Name: Mariela Algarin
The Ways In Which Addiction Affects Society
Substance abuse is a major problem in the United States. Addiction negatively affects addicts and their loved ones but also society as a whole. There are two main reasons substance abuse rates have increased in the United States over the last few decades: the marginally limited prescribing of narcotics for chronic pain and the stigma around mental health issues. As a society, we have stigmatized the acknowledgment of mental illnesses and trauma and the seeking of professional help for these issues.
Addiction to substances typically leads to chronic health conditions like liver disease, sexually-transmitted infections, respiratory illnesses, heart disease, and diabetes. Many times, seeking care for chronic illnesses is not prioritized and can lead to high hospitalization and death rates. Additionally, many addicts get involved in criminal activities in order to acquire drugs. These activities can range from prostitution, shoplifting, selling drugs, robbery, and assault. Often, addicts lose their houses, cars, and other property to foreclosure or repossession by the banks. Family and loved ones tend to distance themselves from individuals abusing drugs and alcohol, and many of these individuals are left without support, shelter, and even food. In many cities, organizations exist to provide food, shelter, and rehabilitation for these individuals and are funded by limited public funds. Unfortunately, these organizations have insufficient resources to help the many homeless and hungry individuals in their communities.
For an addict, the priority is the drug or substance of preference. Sadly, many addicts give precedence to the drug over caring and providing for their children. Children are often left alone, offered as a trade for drugs, or, in the best of cases, given up to family members who can care for them. Many children experience child abuse or neglect at the hands of addicted parents. Children who are not abused may have to care for themselves and younger siblings starting at a young age and may become involved in criminal activities to acquire finances.
Substance abuse usually stems from untreated mental health issues. The majority of addicts experienced childhood trauma by way of abuse and neglect by addicted parents, molestation or rape, poverty, or a combination of situations. Seeking care for mental health issues has been stigmatized in the United States for a long time. Only recently, have more people opened up about going to therapy and getting on medication for illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Even still, there are not many affordable rehabilitation options for individuals that suffer from addiction. Time and again, those who suffer from substance abuse seek out prescriptions for narcotics or acquire the drugs illegally to cope with their trauma.
One way the effects of substance abuse can be reduced is to continue openly talking about having mental health issues and seeking care for these, as a society in general. These types of conversations make it known that it is very normal to have trauma and that dealing with this trauma is the most responsible way to continue life. Private organizations can begin sponsoring rehabilitation centers to make it more affordable and more accessible for these individuals to seek care. Rehabilitation centers should have licensed mental health professionals who offer evidence-based treatments for these individuals in order to increase their chances of staying sober.
For individuals living in poverty, not only should affordable mental health and primary care be offered, but also housing and food programs to help meet these individuals’ basic needs. Many of the housing and food provision groups that are available today are sponsored by public or federal funding. Private groups and companies who make high profits should be required or encouraged to sponsor more of these programs. Individuals who are benefitting from housing and food programs should be drug tested to ensure that they are using the help efficiently. If an individual tests positive for drug use, he/she should be able to enroll in a rehabilitation program to become sober.
Lastly, pharmaceutical companies have the resources and knowledge to create non-addictive drugs to treat chronic pain. These companies should be federally required to clearly outline the effects of addictive drugs and limit the sale of these to health providers and practices. Health providers should exhaust all options before prescribing opioids to patients, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, nerve blockers, radio wave therapy, and electrical signal therapy. These treatments should be covered under health insurance just as an opioid would be.