Name: Molly Salter
From: East Wenatchee, Washington
Addiction: Facts of the Crisis
25 September 2021
Addiction: Facts of the Crisis
Addiction. It’s something we’ve all heard about. Most of us have experienced it in some way, whether it be a friend or family member with addiction, seeing it in Hollywood, seeing our homeless population struggling with it, or perhaps experiencing it ourselves. It’s not a choice; it’s an illness, and in America, it’s a crisis. Our streets are virtually lined with people experiencing addiction, and as a country, we are trying, yes, but failing to address the problem. We can understand the consequences of the crisis firsthand, through the stories of those in the depths of, or recovering from, addiction; the reality is dreary. There is hope for remedy though, both on a personal and societal scale, we just need to search for the answers to resolve the addiction crisis.
The very first thing that must be addressed: we have a problem. The saying that acknowledgment is the first step towards recovery is true in this case, for both individuals and communities in the thick of the addiction crisis. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that “[t]he misuse of and addiction to opioids […] is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare” (NIDA). Addiction, specifically to opioids is a dangerous issue in America because it affects so many aspects of life in America, and it continues to grow. The addiction crisis can be seen everywhere. It is seen in mental hospitals, abusive homes, high schools, homeless shelters, etc., and the list goes on. The reason America is facing this problem is because not much has been done to combat the root of the problem in the past. If more effort and funding went into prevention rather than treatment, it would not be such a prevalent problem in our country. Education directed towards middle and high school students could prevent some students from turning to drugs or alcohol later in their life. There are many factors that contribute to why America is dealing with an addiction crisis, but at least the country is becoming aware of the problem.
As a society, most of us know what addiction is; however, not many people could list all the societal, economic, medical, and personal consequences of the addiction problem. The most direct consequences of addiction are the medical issues related to drug and alcohol use. There are physical effects, such as an increased risk of cancer, stroke, heart attack, and injury while under the influence. Overdose is also a prominent risk. Mental disorders can also come from addiction-related problems. Depression and anxiety are common examples of these. After the user’s medical effects, personal social consequences are likely the next most visible. Drug and alcohol abuse can create a financial and emotional burden on the family of the user. There is also a risk of children or babies being abused or injured while a parent or another adult is under the influence. There are also impacts on communities experiencing addiction. Some of these include increased rates of crime and homelessness. There are more fatal traffic accidents. Recent information states that “alcohol and drugs account for 52% of all traffic fatalities” (Hazelden Foundation). This means that without addiction influence, a significant number of fatal vehicle crashes could be prevented in a community. An increased rate of crime, homelessness, unemployment, and disability also have an economic impact; the United States government puts money towards disability benefits, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, unemployment benefits, and more. Many people experiencing addiction have to employ these benefits to survive. Knowing the consequences of addiction can help people in many aspects of life.
Given all the statistics and consequences of addiction in America, the future of the crisis can seem bleak. There is, however, hope in recovery. Simply searching “addiction recovery” in a search bar delivers a national hotline number, a map with the locations of recovery centers nearby, and hundreds of websites and videos to provide help with addiction recovery. Many times, addictions start with necessary drugs and progress to more dangerous ones. In fact, the Center for Disease Control states that “people addicted to painkillers are 40 times more likely to abuse heroin” (CDC). This has an easy solution: reducing the number of painkillers prescribed to people. A common argument is that people will exaggerate or fake an injury to receive a prescription for pain medication, so the solution starts with the people most susceptible to addiction: people under the age of 25, since their brains have not fully developed. Many medical providers and pharmacies in America are employing this solution by providing alternate solutions or medications when opioid pain medication is requested or typically given. Besides being prescribed addictive pain medication, there are other more basic risk factors. These include genetic predisposition, poverty, negative environment, parental drug use, and poor education. In America today, there are growing solutions to all of these problems. Genetic tests exist which can show if a person has inherited a genetic predisposition for addiction. Medical providers can help patients by recommending these tests, and insurance companies could assist by covering some or all of the cost of these tests. Poverty is a huge issue, but working towards solutions is reasonable, and would have a drastic influence on the addiction crisis. Couple and family counseling can reduce abusive home situations that could lead to a victim turning to drugs. The list could go on, but the simple answer is that there isn’t one basic solution. If the answer to the addiction crisis were easy, America would not be struggling with it because the fix would have already been done. The biggest and most important remedy to the crisis at hand is simply awareness. Required teaching about alcohol and drugs, as well as the consequences of both, in middle and high schools across the country, would help encourage students to stay away from them. Awareness about the reality that addiction is a mental illness rather than a choice can help people be more understanding and compassionate towards those experiencing addiction; homelessness could also improve with mental illness awareness. Ultimately, there is hope for a remedy. The end of the crisis may not be coming soon, but I believe it will come.
The addiction crisis can be a daunting issue; most people would rather turn a blind eye than address it. In America, there is work being done, though it’s not nearly enough. The consequences of addiction and the crisis as a whole are scary, so it’s important to remember that remedies exist. In time, perhaps the addiction crisis will be a thing of the past; maybe the solution will be written about in history books and studied by school children. America is struggling with a widespread addiction crisis, but there is always hope for the country.