Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 – Connection is Key

Name: Brendan Traynor

Connection is Key


is Key


Awareness Scholarship Campaign

April 2020

is Key

hold the firm belief that the United States is dealing with an
addiction crisis because of our lack of connection. Within addiction,
there are themes of disconnection to our higher selves, neighbors,
peers, as well as the community and environment we live in. Alone we
can do little, but together we can accomplish greatness. Given our
current opioid crisis, refusing harm reduction-based education is
causing unnecessary pain. With the overdiagnosis of Attention Deficit
and Hyperactivity Disorder and the subsequent stimulant medications
as treatment as well as the over prescribing of opioid pain
medication, it is not surprising that we have continued a
longstanding crisis around addiction. While various factors are
causing an incline of addiction prevalence in society, the greatest
factor is fueled by individualistic and independent nature as
Americans (Hongfei, 2014).

to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH),
roughly 15 million individuals over the age of 18 have been diagnosed
with Alcohol Use Disorder (2018). This doesn’t account for the
friends and family suffering from alcoholism that go undiagnosed. The
ramifications of this epidemic are boundless. NIH and Drug Policy
Alliance calculate over 150,000 American men, women and children died
in 2018 from drug and alcohol related deaths. These numbers are
staggering, preventable and unacceptable. Some people do not lose
their lives, but still face severe consequences. As of 2016, there
are approximately 45,300 people in federal prison whose most serious
crime is drug possession (Bronson). Taxpayers spend an average of
$33,000 to keep a prisoner incarcerated for a year (V. (n.d.)). Each
year, this is over 1.5 billion dollars spent on keeping these people
in prison. At this rate of dependence and death, it is surprising,
from a public health standpoint, that addiction is not viewed as a
national emergency.

believe that addiction is not only a medical emergency, but a
societal crisis as that is preventable and unacceptable. Even with
the recent adoption of the medical model of addiction, the
ramifications of this crisis are boundless (SAMHSA, 2018). Concerned
loved ones often deduce addiction as a lack of will power by asking
those who are dependent to “just stop.” This assumption dismisses
the larger societal factors that impact poor coping mechanisms such
as class exclusion, socioeconomic status or employment access.
Without a healthy environment and the necessary tools to cope though
treatment and rehabilitation, individuals dependent upon substances
are, statistically, unlikely to stop and achieve lasting sobriety.
The consequences of not tackling the growth rate of addiction affects
individuals, families, and our economy.

most prominent mode of therapy utilized to address the addiction
crisis is through twelve step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous
(AA). According to Time Magazine, approximately 2.1 million people
around the globe are a part of their program (Steinmetz, 2010). The
exact success rate of Alcoholics Anonymous is unknown. There are,
however, many people that have found lasting relief from their
addictions through the use of this program. The main principles of AA
are service, unity, and recovery are synonymous with connection,
exemplifying that connection is an integral component of recovery.

the discipline of Psychology, connection is exemplified as an
integral component of recovery though Bruce Alexander’s Rat Park
Experiments (1981). Previous animal models of addiction confined rats
to small, isolated cages with a morphine solution. In the Rat Park
experiments rats were placed in a large cage with food, toys, and
plenty of playmates. When placed in this cage, the rats actually
refused the drug cocktail. This may be an oversimplification as
human’s are exposed to many stressors in their life, but the study
does shed light on the importance of community when treating
addiction. Addiction comes from suffering and having a connection to
something more than one’s self has that capacity to ease this
suffering. If the larger society began to truly embrace one another
by offering support to those around us, we may ease each one
another’s suffering.

idea that connection as an end all, be all solution is unrealistic.
That’s not to say that it isn’t a start. If more people were
connected to their community, more people would be aware of how truly
prevalent addiction is in our society. This awareness could lead
other people to get involved, to find solutions to this growing
epidemic. If we are able to unite, share ideas, and collaborate we
might be able to find a lasting solution and treatment to addiction.
Connection is key. In the words of Virginia Burden, “Cooperation is
the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody
gets there” (2011).


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Addiction is a “Disease”, and Why It’s Important”

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