Drug and alcohol addiction problems may not be new to our country, but they have definitely grown in severity over the past few decades. Now, with more than twenty million Americans suffering from some form of substance abuse, drug, and alcohol addiction problems have reached crisis proportions. Through the Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, the United States Surgeon General has outlined the problem and has called upon both the government and the general public to take the substantive steps that are necessary in order to turn things around.
Understanding the Crisis
It is estimated that roughly eight percent of all Americans suffer from some sort of addiction that has a significant impact on their life. The most common is an addiction to alcohol, which more than sixteen and a half million Americans suffer from. Perhaps one of the most devastating things about this addiction is the fact that few individuals recognize this legal and socially acceptable substance as the highly addictive and dangerous substance it is, and are therefore slow to take action against alcohol addiction–if they take any action at all.
Illegal drug use and addiction are also on the rise, with highly dangerous and potent opioid drugs at the top of the list. Since the year 2000, the number of opioid overdose deaths in our country has risen a shocking two hundred percent, with approximately seventy-eight individuals dying each day as a result of opioid overdose.
The United States Surgeon General has pointed out that at this time, the number of individuals in our country who are addicted to drug substances is equal to the number of individuals who are battling diabetes. Contrary to what some may believe, addiction is not something an individual is genetically predisposed to and therefore incapable of fighting, but rather is a condition that is entirely preventable and treatable. However, only about one percent of the individuals in our country who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction receive the treatment they need. There may be many reasons for why this is, and obviously, these reasons need to be addressed and resolved in order to turn the addiction crisis around.
It is not unusual for an individual who is addicted to drugs or alcohol to work very hard to hide this addiction from others. A lot of this may have to do with the social stigma connected to addiction, causing some to believe that it is a result of a moral failing, a character flaw or some other sin. While it is certainly true that addiction harms an individual’s health, relationships, and life, the idea that it is because of some personal failing or flaw can prevent them from acknowledging their problem and then reaching out for the help they need to resolve it. Fortunately, this is where the crisis can first be effectively addressed.
There are a number of support organizations that work hard to help counter the social stigma attached to addiction. These groups, like Narcotics Anonymous, can help individuals to recognize that they are not alone in struggling with their addictions and there may be a way to break free of them entirely. That said, it is important to recognize that there is a vast difference between support organizations and full, effective rehabilitation treatment. Participating in a support organization may open the individual’s mind to pursuing treatment, but it is the treatment itself that will help them address all of the many causes and effects of addiction and give them the tools necessary to move forward into a healthier, happier future.
If individuals suffering from cancer or diabetes operated in a similar manner, where only one percent of those afflicted actually received the treatment they needed, we would undoubtedly view this as a major healthcare problem. One percent of addicted individuals receiving the treatment they need should not be viewed any differently, especially when the effective treatment they need is available.