Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 – Education: The Key to Eliminating the Addiction Crisis in the US

Name: Jeanne Porges

Education: The Key to Eliminating the Addiction Crisis in the US

Porges 3

Education: The Key to Eliminating the Addiction Crisis in the US

Addiction is a variable that has been a part of my life from birth. I was adopted from birth. My biological mom got pregnant with me at only 18 years old and gave birth to me at just barely 19. She struggles with addiction among other issues, and her substance abuse, combined with her gambling addiction created a substantial amount of instability in her life, so she knew placing me for adoption was the most responsible action to take. Because of her loving decision, I have grown up in a stable environment, but I have continued to watch her struggle with addiction throughout my entire life. There are a variety of variables involved in why people become addicts, and this paper will explore the national addiction crisis that the United States is facing, the consequences of the national crisis, and ways in which we can remedy this crisis on both the individual and societal levels.

It is evident that the United States faces an addiction crisis, and this crisis is actively being ignored by those in the government who have power. As we know, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan both played essential roles in creating and perpetuating the war on drugs, which is responsible for almost all of the United States’ current issues concerning mass incarceration, addiction, and most importantly, treatment. In the United States, if someone is caught with methamphetamine or cocaine they are arrested and given jail time. In some states even possession of cannabis can warrant jail time. What the legal system fails to recognize is that the individuals who are charged with possession of illicit substances aren’t hardened criminals, and typically if criminal acts are committed by addicts, they are influenced by their substance abuse. The legal system fails to recognize substance abuse as a mental health issue, and rather perceives it as a criminal justice issue. The reality is that addiction is a mental illness. It is a disease, labeled and defined in the DSM-V, and it needs to be treated. The current justice system prefers to give people jail time for drug use, instead of giving addicts the opportunity to go to a rehabilitation program, which is one of the largest factors in causing the nation wide addiction crisis. Until the justice system can recognize treatment and rehabilitation as a valid sentence, this crisis will continue, and is likely to only become worse.

When addiction is approached from a criminal justice perspective rather than a mental health perspective, consequences are immense on both an individual and societal level. Individually, we must put ourselves in the shoes of an addict. Empathy tends to be lacking in the justice system and those who work in the system tend to separate themselves and label themselves differently from those who have been labeled as criminals. This ostracizes addicts in so many ways. Addicts are stuck in toxic patterns of thinking due to physical and psychological dependencies that they gain from substance abuse. This is why it is essential to provide rehabilitative intervention as a substitute for jail time. Rehabilitation is not the easy way out and it too, is a consequence of addiction and substance abuse. By shifting focus to rehabilitation, the consequences change from prison, to treatment, which is necessary in order to create a stronger and healthier society. In addition to treatment strengthening society, this option also minimizes prison populations, which will alleviate so many of the overpopulation issues that the US prisons face. Currently, due to overpopulation, we are facing the consequence of mass outbreaks of covid-19 in the prisons, which is extremely unethical. Once again we must remain empathetic and hold off on distancing ourselves from those who have been tagged as criminals by society for acts as simple as having some weed. These people do not deserve to be kept in overpopulated unsafe environments, they deserve treatment in a safe environment. Addicts are a part of society like everyone else and they deserve support and empathy as much as you or I.

In order to remedy the addiction crisis in the US, rehabilitation needs to become a direct option in the justice system when an individual is arrested for drug use or drug possession. In addition to rehabilitation, education is key to promoting change in the justice system. We are in a political climate that is constantly progressing and changing and we live in the age of information, where knowledge is available at one’s fingertips. We must take advantage of knowledge as it becomes available in order to make educated decisions about how to most effectively perceive and approach addiction. What many still do not understand is that Nixon and Reagan created and perpetuated the war on drugs as a political tactic, not because all drugs are all dangerous. New knowledge is becoming available that psychedelic drugs like psilocybin mushrooms and LSD actually treat addiction as well as a variety of other mental conditions. We need to take advantage of this information and use it in order to promote change. Both substances are classified as schedule one drugs, when they in fact are not addictive, they treat addiction. Once this knowledge is readily available to society, a momentous amount of change is likely to occur. Knowledge is power, and it is the key to ending the addiction crisis in the US.

After reviewing the national addiction crisis that the United States is facing, the consequences of the national crisis, and ways in which we can remedy this crisis on both the individual and societal levels, it is clear that this is a complex issue, and solving it will not happen overnight, but as new knowledge becomes available and as rehabilitation is made readily available for addicts in the criminal justice system to utilize, the addiction crisis in the US will steadily become controlled once again.