Name: Cassandra Power
From: Lake Forest, CA
Education is the key
Addiction is no joke in this country. Overdose is one of the leading causes of death in America. The lack of education and the stigma of substance abuse is the biggest hindrance in this fight against the addiction crisis. As a former addict and someone who grew up in the United States, I can attest to the fact that we need to educate the country, starting with the youth. I do not think that “red ribbon week”, a week dedicated to education about drugs and alcohol is enough. A single week to educate is just not enough. I believe having an entire semester dedicated to the education of the impact, the severity and the dangers of drugs and alcohol is needed. There should be more proper education on what happens mentally and physically to a person when they become an addict. The education should not just be on how dangerous these substances are but also education on how to create and maintain healthy coping skills.
When you get down to the root of the cause, I believe it is the lack of knowledge of healthy coping skills. If you know how to manage stress, and there is plenty of stress in young adult lives nowadays, you do not need to turn to substances to run away from your feelings. You can tackle any obstacle put in front of you if you have the right tools in place. For example, when I was in my teens, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I did not have the tools to manage the anxiety that came with the diagnosis and treatment at such a young age. At home, the only words I received were to stay away from drugs and alcohol, but I did not understand the severity of what delving into those substances would mean. It was not talked about in school the dangers of what addiction was. One week was all that was dedicated to that topic, and still not much was said about it. The more open teachers are to talking about substances, whether it be their own stories or bring in speakers to talk about their story, the more comfortable young adults will be to ask questions and decide for themselves. If I would have fully understood what I was getting myself into and what my road was about to look like, maybe I would have steered clear of substances.
Another reason for this crisis of addiction that is plaguing this country is the lack of support for addicts, whether it is not having enough rehabilitation services or the expensive prices placed on getting sober. Most people who are addicted do not know of the resources available to them. Those that do know about the resources can not afford it. Most insurances do not cover mental health and substance abuse. Medication assisted treatment has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to treat substance abuse, but most can not afford the medications. In most states, Medicaid does not cover residential treatment.
The consequences of addiction on the individual is devastating. It breaks you down, not just physically but mentally and spiritually. Most people are dual-diagnosed, which means they have a mental illness along with their addiction. If they are not dual-diagnosed, their use of substances will cause them to develop depression or anxiety. This just causes a vicious cycle of “I’m depressed because I use, and I use because I am depressed”. There is also a pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization that comes with using. One begins to lose their soul and self hatred begins to creep in.
Society faces consequences when it comes to substance abuse also. It can affect the workforce because your co-workers have picked up the slack when the addict does not show up for work, or their quality of work is subpar. Loss of productivity affects the employers. Drug related incarcerations are an important consequence as well. With an increase in substance abuse, society sees an increase in child abuse and neglect, an increase in domestic disputes, rates of homelessness and poverty rise, there is a burden on the health care system, and in increase in violent crimes.
There are some possible solutions to remedy this crisis of addiction in our nation. One possible idea is to add more counselors to the schools. With increased counselors to offer services to the youth, we can nip the problem before it gets a hold of the young individual. Offer support when they need it the most so they do not turn to drugs and alcohol to solve their problems. Another possible solution is to offer more rehabilitation services at affordable prices. More education for practitioners is needed as well. If the doctors, nurse practitioners, social workers and therapists are educated in how to deal, manage and support addictions, they will be better equipped to help support addicts. We also need to crack down on prescribers who are handing out pills like they are skittles. Involving the media I believe can have a big impact on society. Teaching the masses, not only about their options for treatment, but also on impact and dangers of substance abuse.