Addiction in America
Hailee M. Quinby
Addiction Awareness Scholarship
May 31, 2020
Addiction in America
I am lucky enough to not know anyone with a drug addiction, but I always have been very passionate about the topic; being that I previously had the desire to go into chemical dependency counseling. I believe that we as a nation are dealing with a serious addiction crisis because the wrong ideas are being focused on. There is a poor stigma surrounding the terms such as addict or drug user; when terms like that are used to describe people with addictions, it “suggest[s] that people who consume psychoactive substances are mentally weak and dangerous” (Alexandrescu para. 1). Trying to put myself in an “addict’s” shoes, I can only imagine how degrading it would feel to be seen in such a way. If I were to feel so degraded and put down by society I believe that it would be extremely hard to find the courage to get help, as I’m sure so many people that are actually in that situation feel the same way. A person with an addiction is so much more than what they are addicted to, and we as a society need to break down that stigma that says these people are dangerous, weak, worthless, and every other degrading thought that is often associated with people in these situations. Another idea that is very misleading is the idea that drug users are simply criminals. When people say things like this, I believe it demonstrates the ignorance that so many people have for people who have addictions. Yes, many of these people actively chose to use substances for whatever reason they find logical, however, at a certain point people in these situations are ‘criminals’ because they feel like they have no other choice; they have to make these choices to be ‘criminals’ because their lives essentially depend on it. Many people do not understand that people with addictions feel like their lives depend on the substance(s) that they use, and asking them to just stop can very well be comparable to asking someone to quit breathing. People in these situations are looking for where they are going to get their next ‘breath’ constantly. So many people have a caffeine addiction or a sugar addiction, and no one bats an eye when they are consuming these substances to function in everyday life or show any sign of withdrawal when they don’t have it. These examples are very different in the way that one has the absolute potential to be much more dangerous, but essentially they are both the same idea.
There are many consequences for both the individual and society that come from addiction. On an individual level, there are so many physical and mental consequences. “Substance abuse can result in increased illegal activities as well as physical and social health consequences, such as poor academic performance, poorer health status, changes in brain structure, and increased risk of death from overdose and suicide” (RHIhub para. 4). The impacts that drugs have on an individual dive so deep, and stay with them forever. Not only is there biological effects on an individual, but societal effects as well. People who use or have used in the past are looked at very differently by society, and often seen as if they do not deserve a second chance. They are often overlooked when it comes to things such as job opportunities and many other crucial things they may need to accomplish to get on the path to recovery, or to get back on their feet after they have already recovered. Many areas that are unfortunate enough to have large amounts of addiction have a very poor reputation surrounding them, especially because higher numbers of drug users results in higher amounts of situations like those previously stated. Many people look at parts of cities as ‘dirty’ or even ‘scary’ because of their large amounts of drug use. People tend to stay away from areas like this for those reasons resulting in poor economies in those areas, which makes them worse off than they already were. On a societal level, drug use also tears people apart. I have met quite a few people who have family members that have been ‘disowned’ because of drug use, which leads to conflicts and torn families.
It clearly has been proven that efforts to slow the number of people using substances have not been especially effective. However, I believe that just simple knowledge of the subject can help remedy the crisis, or at least get it started. I am not speaking about the stereotypical “this is your brain, and this is your brain on drugs” campaigns that were on every wall in my middle school. Although I believe that campaigns like this are good in some way, it shows the ignorance that I mentioned before; it strengthens the idea that drug addicts are nothing but an addict. Kids look at these pictures of addicts with missing rotting teeth, sunken in eyes, hair loss, and are scared of these people. It’s good that they don’t want to become like that person, but there is no sympathy for that person in the picture like there should be. They are now just seen as an advertisement to keep others away from drugs, as opposed to a person who needs help themselves. There needs to be more consideration for the people behind the addictions before there can be any real remedy for the addiction crisis this nation is dealing with.
Alexandrescu, Liviu. “How labels like ‘addict’ and ‘junkie’ mask class contempt for people who use drugs.” Gale Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2020. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, PGMREK055845882/OVIC?u=offcamp&sid=OVIC&xid=2546ff55.
No Author. “Substance Abuse in Rural Area” Rural Health Information Hub, https:// www.ruralhealthinfo.org/topics/substance-abuse.