“It won’t happen to me.” This is the thought that runs through people’s mind on a daily basis, from when they text while driving over the speed limit even when warned of the increased risk of accidents, to ignoring the consequences of consuming too much sugar such as diabetes and obesity. However, when used to justify using drugs for whatever reason, it becomes a deadly weapon that can ruin the lives of many, simply because it is wrong. It can happen–to anyone, and that is why it is important that the drug abuse epidemic that has spread through the United States must be properly addressed and dealt with so that current and future generations do not have to endure the devastation that is a part of drug abuse.
There aren’t many differences between a drug addict and a sugar junkie except the one that results in life, or death: drugs can hurt you much more faster and deeper than sugar.
Drug addiction has become an unavoidable and pressing issue in current times. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “in 2017, about 72,000 people died from drug overdoses” (NPR, 2018). The death rate has risen significantly due to drug overdoses of all kinds, demonstrating that addiction has increased over the past few years and has become a serious mental health problem that must be immediately addressed for any chance of a reversal of this addiction epidemic.
Drug overdose is directly related to drug addiction as it occurs due to dangerously excessive amounts of drugs entering the body, which is the result of frequently using the drug without moderation or caution.
While the public has attempted to draw attention to the problem of drug addiction and continues to work with law enforcement and medical professionals to prevent the problem from growing, it is clear that increased focus must be placed on this epidemic for real change to be made. The use of naloxone, famously known as the Lazarus drug for its ability to bring people back from the verge of death, is only a short term solution, and based on Doleac and Mukherjee’s research, is actually worsening the problem by creating the false impression that addicts can be saved time and time again through the use of Narcan (NPR, 2018). This fallacious belief indicates that there is a serious mental health problem in the U.S that must be dealt with before the problem gets out of hand.
If given the opportunity to become Drug Czar with a budget of $1 billion to help end the grave drug epidemic that is plaguing our nation, I would spend the largest amount of money to aid research on addiction as this would benefit the most people. Increased research on the most dangerous drugs, the effects of drugs on the human body and brain, and the long-term consequences of drug abuse and addiction can help us understand how we need to continue trying to end these diseases by informing where efforts need to be most concentrated. For example, a study conducted on the motivations behind the use of electronic cigarettes was able to reveal the most common reasons people turned to these drug-carrying devices. Additionally, everyone would benefit as non-drug users would learn more about the negative effects of drug addictions and how they could help their family and loved ones stop using drugs, while the users would be able to receive proper treatment and care to aid them in terminating their addiction.
I would give the second largest amount of money to education on drug addiction and overdose for the same reasons as above. Having a more informed and aware public about the consequences of drug addiction would also contribute in helping decrease the proportion of the death rate that results from drug overdoses. Suing pharmaceutical companies and doctors for failing to warn patients about the danger accompanying drugs would receive the third largest portion of my $1 billion budget. For example, a recent case regarding Purdue Pharma revealed that “Purdue deceived doctors and patients to get more and more people on its dangerous drugs..misled them to take higher and more dangerous doses…deceived them to stay on its drugs for longer and more harmful periods of time”. Investing in this is very important as it will prevent innocent patients from becoming addicted to drugs through prescribed medication, which is often the cause of many addictions. This will also decrease the corruption rampant in the medical field, which will benefit society as a whole as patients will not continuously be deceived by medical professionals.
I would invest the fourth largest amount in improving criminal justice enforcement, as although this will help reduce the sale of drugs and help find drug users so that they can be properly dealt with, it will not benefit as many people as the first three categories. By investing in the criminal justice enforcement system, police and other law enforcement officials can use the investment to aid them in more effectively finding drug dens and drug dealers, which will help decrease drug use as it will become harder to easily gain access to potent, lethal, and addictive drugs such as opioids. This would benefit many families and communities who are constantly surrounded by drugs due to its large and lucrative trade that often overshadows entire towns, and can help reduce their sale by cutting the problem off at the source: the dealers. Of course, arresting a few drug dealers will not have much effect, which is why investing in the criminal justice system is third on the list.
Next, I would invest a smaller portion of my money in treatment for addicted personnel as they deserve to have some type of assistance in trying to overcome their addiction and recuperate properly. This category is fifth on my list because it would only benefit the affected and their families, and there is a very low chance that the addicted person would actually recover fully from their addiction and be able to live a normal life again; many often relapse back into the addiction and overdose. Finally, I would then use the last small portion of my money to provide aid to families who have lost a member due to drug overdose, as this has no major social benefits except to the family who receives financial aid and does not save anyone’s life, as the addicted has already gone past the point of no return (although it may help the family get treatment for another addicted member, it cannot be assumed that it is the case for all families).
The drug addiction epidemic primarily stems from a common psychological perspective in America that there is always a way out. For example, people take drugs to feel a sense of euphoria and happiness as an escape or release from their stressful and pressure-filled daily lives. Another variation of this is the widespread belief that medicine is necessary to cure an illness, which can only be correctly prescribed by a doctor. Many patients simply accept the drugs and dosage prescribed by their doctor and eventually become addicted to them by committing substance abuse. Prescription pills are one of the most common ways Americans get addicted to drugs, as “Americans are still prescribed far more opioids than anyone else in the world—enough for almost every adult in the country to have their own bottle of pills,” proving that the attitude of wanting to escape problems and solve them quickly has resulted in the current addiction epidemic.
Another common characteristic that has left the U.S. more vulnerable to addiction is the idea of fitting in. Many of the current drug addicts are children and adolescents who participate in drug consumption because of the rise of a drug culture that has permeated schools and allowed using drugs to become a socially acceptable activity. In a study done by multiple college graduates in 2017, “Ranking…significantly higher than all remaining reasons [after electronic cigarettes being useful in quitting combustibles] was social image which was cited in 21% of reason-related-tweets, e.g., ‘I want one of those e-cigs, it’ll make me look cool,’” revealing the unfortunately accepted idea that lies behind the prevalence of drug addiction in America.
Approximately sixty percent of Americans are in an altered state of consciousness due to addictive drugs, revealing the gravity of the problem. Not only does drug addiction affect the user, but it affects friends and family around them. Addicts often become isolated from their loved ones and separate themselves, which can have a tremendous impact on loved ones as it can make them more prone to depression or anxiety. Addiction leading to an overdose and death can result in psychological trauma for family members as well, which can have long term effects. For the Troxell family, it resulted in being separated from each other for good. Hope and Pete Troxell were not allowed to meet or communicate with their grandchildren after their daughter overdosed on an opioid drug (NPR, 2018).
This had a huge effect on them as they were forever separated from the remaining legacy of their daughter. Apart from having a long-term psychological impact on family members of the drug addict, drug addiction can have a significant effect on first responders as well. One firefighter, Larry Kishbaugh, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after dealing with multiple overdose cases, shares that “ ‘We’ve [first responders] hardened ourselves against severed limbs and burnt bodies, but it’s eating me up seeing the kids’”. This proves that not only does drug addiction affect people directly related to the addict but also can have a severe negative psychological impact on those who are trying to help these addicts survive, leading to the conclusion that drug addiction is also the cause for other mental or psychological disorders in the U.S.
There are many negative consequences that result from drug addiction and it is up to the public to work together to solve this problem which can only be fixed by changing the attitude and beliefs in the American consciousness. However, it is by no means an easy and straightforward process and it may take many years to see any notable reduction in drug addiction and overdose, especially regarding opioids as “the vast majority of these [72,000] deaths were caused by overdoses of heroin and other opioids” (NPR, 2018). Nevertheless, Americans must take the initiative to bring an end to the drug addiction epidemic if they hope for a bright and happy future. Instead of saying “It won’t happen to me,” say “I will not let it happen to me or to anyone else because everyone deserves a life free of drug addiction.”