Name: Marcus N. Omabu Okafor
From: Wendell, North Carolina
SUBSTANCE MISUSE: PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS
In the United States, many people suffer from depression, chaotic home environments, poverty, and hopelessness. To cope with these problems, many use drugs to block out negative thoughts and overwhelming feelings. News reports from the past two years have caused people to feel afraid, angry, isolated, and desperate for relief. Accordingly, vulnerable people turned to drugs thinking they could cope better with life if they get a mental break. Unfortunately, many become dependent on substances and realize too late that they cannot stop the habit as quickly as they started it. Before coronavirus, people had more opportunities to distract themselves. Since schools, churches, offices, and recreational centers closed, people had few outlets. Spending more time at home, fearing getting sick or their loved ones getting sick, and likely experiencing more financial stress led more people to turn to drugs. Another reason people turn to drugs is to enjoy an intoxicated time with friends so they can have a bonding experience. Many individuals use drugs as an experiment and to fit in with others.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (2020), our nation had significant problems with substance misuse before the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020) reports that 13% of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19. The consequences for individuals misusing substances are poorer health, safety-related problems (e.g., accidents caused by driving while impaired), work-related performance problems, and difficulty sustaining healthy relationships. These problems worsen mental health by lowering self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-respect. Their decisions impact others affected by accidents, conflict, and diminished work ethic. Others might sustain injuries, develop sleep problems or irritability, and lose their ability to support their families. Police, therapists, doctors, hospitals, churches, neighborhoods, and families have to deal with these situations. Instead of people working together to build on a strong foundation, they spend more time repairing damages.
As a nation, we need to face our problems. Law enforcement has its place. Preventive efforts will make a bigger impact. We need to admit the things we do not like and make an effective plan to change them. We need to check on our family members, friends, coworkers, and others in the community to notice when they seem different and help them identify options for real solutions to their problems. What helps me in my life is my family, church, friends, school, and sports. These supports have allowed me to focus on more positive things and find happiness with individuals who care about me.
SAMHSA (2020). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt29393/2019NSDUHFFRPDFWHTML/2019NSDUHFFR1PDFW090120.pdf
Czeisler, M.E., Lane, R.I., Petrosky, E., Wiley, J.F.; Christensen, A., Njai, R.; Weaver, M.D.; Robbins, R.; Facer-Childs, E.R.; Barger, L.K.; Czeisler, C.A., Howard, M.E., & Rajaratnam, S.M.W. (2020 August 14). Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. Weekly. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm.