A Country Unraveled
In the United States, drug abuse has been a problem at least since alcoholic spirits have existed, probably longer. As societal pressures in the modern era continue to grow, so does addictive behavior in an alarming number of people. It seems that with the advent of LSD in the 1970s, people began partaking in illegal drugs significantly more often.
Engaging in this behavior shifted, in the eyes of many, from a shameful act of surrender to a stylish leisure activity that expanded your mind. As with most cultural trends, the obsession came in waves. People were seeing their cognitive abilities fried and their friends overdosing all around them, sparking a heavy resurgence in more conservative viewpoints concerning drug use, namely the War on Drugs. The United States government was fed up with substance abuse and its plague on society. There were several attempts to educate the upcoming generation on why using drugs was a bad idea, starting with Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign. It became apparent how dangerous and widespread substance abuse could be, and this campaign was done to make the next generation see that too. However noble the purpose might have been, the results were less than ideal. Drug use in the United States gradually climbed higher while incarceration for drug-related crime reached a record high.
It became glaringly obvious to most people by the start of the 21st century that substance abuse was here to stay—and with record popularity. Efforts by legislators to curb the growing problem were downright unsuccessful. Drug education courses and PSAs published by the previous generation didn’t hit home with the next. Millennials felt disillusioned with the ineffective response from legislators, who were fighting a losing battle against a growing problem. Their approach was to treat any use of illicit substances as criminal activity, and the numbers showed it. However, instead of having the intended effect of discouraging drug use, the percentage of people using drugs increased. What the legislators failed to realize at this time was throwing addicts in jail had resulted in a dwindling spiral—the person’s addiction and mental health worsened each time they were sent to jail. Which naturally, they were sent to jail more often due to their worsening habit.
Therein lies the problem:
If criminalizing drugs doesn’t discourage people from using them, what will? Some organizations are starting to figure it out.
There have been numerous studies published on the growing problem of substance abuse in our country. What they all have in common is this: the addict needs to be rehabilitated, not incarcerated. When someone feels they need to be under the influence of a chemical substance to be able to succeed in life, something is wrong. They have determined their ability to deal with day-to-day life has proven ineffective, resorting to drugs or alcohol to “fix” the problem. However, this temporary solution may dull the symptoms, but it does not handle the reason they are so unhappy. Furthermore, the longer they use drugs and alcohol as a crutch for their problem, the more disconnected they become from what the problem really is.
An addict cannot figure out why he feels like he must use drugs if he is still using them. Furthermore, when he discontinues them after a long period of sustained use, his problems become even more obvious in comparison to the foggy bliss he was living in before. This leads many to believe stopping the use is the cause of so much grief, when really all this does is lift the veil. Naturally, it is not easy to face these issues alone or even become sober enough to start trying. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers were created to help.
When an addict takes the first step to becoming sober for good, he will immediately face resistance from his mind and body. As he is forced to rethink how he deals with stress, problems, and everyday challenges, there will be a time of turmoil where it seems easier simply to turn back and continue in the old ways.
However, as he perseveres, he will find his new behavior for dealing with these issues is much more effective and can weather the storm. He will find when times get tough, he does not have to reach for the bottle, or the needle. He will find he is more powerful than he thought, and that he does not want to go back to stifling this power with drugs. This newfound strength is what drives a recovered addict to stay sober. They have the power to deal with their problems now; they have the power to make their own future.