Name: Sarah Bubeck
From: Greencastle, PA
Addiction Is Not A Definition
Addiction. It’s a strong word used by many. This word has such a negative stigma around it, that when people find out someone has an addiction their entire perspective of that individual changes. According to Addiction Center, roughly 21 million Americans have a least one addiction. 21 million out of 328 million, that is around 15% of our population that has an addiction (https://www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/addiction-statistics/). The Unbelievable part is that only around 10% of those who have an addiction are being treated. The reason addiction continues to grow in America is because we acknowledge the stigma but not always the facts, we as a society do not want to admit that 15% of our population is dealing with addiction. We would rather hide the issue than acknowledge it.
There is a negative stigma behind addiction. We believe that those that have addictions must be living off of welfare, unemployed, and have no ambition in life. We see the word addiction as a human who is unable to function normally and who decides to not get the help they need. We think that it was their fault that they are addicted to drugs, alcohol, nicotine. We believe that they “asked for it.” Addiction is not a choice. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks to themselves, “Oh I am really hoping someone offers me a drug so I can get addicted.” What this society fails to realize as a whole is that those who struggle with opioid addiction did not start on the streets. According to drugabuse.org, many people who become addicted to opioids received them first from a doctor. (https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/what-scope-prescription-drug-misuse). They were meant to be used as pain killers but once the prescription ran out, withdrawal from the drug became to set in. People would go to doctors begging them for another round of prescription drugs. When doctors refuse, their craving for the drug becomes so bad that they turn to the streets. It is not a choice. We trust doctors and medical professionals to keep us safe and healthy, yet most opioid addictions begin as prescribed drugs.
Many people in society believe that it is a choice to become addicted to a drug, yet if a doctor prescribes you a drug, you are more than likely to take it many times without questions. It is also proven that our genetic makeup determines whether or not we may become addicted. Some people can try a simple prescription drug and come off of it with no issues. Others become addicted. This is not because they are “weak.” Not all drug addiction begins as prescribed drugs. Especially in college where every student is trying to make any money they can. Some will start dealing drugs. College parties tend to have underaged drinking and drug use involved. It is very easy for someone to lace a drink or food item with a drug and BOOM, you’re addicted. Simple gateway drugs such as, marijuana can lead to opioid addiction as well. Peer pressure among young adults can be seen as another cause of addiction. We want to look “cool” in front of our friends, but it won’t be very “cool” of us to say no when everyone else is doing it.
Over 21 million Americans struggle with addiction yet only 2.8 Americans have reached out to receive help. Not only is there denial within our society, but there is denial within each individual. No one truly wants to admit that they have an addiction or that they need help. We are a very independent society and asking for help can be seen as weak. In order to reduce addiction not only does the stigma behind the word need to change but so does the perspective of weakness. Those willing to reach out and admit that they have an issue and that they need help are much stronger individuals than those who keep denying they have an addiction. If we reduce the stigma behind addiction being a “bad choice”, we can reduce the number of people struggling from addiction. If we can stop seeing someone as a problem and begin to see them as an individual, we can allow those who are addicted come forward and receive the help they need.
The first step to reducing addiction in America is to recognize the problem and destigmatize the word addiction. Addiction is not a choice it is a disorder. The American Psychiatric Association recognizes addiction as a mental disorder. Addiction is more than just substance use; it can also be a gambling problem or even the addiction to coffee. By not destigmatizing the word addiction in our minds and our society we are continuing to deny help to those who need it. Another way this country can help to reduce this addiction crisis, is to make therapy and counselling more affordable to those who need it. We have resources in place for individuals to get the help they need to overcome an addiction, yet we make it so expensive that only few can afford it. By focusing more on the facts instead of the stigma behind addiction, we can potentially reduce the negative feelings associated with the word. As a society we need to provide more details on this war we are fighting so that we can work as a nation to overcome it. It takes an entire nation working together to provide help and details to win this war against addiction.