, which included substance abuse treatment facilities and mental health services. However, in 2011, 37.7% of people who needed help with their addiction stated that they did not have the money for rehabilitation. Since the ACA is still present, by simply having those in a position of authority put more emphasis on specific rehabilitation or different resources to get help, the number of people in jail for drug use could lessen.
It is said that there are 95,000 deaths caused by excessive alcohol use, and around 69,000 deaths caused by a drug overdose. To lower these numbers we must recognize the truths about addiction and share them to younger generations, teaching them healthy ways to handle different situations they are put in. Along with this, getting help and being involved in different mental health programs should be normalized for everyone. This would decrease the chance of teenagers picking up a beer bottle or drugs. As for people who already have a heavy addiction, society should recognize that they are just people who are sick and need help rather then just seeing them for their actions alone can make a change. Rather than society putting addicts in a category of criminals, they should be viewed as people who need help getting back on their feet. This includes people in a position of authority assisting addicts with getting help instead of punishing them. Following these ideas and steps will not solve the alcohol and drug abuse problem overnight, however if we work together, we can help spread awareness and hopefully save lives and future generations.