Name: Hannah I...
From: Fountain Hills, AZ
School: Arizona State University
Fighting Addiction: A Crisis that affects everyone
3 August 2020
Unfortunately, the United States is suffering a crisis of addiction. I personally have been affected by others in my family who are addicted to alcohol, and my boyfriend has an uncle, who he used to be very close to, who has become addicted to heroin and is now homeless. My boyfriend and his family have shown so much love to his uncle, welcoming him into their home when he was trying to get clean, but unfortunately he keeps falling back into his addiction. My highschool best friend has also fallen victim to addiction. I am not sharing this for pity, but rather to shed light on the fact that there are tens of thousands of Americans with similar experiences and stories, and this crisis is truly heartbreaking to anyone affected. There a quite a few different theories as to why this crisis is hitting the US so hard, but in my view, untreated mental illness is the biggest contributor to the addiction crisis in the United States, as people suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. are not receiving the care they need, they often will pursue other ways to drown out their damaging thoughts and memories.
On the individual level, the dependence on drugs can worsen the mental illness they are hoping to self medicate for, destroy relationships with family friends, and cause the person to become a slave to their own addiction. In many cases those that are homeless due to addiction begin to do things they would never normally do, in order to gain more of the substance they are addicted to. They can be put in compromising positions by people taking advantage of their addiction, and this can lead to the addicted becoming victims of sex trafficking or other horrible forms of “slavery” due to their addiction.
To the families and friends of the addicted, this also causes extreme stress and concern for the well being of someone they care about. On a broader scale, in some cases the families and friends of the addicted are put at risk, as the very dangerous people who often take advantage of the addicted may threaten the people their victim cares about in order to gain more leverage over them. I personally have experienced the fear of being threatened by one of these dangerous people, and the fear and helplessness that comes with it; as well as the horrible feelings of watching people in my life lose themselves and their values due to dependence on dangerous substances. I have watched some of the most driven people I know lose their personalities and their willingness to survive due to addiction, and I am sure that others who have experienced this will agree that there is no level of helplessness and pain that quite matches this experience.
The best thing that we, as Americans can do to help this addiction crisis is through multiple avenues. First, to educate children as early as possible about the realities of drug addiction. Not just the health effects, but also the effects on friends and families, and the loss of a person’s individuality that results from addiction. Secondly, to destigmatize the treatment of mental illness, and educate children on these as well as teaching parents how to identify these illnesses early on. Lastly, the best way to stop this is to encourage the “war on drugs” to stop playing politics. We need to encourage the government to stop trading up for the bigger fish, and to instead be diligent in arresting those we know are involved and forcing the leaders of cartels to come out in the open so that we may arrest them as well. If we cut out the pawns, the King has to come out, and by keeping the “pawns” on the streets, the US government is inadvertently trading lives for the small chance of taking down the biggest players in drug cartels. We must pressure the government to switch strategies, as this war on drugs is simply not working.