Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 Round 2 – The Addiction Epidemic


The Addiction Epidemic

The Addiction Epidemic

Gordon Turner

While addiction has been a problem throughout the history of humanity, the issue has become an increasingly prevalent topic over the past few decades. With issues regarding the legalization of certain addictive substances becoming a mainstream political discussion and recent protests over factors such as race and social class affecting those who are arrested versus treated for addiction, the topic of addiction has been gaining traction as more individuals discuss how issues surrounding the topic should be addressed. In this essay, I wish to discuss why I believe our nation is currently dealing with an addiction crisis, its consequences for both individuals and society, and some potential solutions to better remedy this crisis on both an individual and societal level.

Over the past few decades, we as a nation have become increasingly reliant on earning instant gratification whenever we can, regardless of the outcomes of such gratification practices. Many individuals cannot go anywhere without bringing their phone along to play some games or check their social media whenever they are bored or feel their attention spans waning. It has never been easier to find as many quick fixes to our problems as there are today, yet many times, these “quick fixes” simply serve to distract people from the real issues that they are experiencing rather than actually helping them solve those problems. Unfortunately, this attitude is a prime breeding ground for addiction to take its place, as many addictive substances offer instantaneous gratification from whatever problem may ail the user in the current moment without providing any benefits towards solving those problems.

In fact, these substances may only cause more problems that build up over time and because we have become so focused on masking those problems, many individuals who struggle with addiction often don’t take notice of these problems until they have reached exorbitant levels. Many addictive substances such as cigarettes and alcohol have side effects that are correlated to some of the leading causes of death in the United States, such as respiratory issues, heart disease, and various types of cancers. There are also many societal impacts that can be caused due to these issues, such as increased rape from alcohol consumption and increased rates of incarceration of non-white Americans due to the fact that many substances that are common targets of the War on Drugs are typically those that target black and Hispanic communities more than white communities.

In order to combat these issues both on an individual and societal level, there needs to be major reform in both the environments that we live in and the values that we hold in our daily lives. In terms of environmental reform, there need to be major changes to neighborhoods and communities that many individuals who are prone to addiction tend to live in. There needs to be resources available to those members so that they have the ability to get treatment if they are dealing with any addiction-related issues, as well as resources to hopefully prevent the need for those substances in the first place so that the situation does not come to fruition. We also need to reform the value that we place on hard work and effort that society has held for decades. Currently, we view hard work and effort either as a dirty goal, for those individuals who are less fortunate than us and need to utilize hard work in order to gain respect in society, or we view it as a lofty and unattainable goal that only those who are in the top 1% could ever manage to achieve in their lifetime. As a society, we need to shift our mindset to appreciate hard work and effort and not be so reliant on instant gratification to solve all of our problems. This may be difficult to achieve in our current capitalistic economy that we live in, but if our society can work together with entrepreneurs, politicians, mental health workers and many others, we can hopefully shift the conversation from craving instant gratification and appreciating that hard work can lead to much more satisfying long term results that everyone has the potential to achieve.

While the current addiction crisis is at a very large scale overall, with small, incremental changes over a fair amount of time, we can hopefully help to solve this crisis that plagues so many citizens of our nation. Addiction is a terrible disease that is afflicting many individuals, yet it is also one with many known treatment methods. We have eradicated many deadly diseases in society before, such as smallpox and polio, but it was only accomplished when we as a society decided that it would be for the best that these diseases be eradicated for good. If our society can decide that addiction is worth the same dedication to eradicate as both smallpox and polio, we can hopefully one day also be free of this deadly disease, too.