Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 – Addiction: The American Disease

Name: Ben Lemanski

Addiction: The American Disease

brother crashed into a house” my mom said to me on the phone
through tears. “We are driving to the hospital now to be with him-
he took 6 Vicodin and drove.” My family has a history of addiction,
depression, and alcoholism. I have always had some degree of
separation from these issues, being protected by my mother, aunts, or
grandmother. This time it was different: I was witnessing first-hand
what addiction does to a family. My brother is not the only one that
has dealt with a dependency on opioids. He turned to prescription
drugs after suffering from physical pain resulting from car
accidents, the untimely deaths od friends, and dealing with mental
health challenges. Having lived through this with him, I believe that
our nation is experiencing this opioid crisis due to access of such
drugs, that the consequences will impact the development of American
society, and that it can be remedied through access to tools such as

to the Council on Foreign Relations, over 900 people a week die from
opioid overdoses in the United States. The question is how did we get
here as a nation? I think we are at this point due to a couple of
reasons. First off, the influence that big pharmacy companies have
had on the American healthcare system has led to the over
manufacturing of opioids. This over production has allowed for these
types of medicines to be easily accessible, both on the black market
and in the doctor’s office. Also pertaining to doctor’s offices,
at one point there were incentive programs for doctors who prescribed
opioids that pharmaceutical companies – almost $2.4 billion was
received by doctors in 2015 from pharmaceutical and medical device
industries. The point is – if our medical professionals are taking
handouts from companies, how are we as patients supposed to trust
that our health is the top priority when people can be influenced by
money. Secondly, since the Reagan administration the funding for
social services pertaining to mental health has been cut. The
programs cut included mental health services that could help
alleviate people’s use and dependency on opioid. Similarly, to my
brother people turn to drugs in order to not deal with mental health
issues such as PTSD, depression, or anxiety. Furthermore, when people
do become addicted to opioids people don’t have access to
rehabilitation services. When it come to the reason why our nation is
dealing with a severe opioid addiction, it is because of the
influence that big companies have over what medicine is prescribed to
patients and the lack of mental health focused human services.
However, the consequences of this addiction pandemic will impact the
United States on an individual and societal level.

is a messy disease. On an individual level, opioid users are affected
by drug use physically, mentally, socially. Physically, drugs effect
the brain. The brain is the command center for the body so any
outside influence it has can wreak havoc on one’s body systems.
This includes the body’s limbic system that contains how pleasure
is processed. When drugs are taken enough, they eventually replace
the body’s pleasure response because the drugs release pleasure
that is multiple times more than a simple pleasure action like eating
or socializing with friends. This means that once someone becomes
addicted to the feeling of pleasure that drugs produce, that becomes
their priority making everything like wellbeing, family, friends,
work, etc. a second thought. As for the societal effects, this is
connected to the individual level. The level of this opioid epidemic
has impacted so many people, people that make up the fabric of
society, that it has become a general public health issue. Many
health experts attribute the rising death toll in U.S. to the
overprescribing of prescription drugs. Due to the rising death toll
and dependency on opioids, the country also faces major economic
issues from this epidemic that would stem from the lack of workers in
the economy, money being diverted into drug purchasing, and financial
strain on government provided services such as foster care for
children who are left parentless due to addiction/overdose. Although
we are at a point where this issue is on a national scale, we aren’t
at a point where we can’t curb the crisis.

that the problem is laid out, what can the United States do to remedy
this issue? Well I believe that it has a multiple step process. First
off, there needs to be an establishment and funding of addiction
therapy for individuals who have become subject to the disease. If
these people aren’t treated there will continue to be a demand for
drugs, thus keeping the issue alive. Secondly, there needs to be a
push for alternative treatments to physical and mental health through
therapy rather than resorting to prescription drugs right away. This
will allow people to manage pain, learn coping techniques, and teach
the public that there are other ways to treat pain then with
prescriptions. Part of this push would also be the legalization of
doctors being able to take payouts from pharmaceutical companies so
that doctors aren’t tempted to put their pockets over patient
health. Relating to these alternative treatments, it would be
beneficial if drugs were decriminalized so more natural medicines
such has cannabis could be used for pain treatment. Finally, there
needs to be a destigmatization in the United States so that people
can talk about these issues and the problem is brought to the
forefront of policymakers’ minds.

America can remedy the addiction epidemic that is has found itself
in. The issue is a complex one and therefore calls for a complex
solution. The solution must make a positive impact on those who have
addiction – this would include the destigmatization of the issue,
beefing up the human services that the United States offers its
people, correcting big pharmas influence over doctors, and pushing
for more therapy based treatments than prescriptions. With these
actions in place, America can start turning the issue around and
alleviate the American dependency on opioids.