Name: Makayla Hall
From: Lexington, SC
The Disease of Addiction
The Disease of Addiction
My mom left the car and started toward the house where I caught a glimpse of a grimy, wretched man standing in the doorway. While the trees towered above, the wind shook the tattered siding of the house as the rickety steps were about to collapse. I was told to stay put, not knowing that I would be left alone for what felt like an eternity. I was 8 years old, sobbing uncontrollably, and longing for my mother to return. I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw her appear again.
Only knowing then that my mom wasn’t well, I fully understood what had happened years later; she was an addict and I would seldom see her again. For years I felt abandoned, unworthy, and hopeless. Why did the person who was supposed to protect and love me choose to leave me?
Unfortunately, addicts will choose drugs over everything in their life, no matter how detrimental it may be. I got to experience this first hand with my mom, but over twenty million people in the US are drug addicts (American Addiction Centers). America is facing an inescapable drug crisis that has had many destructive effects. According to the National Drug Institute on Drug Abuse, “In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates.” Consequently, this led to the misuse of prescription drugs and it became evident that these drugs were highly addictive. I believe that America is being immensely affected by the illness of addiction because doctors are constantly prescribing opioids to people, they become addicted, and before they know it, they are trying new drugs like heroin and meth. In an opioid documentary, “Chasing the Dragon”, addicts shared their stories regarding their experiences with addiction. One man, Matt, stated that “Being addicted to opiates is like chasing a dragon. You’re constantly seeking that first high. But what’s going to happen if you actually catch it?” This is an excellent representation of the vicious cycle that opioid addicts are forced to face.
Additionally, addiction has many damaging consequences, not only for the individual but for all of the people around them. Addiction affects the addict, their family and friends, and society as a whole. From the documentary, “Chasing the Dragon”, Melissa explained that “Heroin became my best friend. Um, heroin became the love of my life. I put heroin before my family. I put heroin before my children, and I thought that I couldn’t do nothing in life anymore without heroin.” This accentuates the damage that drug addiction can do to families and other people close to them. Every addict builds a dependence on the drug, which forces them to not be able to function without it. They must chase that next high, no matter the cost. Not only will addicts choose drugs over their families, but they will commit crimes to get drugs. An article by Gianna Rose describes the effects of addiction on society, the three biggest ones being crimes, health care costs, and child abuse and neglect. She also stated that “The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that approximately 70 percent of state prisoners and 57 percent of federal prisoners used drugs on a regular basis before incarceration.” Murders and robberies are constantly occurring from people trying to obtain drugs. We as a society are continuing to suffer due to this mental illness. We must do something about it.
One thing that is essential for solving this addiction crisis is changing the societal outlook regarding the issue. Addicts are not getting the treatment they need due to the shame and stigma that surrounds being an addict. The Maryland Addiction Recovery Center states that “we need to all come together and acknowledge addiction is a disease and a health issue, not a moral failing or an act of criminality” (Snitzer 4). Once we acknowledge that addiction is an epidemic that is not only destroying the individual addicts but the society as a whole, we will be able to treat addicts as we would any other health problem. On an individual level, an addict is not going to get treatment simply because everyone else wants them to, rather, they must want it for themselves. Therefore, there ought to be an incentive that will drive addicts towards wanting to be clean. Because positive punishment is proven to be a more effective form of operant conditioning, addicts need to receive an abundance of positive punishment and motivation in order for them to want to change their behavior. Most often, addicts are treated with negative punishment, such as being put in jail and getting their kids taken away. Although those things are necessary, addicts also need incentives that will give them a reason to stay clean during and after treatment. As a nation, it is our obligation to attack this disease from a societal and individual level to experience a real change.