Name: Zoey Washio
The Modern World’s Addiction Crisis
The Modern World’s Addiction Crisis
When considering crises that have affected entire nations, one might first associate this with natural disasters, famine, plagues, or economic collapse. However, many may not consider the most common disaster that is practically all around us: the addiction crisis. Certain modern-day struggles that have not existed to the same extent until much recently have created an environment that practically encourages this new addiction crisis. Our health and well-being have been affected drastically by addiction, and not just the health of those that are affected by addiction directly. We must focus on humane answers to battle the heart of the crisis. Many factors have caused a rise of addiction that has inflicted a crisis on all levels of society, but there is still hope for an answer.
To evaluate the addiction crisis, we must first understand why people become susceptible to addiction in the first place. There could be many different facets in this issue, but one that is clearly a factor is increased unhappiness and a lack of meaning in life. There is no doubt that a feeling of depression and hopelessness has surged in the country over the past several decades. According to Mental Health America, in 2019, twenty percent of adult Americans, or fifty million people, reported experiencing a mental illness. Suicidal thoughts have increased by nearly five percent through 2021. More than half of these people do not receive treatment, and these issues can also worsen over time. This is a significantly worrying fact, considering nineteen percent of children ages twelve to seventeen have faced depression. As this number continues to rise, it will lead to even more adults struggling with mental health, as these people do not receive treatment. There seems to be no likely resolution to this epidemic of depression in the near future, as it’s leading causes, including stressful work situations, technology usage, and unrealistic societal expectations have not faced much improvement. People struggling with depression can in many instances not obtain the resources or cost to receive adequate treatment for their struggles. This has partly to do with the fact that many of the people who suffer from depression are unemployed or do not have access to healthcare. This in turn can lead people to taking up substance abuse, using this as an attempt to self-medicate. However, this begins to spiral out, causing worse depression and a constant dependency for more of this substance, then leading to addiction. Another root cause of the addiction crisis is the prevalence of simple-access technology and how the average person utilizes it. As technology grows increasingly more complex and informative, the average person seems to grow the opposite way, becoming more impatient and apathetic towards knowledge. It would seem that with all this information easily accessible with just a few clicks, people would be growing increasingly smart since the age of the internet. However, it seems to have gone the opposite way. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, over-technologization has had a variety of impacts on human behavior. These include attention-deficit symptoms, emotional difficulties and social isolation, and damaged brain development. Even apps and programs that are able to improve brain function and focus still continue to cause these detrimental effects. With increasing improvements, technology has taken less and less time to load or perform certain tasks, causing people’s patience to decline. As the separation between technology and reality becomes more blurred, this has led people to become more impatient for things in real life. With enough impatience, people can begin to give up on tasks. If one could simply click a few screens to get an outcome, why should they try something that requires an effort? The instant gratification mindset, in result, has led people to cling to real life addiction. In a way, one addiction has also led to the rise in others. Lack of motivation, caused by this technology addiction, can lead people into giving up on life, and end up clinging to other addictive substances and behaviors. Addiction can be used as a way of escaping the tasks of daily life, which seems to become more and more difficult to complete as the rate of technology continues to grow. Finally, another source for the addiction crisis is the increasing availability of our basic commodities being met without the individual having to do much work to obtain this. This condition has begun and progressed throughout many centuries, however in more recent years, these commodities have been abused as to make the average person have very little understanding of how to sustain themselves if these products did not exist. For example, for centuries, people have purchased their food or clothing from a seller instead of producing or creating it themselves. However, many of these people understood how to create these things themselves, and if there was ever a scarcity of these products, they would be capable of continuing on without being affected a significant amount. If people did not know how to do something themselves, most likely someone in their family or neighborhood did, and people were able to connect and work together to build their lives. However, in more modern contexts, the average person relies on distant places and people to produce the resources needed for daily lives. These products are more widely accessible and in larger variety. This creates seemingly endless options, but to what end? As people buy more and more advanced products that do more and more work for the person, this means the individual has less maintenance or day-to-day work to do. This can at first seem beneficial, in the sense that it gives people more time to focus on other aspects of life, however, this is a different reality for many people. These commodities can make them more dependent and impatient when the time comes and they face having to do this work themselves. This can in turn translate to other work they do, and people can become overall more indolent. This correlates to the addiction crisis in the sense that increased dependency can cause people to not seek out hard work as much. Accomplishing less can make people feel as if they are worthless, and even give up. People resort to substance as to fill this emptiness in their life. Depression, lack of livelihood, instant gratification, and lower expectations for the average person to accomplish have all created an environment that contributes to a rise in addiction.
It is clear that addiction has dire consequences on the individual, but it just as equally harms society as a whole. Drug and tobacco addiction, for example, can cause liver damage, a weakened immune system, severe weight changes, lung disease, and stroke. The opioid epidemic, which started from pharmaceutical companies prescribing opioid to unknowing patients, has expanded to thousands of deaths every year. Aside from a plethora of physical ailments, addiction can take a toll on mental health and well-being. Memory and attentiveness issues, lack of self-control, and disinterest or withdrawal in activities once found interesting are consequences of our nation’s all too common addictions. Addiction, in any form, makes people feel they are losing control of their life, leaving them with a sense of desperate hopelessness. When an addiction first starts out, it may affect the user’s family. One may find that this person is not only disinterested but aggressive, even violent, towards ones they care for. Children can become neglected, creating an environment that can hinder their development, affecting them for the rest of their lives. This creates a dangerous environment that could leave the children of substance abusers to become influenced by the behaviors of their parents. In addition, addiction affects more than just personal life. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, substance abuse has cost the nation more than 600 billion dollars a year. In addition, according to Amethyst Recovery Center, drug use in the workplace has caused a 81 billion dollar loss in profits annually. So much productivity and creativity has been lost because of the struggle many face with addiction. These staggering statistics prove addiction is more than just a battle on a personal level, but one that the entire nation and even world must address. Addiction has not only impacted personal life and work environments, but also people’s outlook on the world and their separation between right and wrong. Addictive substances, like drugs for example, create a surge in the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that connects the activities it is released by with a feeling of pleasure and reward. As dopamine increases, or addiction rises, one’s brain adapts, and requires a heavier dose of whatever this addicting behavior or activity may be. As addiction furthers, people’s response to stress also changes. The extended amygdala, which controls stress, begins to have more outbursts. These cause the basal ganglia, which controls dopamine levels, to further the brain’s drive to seek pleasure. People with healthy levels of dopamine are able to control this impulse using judgment. However, the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for judgment, is affected with addiction. In turn, this affects self-control and awareness. Even if people are aware something is wrong, and understand how it will negatively affect them in the long run, they will continue their actions and behavior as addiction overpowers any other thoughts, until at some point, unless it is cured, one may find it is their whole focus in life. This creates a condition of irrational people who begin to not see how their actions impact themselves and society as a whole. In turn, it creates an environment that is more tolerable of certain behaviors that a self-respecting society would not approve of. People struggling with addiction will fight tooth and nail to reassure themselves and others that their behavior does not have any serious effect, even though deep down they know the truth. Unfortunately for many, this cannot be helped, as an environment that seeks indulgence and constant gratification seems to become more commonplace. Many dangerous and unhealthy habits have been tolerated and even accepted as normal as people struggle with addiction. Addiction has deeply affected all, on a personal, familial, and societal level.
Though all this damage has seemed to create a world that has deteriorated beyond hope, there are ways we can combat the addiction crisis to find a better future for all. It is our obligation to fix what we have created, and provide a better future for generations onward. To help combat substance abuse, implementing treatment programs and strategies can help those who struggle with addiction. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, for every dollar spent on treatment, four dollars in healthcare costs and seven dollars in criminal justice costs are saved. Not only do treatment programs help to specifically combat the causes of one’s addiction directly, it saves our nation a costly expense. Instead of punishing people or giving them treatment when they are already far off in their struggle, creating programs and environments that create individuals who will not seek out these substances in the first place is the greatest way to combat addiction. To add to this, when treatment is needed, providing everyone with suitable treatment regardless of financial capabilities can help improve the chances of a more steady recovery and less chance of relapse or struggle getting on the right path again. However, drugs and alcohol are not the only critical factors of addiction in our society, and it is important to put our focus on more external factors beyond control of treatment and rehabilitation availability. Creating a nation where everyone has the availability of suitable education and secure neighborhoods and homes to live in can create an environment where more people have the opportunity to live a life without fear of hopelessness and entrapment. If the nation emphasized more of an importance on how each individual is important and can contribute to the good of the nation and therefore improve their own lives and the lives of those around them, people may realize the importance of striving towards being the best you can be, as their life contains a new meaning. However, we also have to focus on changing the stigma addiction has. Addiction is regarded by many as an extremely shameful thing that shows weakness. Most people are not even comfortable talking about it with those close to them, let alone seeking help to cure their addiction. This mindset is so widespread, it even extends to primary care physicians, ones that are responsible for taking care of those with addiction. To help people feel less compelled to resort to addiction, and not feel as ashamed in seeking help if they need it, addiction should be viewed more as an important medical issue. To truly improve our situation, we must view addiction on a humanitarian level rather than just statistics. To help remediate our crisis, we must lift others up to help create a more supportive and secure world.
Many factors have caused a rise of addiction that has inflicted a crisis on all levels of society, but there is still hope for an answer. The addiction crisis has taken many forms, from drugs and alcohol to dependency of technology. The heightened level of dependency our world has created for us has left many feeling hopeless or unmotivated. Addiction has led to a dangerous world rampant with immorality and apathy for life itself. Any nation and world that wants to see a better future would know that the addiction crisis is one of our strongest battles. If people come together and understand this crisis, we can find a better tomorrow for all.