Categories
Addiction

Are Creative People More Prone to Addiction?

What do F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Eric Clapton, Carrie Fisher, and Robin Williams all have in common? All of these people made a career out of working in the arts- whether it is acting, writing, or music, and they all have struggled with addiction. Throughout history, many individuals who worked in the arts were also known to abuse alcohol and other drugs. This reputation dates centuries back, where writers and poets were notorious for substance abuse. Poet, Charles Baudelaire was known for opium use while Edgar Allen Poe, a writer, was known to struggle with alcoholism. That brings into question- is there something about having a creative personality that makes someone more prone to addiction? Or in other words, are the people who pursue careers in writing, acting, and music more likely to have an addiction or are there certain factors that make this trend appear more common than it actually is?

Prior to the 1960’s drugs were not largely seen in association with addiction. Awareness of the problem began to appear throughout artistic outlets such as music. Songs referencing drugs and addiction, such as Heroin by The Velvet Underground, surfaced in the 1960’s when drug use became prevalent in the music industry. A number of famous musicians during this time passed away at the young age of 27 including: Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, and Janis Joplin. While each of these musicians engaged in a similarly risky lifestyle, the motive behind their substance abuse is not very clear. Factors like stress and the social pressure to continue producing original music may remain unaccounted for. As Atte Oksanen discusses in his research article, artists took to rock autobiographies to address the topic of surviving drug addiction, causing it to be a main characteristic of the music industry during this time period.

Thus far, no links have been made specifically connecting substance abuse to creativity.  Factors like genetics play about a 40% role in determining if someone suffers from addiction.  David Linden, a neuroscientist explains there isn’t necessarily a direct connection between creativity and addiction but rather “There is a link between addiction and things that are a prerequisite for creativity.”  Factors like personality traits, experiencing traumatic events in the past, and the presence of other mental illnesses all contribute to an individual’s vulnerability when it comes to addiction.

While it’s clear that substance use was (and sometimes still is) popular in the music industry, it doesn’t necessarily explain why so many artists, actors, and writers are prone to addiction. It could be that drug and alcohol use is considered a common component of the trade. Or perhaps those who tend to be more creative are also more susceptible to the other factors that trigger addiction. Alcohol and drugs are commonly used as vices to deal with the stresses of public scrutiny that these professions often face. The increased media and fascination in the lives of artists could also draw attention to the issue, making it appear that those working in creative fields turn to substances more often; however, more research would need to be conducted in order to provide a clear link between addiction and creativity.

References:

Biello, D. (2011, July 26). Is there a link between creativity and addiction. Retrieved April 9, 2017, from Scientific American website: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-a-link-between-creativity-and-addiction/

Drug addiction. (2014, December 5). Retrieved April 9, 2017, from Mayo Clinic website: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/basics/risk-factors/con-20020970

Knafo, D. (2008). The senses grow skilled in their craving: Thoughts on creativity and addiction. The Psychoanalytic Review, 95(4), 571-595.

Oksanen, A. Oksanen, Atte (2012) To Hell and Back. Excessive Drug Use, Addiction and the Process of Recovery in Rock Autobiographies. Substance Use & Misuse 47: 2, 143–.
Sober celebrities: Famous people in recover. (2015, October 9). Retrieved April 9, 2017, from Amethyst Recovery Center website: https://www.amethystrecovery.org/sober-celebrities-famous-people-in-recovery/

Categories
Addiction

Hobby vs. Habit: When Exercise turns into an Addiction

The gym- it’s become a common part of American culture. While Americans are often stigmatized as being lazy and overweight by other countries, a new trend of fully embracing a fit lifestyle has caught on, especially among younger generations. The fitness crave and the growing obsession on looking a certain way is especially evident on social media, including accounts aimed to provide inspiration to those trying to get in shape. It’s good that society is becoming better educated about health, fitness, and nutrition but it’s possible that some people take these healthy habits too far- pushing their bodies to unhealthy limits, both physically and mentally.  The term “Exercise Addiction” has recently been used to describe these obsessive behaviors.

Even though gambling is currently the only behavioral addiction recognized in the DSM-5, research has increased regarding exercise and addictive health behaviors.  Exercise addiction has been defined by modifying the criteria for substance dependence. Major factors that separate exercise enthusiasts from exercise addicts include: tolerance, withdrawal, lack of control, reduction of other activities and continuation despite being aware of the damaging physical, social, and psychological effects. For example, if someone needs to constantly increase their exercise routine to feel a sense of accomplishment and he or she feels guilty or anxious when missing a workout, they may be susceptible to exercise addiction. Over-exercising is also common among people with eating disorders which causes people to severely restrict or alter their caloric intake.

It’s easy to see the damaging effects of a drug or alcohol addiction, but it’s difficult to understand the detrimental effects of too much exercise. One story that represents the difficult complications of this issue is that of a girl named Lisa, who was a student at Bridgewater State University. She feared gaining the freshman 15, or the extra weight people often gain when going off to college. To try to ease this fear she decided to dedicate a major amount of the time at the gym.  Lisa rarely missed a workout and if she did, she would be overcome with guilt. She explains “Every aspect of my life was dictated by exercise and food and the need to control it all.” As a result of extreme exercising she stopped menstruating for six years, and suffers from osteoporosis in her hips and back. Along with health issues, people often suffer socially; spending all their time in the gym can impact relationships with friends and family.

Although the effects of this addictive behavior can leave long-term damaging effects, there are ways that this habit can be better controlled. Kindal Boyle, a blogger and lover of fitness, wrote describes how her obsession over fitness and health consumed her. She states, “It sounds silly… there are people fighting for their lives due to drug and alcohol addictions and here I am trying to run three more miles or 100 more push-ups.” To try to control this problem she puts rules in place to help her overcome her exercise addiction. Although it is difficult for her, Kindal allows herself to take a full week off from working out and sets non-negotiable rest days. She also doesn’t use food as a reward or punishment based on her workouts in an attempt to change from her old mindset where the amount of calories burned determined how many calories she could consume.

While society’s growing interest in fitness is good to encourage people to become more active, it’s possible that society also influences people to push too far. Excessive exercise can negatively impact a person’s physical and mental health, especially when the motivation behind the workouts aren’t strictly to be healthier. Exercise should be seen as a celebration of what your body can do rather than a punishment for what you ate.

References:

Boyle, K. (n.d.). 6 rules that helped me recover from exercise addiction [Blog post]. Retrieved from Lifting Revolution website: http://www.liftingrevolution.com/6-rules-that-helped-me-recover-from-exercise-addiction/

Freimuth, M., Moniz, S., & Kim, S. R. (n.d.). Clarifying exercise addiction: Differential diagnosis, co-occurring disorders, and phases of addiction. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3210598/

Zimmerman, R. (n.d.). Exercise addiction: How to know if you’ve crossed the line between health and obsession. Retrieved May 20, 2016, from http://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2016/05/20/exercise-addiction-health-obsession

Categories
Addiction

Society and Smoking: a Deadly Combination

It’s likely that in today’s media you’ve seen some shocking anti-smoking ads. Many commercials feature former smokers offering advice on how to deal with major physical issues like losing limbs or lungs, which can happen after years of smoking. It would seem that these commercials succeed at their intended purpose of scaring people away from smoking, but smoking is still a major health issue in the US. While the rates of current smokers have decreased over the past ten years, nearly every 15 out of 100 people still smoke. Tobacco use has a long history in America and many social factors continue to keep this deadly addiction alive.

Many Native American tribes smoked tobacco through pipes for religious ceremonies.  Once the creation of the colonies, tobacco quickly became a cash crop. In the 1800’s cigarettes quickly gained popularity and tobacco was secured as an essential part of the US economy (“History of Tobacco”).

Smoking quickly became a social norm in American culture. The United States Army provided servicemen with free cigarettes during both world wars because so many soldiers smoked and it was used as a way to relax during such stressful times. Meanwhile, tobacco companies targeted the housewives and working women back home (“History of Tobacco”).

One of the major driving forces behind the growing popularity of smoking was Hollywood. Through movies and magazines, cigarettes quickly became a symbol of glamor and sex appeal. Smoking became iconic in classic movies during the 1950’s. For example, the portrait of Audrey Hepburn with a cigarette holder in her hand from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s has been reproduced thousands of times over the years. The Marlbolo man, known for his masculine and tough image, quickly became the successful advertising icon for Marlbolo Cigarettes. However, several actors who played this role have passed away due to smoking-related diseases.

Today, the government and health organizations work to educate a person on the dangers of smoking, however, that wasn’t always the case. The general surgeon warning, stating that cigarettes may be bad for your health, didn’t appear on packages until 1965. Many smokers claim that cigarettes have benefits that help to balance out the extreme health risks. For example, many smokers claim that cigarettes help to alleviate stress, but one study showed that nicotine use actually raises stress levels.

A final factor that increases the likelihood of smoking, is whether or not the individual grew up in a household where his or her parents smoked. Having a parent that smokes, increase the chance of adolescent smoking by 50%. Other factors that play a role include parental control over rules in a household and emotional attachment between the parents and adolescence.

Considering the deep-rooted history of cigarettes, the long-standing influence of media, and personal factors, it’s clear to see why smoking is still an issue in American society. In order to successfully improve this common and life-threatening addiction, it’s important to take into consideration all the complex reasons that influence an individual to start smoking. Simply informing the public of the health risks is not enough; cigarettes need to be separated from the social norm that allowed the addictive habit to become such a large part of modern culture.

References:

Becky’s tips [Video file]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/resources/videos/becky-videos.html#becky

History of tobacco. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://healthliteracy.worlded.org/docs/tobacco/Unit1/2history_of.html

Pilat, K. (n.d.). Hollywood and smoking: a brief history. Retrieved from https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2010/07/the-glitz-the-glamour-the-smoke.html

Parrott, A. C. (1999). Does cigarette smoking cause stress?. American Psychologist, 54(10), 817.

Schwarz, J. (2005, September 28). Children whose parents smoked are twice as likely to begin smoking between ages 13 and 21 as offspring of nonsmokers. Retrieved from http://www.washington.edu/news/2005/09/28/children-whose-parents-smoked-are-twice-as-likely-to-begin-smoking-between-ages-13-and-21-as-offspring-of-nonsmokers/

Categories
Addiction

PTSD and Addiction: A Duel Diagnosis

At some point, whether in real life or Hollywood movies, you’ve probably heard someone say, “I need a drink” after dealing with a stressful situation. Many people use alcohol to help them relax and unwind.

Studies have shown that one is likely to consume more alcohol after a stressful event rather than during it. While enjoying a drink or two after elevated stress levels isn’t necessarily harmful, it’s important to consider the role alcohol and drugs play when someone is dealing with an ongoing chronic stressor or a stress-related disorder. These substances might not be used as an aid to occasionally calm down, but instead as an unhealthy (and usually unsuccessful) coping mechanism. Using alcohol to cope distracts the person from the issue at hand, but often allows the person to remain in denial or misplace blame and judgment.

One of the illnesses that addiction is commonly comorbid with is post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.  Post-traumatic stress disorder refers to the avoidance of intrusive memories from a traumatic event. Symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, and increased stress due to internal or external cues often result, making this mental illness especially intrusive and debilitating (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Due to its precursor of experiencing a distressing event, PTSD is common among sexual assault victims and military veterans. A study in 1997 suggested that women suffering from alcoholism were two to three times more likely to be comorbid with PTSD due to sexual and physical abuse. However, this statistic has likely changed, due to the increased awareness of PTSD among military veterans. When surveying 140,00 veterans who are incarcerated, a shocking 60 percent reported addiction and substance abuse problems. Another study found that nearly 1 out of every 10 returning veterans has experience substance use disorder.

Thomas J. Brennan, a sergeant in the Marine Corps, serving in both Afghanistan and Iraq, wrote for the New York Times about the drinking culture in the United States military.  He explains that underage drinking is common, and that not a lot of action is taken to prevent it.  He goes on to state how many soldiers diagnosed with PTSD used alcohol to self-medicate and relieve their symptoms, something he admits to doing it himself for a short period of time.

While society is becoming more aware of the issues that post-traumatic stress disorder can cause, particularly for military personnel, the US still struggles to treat addiction.  Medication can help reduce the effects of PTSD, while Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help both PTSD and addiction (“PTSD: National,” 2015).  It is critical for society to recognize the comorbidity between PTSD and substance abuse in order to allow for the creation of more effective treatments and resources.  Because while drinking to relieve stress may be seen as a common part of culture in the United States, heavy substance use can increase complications and negative effects, especially when paired with other illnesses such as PTSD.

References:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Brennan, T. J. (2013, October 1). In the military, the drinking can start on day 1. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from https://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/01/in-the-military-the-drinking-can-start-on-day-1/?_r=0

Newman, L. (2013, August 1). Break the silence: The reality of alcohol in military life. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from https://www.veteransunited.com/network/break-the-silence-the-reality-of-alcohol-in-military-life/

PTSD: National center for PTSD. (2015, August 13). Retrieved February 26, 2017, from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/problems/ptsd_substance_abuse_veterans.asp

Volpicelli, J., Balaraman, G., Hahn, J., Wallace, H., & Bux, D. (1999). The role of uncontrollable trauma in the development of PTSD and alcohol addiction. Alcohol Research and Health, 23(4), 256-262.

Categories
Addiction

Social Media: Can you get Addicted?

Since the rise of personal computers and smartphones, the amount of time people spend on social media has become a popular topic of conversation and often criticism. As a society, we’re on our phones during all times of the day- whether it’s waiting in line for a cup of coffee, hanging out with friends, or before falling asleep, it’s clear that smartphones play a large role in our daily routines and how we interact with others. But when does social media usage cross the line between staying connected and up to date on current events to becoming obsessed? Many of my friends joke that they’re addicted to using their phones and constantly checking social media- but there’s surprisingly recent research suggesting that social media can cause behaviors similar to those with an addiction.

A recent study examined the relationship between Internet use and gratification. Seven different factors were taken into consideration when examining the reasons for why individuals use the Internet. Factors ranged from more practical uses like gaining information to more socially charged reasons, such as access to a virtual community and improving personal status. It was discovered that these factors, which often result in different types of gratification, could cause addiction-like tendencies depending on the factor, although normally mild among the majority of the population (Song, Larose, Eastin, Lin, 2004). However, this study provides interesting supporting evidence that could possibly help alter the way we view our time spent on the Internet.  

However, just because social media can cause behavior that is similar to those of people with an addiction, it’s crucial to not belittle the seriousness of drug addiction or alcoholism. While most of us are online an excessive amount of time, and sometimes do so without realizing- most people can still function successfully in their day to day lives. Social media use rarely results in many of the life-ruining consequences that drug or alcohol dependency creates.  

Nevertheless, the sneaky habit-forming behaviors of social media can result in serious consequences. For example, feeling the need to constantly stay connected can cause fatal car crashes when texting and driving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that an average of 8 people a day are involved in fatal car accidents that result from distracted driving. Many of these cases involve the use of a cell phone.

Another study examined the result of social media on mental health. While the majority of social media’s impact is still under question, it has been suggested that improper use of social media can result in depression-like symptoms. This doesn’t mean that someone who uses Facebook to stay in touch with friends will feel depressed, but rather if someone uses Facebook to secretly check up on ex-friends and partners, rather than engaging through comments, likes, and sharing they may experience a depressive-like mood (Chappellet-Lanier, 2015).

While the term addiction has recently been used to describe social media and technology usage, it’s important to remember that the term should be used loosely.  While frequently using social media can occur often without consequences it doesn’t hurt to be more mindful about the way we use technology.

References:

Chappellet-Lanier, T. (2015, February 4). Does Facebook cause depression? Depends on how you use it. Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/02/04/383775091/does-facebook-cause-depression-depends-on-how-you-use-it

Distracted Driving. (2016, March 7). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/

Indeok Song, Robert Larose, Matthew S. Eastin, and Carolyn A. Lin. CyberPsychology & Behavior. September 2004, 7(4): 384-394. doi:10.1089/cpb.2004.7.384.

Categories
Addiction

An Issue with Mainstream Culture

If you were to flip through the radio searching for a familiar tune, it wouldn’t take long to find a song that references alcohol. From upbeat party anthems to wistful country ballads, the idea of alcohol consumption is ingrained into mainstream aspects of American society.  The beloved substance has a long, complicated history and its presence is expected on holidays such as New Year’s Eve and Saint Patrick’s Day as well as events such as the Super Bowl.  While drinking alcohol is acceptable in moderation, it is important to consider how the American drinking culture can influence younger generations and how it impacts alcoholics and those recovering from addiction.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Defense, 1 in 12 adults struggle with alcohol dependence and abuse. While this number seems high, we can better understand it by looking at the social pressure surrounding drinking.  When alcohol consumption becomes a strong social norm it is no surprise that over 17 million people are struggling. In addition to influencing alcoholics and recoveries, it’s also important to consider society’s attitude toward alcoholism.

When I had a conversation with my roommate a while back, she said something that struck me. She said, “I feel that most families have a member that’s an alcoholic.”  Although this seemed an overstatement, it has been reported that over 50% of Americans have a family history of alcoholism or alcohol abuse (“Facts about,” 2015).  Perhaps the reason this issue is overlooked is because it is so common. While many families accept the fact they have a member that drinks in an unhealthy manner, less consideration is taken into account on addressing the problem.

Lawrence Osborne, an author and self-admitted lover of alcohol wrote about this issue very eloquently:

“The worst time of year for the drinker is Christmas and New Year’s.  It may be the worst time for everyone, but for the determined and solitary drinker it has a coercive and dismal quality, because suddenly your private vice becomes a public virtue in which you are obliged to participate as if nothing has changed. Drinking not only increases and becomes more social; it becomes part of the actual rite of this long devastated Christian holiday, which would be better renamed the Winter Solstice with shopping and antidepressants. (Osborne, 74).”

Osborne’s quote helps solidify the impact that social drinking in Western cultures has on people struggling with alcohol use.  It’s important to realize that social settings can be extremely difficult for recovering and current alcoholics.  Even though drinking has been a substantial part of American culture for such a long time, it should be taken into account how alcohol consumption culture negatively affects the recovery of those dealing with alcoholism.

References:

Facts about alcohol. (2015, July 25). Retrieved November 6, 2016, from https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol/facts-about-alcohol

Osborne, L. (2013). The wet and the dry. Crown.

Categories
Addiction

Caffeinated: Society’s Everyday Addiction

A professor of mine once said “Addiction must feel similar to how I feel trying to get a cup of coffee in the morning.” The students in the room responded to her comment with a little chuckle but she stopped us and said, “I’m serious.  When I wake up the first and only thing I’m thinking about is how to get a cup of coffee. But once I have the coffee, I’m okay and I can go about my day.”    

Her comparison intrigued me; she is definitely not the only person who greets the day in search of a caffeine fix. Personally, it is difficult to start my morning routine until I have begun drinking my morning coffee.  On the way to class, I pass the endless line of students outside Starbucks waiting as long as half an hour to get their fix of coffee. Think of Dunkin Donuts’ slogan, “America runs on Dunkin.” As dramatic as that seems, it’s not entirely false.  According to the Harvard School of Public Health, over 50% of Americans age 18 or older drink coffee every day.

As a society, we are hooked on caffeine.  Those who have an aversion to coffee still rely on an energy boost through soda, energy drinks, or tea.  When consumed in moderation, caffeine truly works in getting people up and working on tasks they have. However, excess caffeine can create health problems such as increased heart rate, tremors, and nausea while also impacting mood by inducing things such as anxiety or depression (“Caffeine in the diet,” 2015).  The DSM-5 has a subset of caffeine-related disorders under the substance related and addictive disorders category.  These disorders include: caffeine intoxication, caffeine withdrawal, other caffeine-induced disorders, and unspecified caffeine-related disorders. To many, this may seem a stretch to consider caffeine consumption as an addiction, especially because it’s so prevalent in today’s culture.  However, while caffeine-related disorders generally don’t have life-threatening symptoms or consequences, it doesn’t mean we should ignore it completely (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Recognizing that people have a dependence on legal substances such as caffeine can possibly help society become more understanding of intense forms of addiction like alcohol and drug abuse. Caffeine is similar to other habit-forming substances in that it alters the chemistry in the brain and has to be metabolized throughout the body to have an impact (“Caffeine in the Body,” 2016).

Although relying on a cup of coffee to wake up every day is common, it is not nearly as debilitating as an addiction to alcohol or heroin.  Caffeine won’t likely cause a person to be imprisoned nor act in a violent manner that other substances are known to do.  However, thinking about relying on a substance similarly to how my professor did may help society gain clarity in the mental complications involved in addiction. After all, the best way to help those struggling from addiction is to sympathize with the problem needing treatment.

References:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing

Caffeine in the body. (2016). Retrieved October 23, 2016, from http://coffeeandhealth.org/topic-overview/caffeine-in-the-body/

Caffeine in the diet. (2015, April 24). Retrieved October 30, 2016, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002445.htm

Coffee by the numbers. (2010). Retrieved October 23, 2016, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/multimedia-article/facts/

Categories
Addiction

The Prison Problem: Harsh Sentences for Drug Users

This past February, Brandon Stanton, owner of the famous blog, Humans of New York, wrote on stories of inmates around the Northeastern United States.  Many of the inmates shared their story about how they were imprisoned due to drug-related charges.  One mother was serving her fifth sentence for her methamphetamine addiction while a father was serving a life sentence for distributing crack cocaine.  The recurring theme in prison sentencing for drug use and dealing was the hope for a better life.  For many prisoners, selling drugs was seen as the only way to survive a society with little social and economic mobility.  While there should be consequences for breaking the law, the amount of low-income minorities tempted by high profits as well as the complexities of drug addiction should also be taken into consideration.

According to the Bureau of Prisons roughly half of Americans in federal prison are incarcerated on drug-related offenses.  The high incarceration rate is largely due to America’s war on drugs, or the push for federal drug control and abolishment of recreational drug use.  During Ronald Reagan’s presidency from 1981-1989, the amount of people imprisoned for nonviolent drug offenses skyrocketed.  In 1980 around 50,000 Americans were imprisoned for drug offenses, but grew to over 400,000 Americans by 1997 (“A brief,” 2016).  Anti-drug campaigns set forth an unrealistic, no tolerance attitude and neglected to help those addicted.  While the attitude in society is starting to acknowledge that treatment is crucial to tackling America’s drug issue, we are far from providing the treatment necessary.  The U.S. still follows the Mandatory minimum sentencing structure that was put into place throughout the 1980’s (“Federal Mandatory”).  This outdated model restricts those addicted from receiving treatment and prevents the low-income prisoners from becoming a productive member of society by keeping them imprisoned for such a long time.

In order to effectively treat addiction and to prevent the illegal distribution of drugs many steps should be implemented, as suggested by a survey by National Institute on Drug Abuse which is part of the National Institutes of Health. First, proper treatment centers should be readily available for those arrested for illegal drug use and those seeking help on their own. Simply imprisoning someone for twenty years does not ensure that they have conquered their addiction. Secondly, better economic opportunity among the lower class needs to be ensured.  Equal opportunity to education and employment, no matter the person’s race or income, is crucial in preventing the illegal distribution of drugs. Other feasible methods to advance, even while living in the poorest neighborhoods in America decrease the amount of minorities imprisoned, such as those highlighted in Stanton’s blog, Humans of New York. Meanwhile, if illegal drugs are less available, this could help reduce the impact of addiction and help those struggling to receive treatment rather, instead of them being criminalized.  

References:

A brief history of the drug war. (2016). Retrieved October 9, 2016, from http://www.drugpolicy.org/facts/new-solutions-drug-policy/brief-history-drug-war-0

Economic status and abuse. (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2016, from http://www.dualdiagnosis.org/drug-addiction/economic-status/

Federal mandatory minimums. (2012, August 6). Retrieved October 16, 2016, from http://famm.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Chart-All-Fed-MMs-NW.pdf

NIDA Survey Shows Lack of Substance Abuse Treatment Options for Offenders. (2007, April 2). Retrieved October 16, 2016, from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nida-survey-shows-lack-substance-abuse-treatment-options-offenders

Offenses. (2016, August 27). Retrieved October 9, 2016, from https://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/statistics_inmate_offenses.jsp

What are mandatory minimums. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://famm.org/mandatory-minimums/

Categories
Addiction

The Opioid Epidemic: Who is Fighting for Change?

While at lunch with a coworker, she excitedly updated me on the gossip about the Bachelorettea popular American reality show.  I’ll admit my thoughts started to drift as she prattled on as I’m not particularly interested in the turbulent love life of a reality star.  Yet, my lack of interest didn’t stop the situation from existing–nor did it impact my coworker’s excitement about itbut it’s easy for people to turn away from issues that don’t directly impact them. However, simply ignoring a prominent issue does not prevent its impact from resonating within society. America’s stance on drug abuse is a primary example of a society attempting to avoid an issue that is directly in front of us.  

It is often difficult to listen to the news without the opioid epidemic being discussed.  Whether it’s about a parent overdosing in front of their child, steps taken by the community to improve outreach, or another young adult losing his or her life to a heroin overdose, it’s difficult to ignore the issue.  According to Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, within the past decade heroin use has doubled among 18 to 25-year-olds (“Today’s Heroine,” 2015).  While this data is alarming and calls for public action, one of the major forces behind the reform toward illegal drug use is due to the new demographic at risk.  The amount of non-Hispanic whites using heroin has increased an outstanding 114%.  The drug has also wreaked havoc on middle-income families, demolishing the stereotype that illegal drug use was only a problem among the low-income earners and the impoverished (“Today’s Heroin,” 2015).  These demographic shifts have caused the public to rethink how they view addiction. Now, middle-class families advocate for change—a development lower class citizens didn’t have the power and/or resources to tackle before.

Many news agencies now cover both deaths and recoveries for middle class, white Americans who had reputations as “good kids.” Parents have shared stories about their children’s addictions and have tirelessly fought for reform. They demand harsher prison sentences for drug dealers, better access to treatment options, and lighter prison sentences to those who are struggling with addiction.  These changes have caused the government to advance toward treating those addicted, rather than just locking them away in a jail cell for years.

A small amount of people, including Kathleen Errico (mother of Kelsey Grace Endicott), choose to be honest when writing their loved one’s obituary.  Kathleen directly addressed her daughter’s overdose and how a two-year-old son was left without a mother, even after she was sober for nearly ten months.  Kathleen Errico highlighting Kelsey’s life as a person who loved art and her family, not just her life as an addict, helps to break down the shame that many people feel when living with an addict (“Kelsey Grace,” 2016).

Although it is a tragedy to see young people struggle with and perish to their addiction, it is uplifting to see America changing its approach on addiction.  After all, victims of addiction are people who have passions, talents, and loved ones who care about them. They are not merely criminals who have morally failed and it’s certainly time we stop treating them that way.

References:

Kelsey grace endicott. (2016, April 6). Boston Globe. Retrieved from http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/bostonglobe/obituary.aspx?pid=179523724

Today’s heroin epidemic. (2015, July 7). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heroin/

Categories
Addiction

Addicted: Society’s Stigma Surrounding Addiction

Over 21 million Americans suffered from a substance use disorder in 2014a number that is greater than the entire population of New York State.  As the United States faces what has been deemed a drug epidemic, with the increased use of heroin and opioids, prevention agencies struggle to find a way to effectively reach the general public, while treatment for those already addicted is scarce (“Substance Abuse,” 2016).

America’s issue with substance abuse is nothing new.  A brief skim through the history of the 20th century shows the changes in policies and social ideas regarding addictive substances in the U.S. For example, Prohibition, the prohibiting of producing, selling, and consuming alcohol, took place from 1920 to 1933.  The 1960’s were notorious for increased drug use as drugs became symbols of rebellion against older generations.  This was then followed by President Nixon’s war on drugs in the 70’s and a push for drug reform through various programs for the following two decades (“A Brief History,” 2016).  While the United States has a long timeline of trying to control substance abuse, one thing that hasn’t changed is the stigma surrounding those who are addicted.

While the DSM-5 does acknowledge substance-related and addictive disorders, much of the general public fails to see addiction as a disorder. Rather, it is viewed as a moral weakness. Like many mental illnesses, people falsely view the person suffering as the embodiment of their illness. Rather than seeing someone as a good father or a successful musician, the shadow of addiction tends to overpower the rest of a person’s accomplishments.  For those who have never personally experienced addiction or seen someone suffer first-hand, the assumption tends to be that the person is weak-willed and their addiction is a matter of choice.  The average person doesn’t see the internal struggle behind addiction, nor the chemical complexity that occurs at a biological level.

While the ideas surrounding addiction are slowly shifting towards a more accepting mindset, the longstanding shame associated with the issue hinders those seeking help. The negative connotations can prevent people from seeking treatment by reducing their willingness to attend therapy session or reach out to resources.  Instead, the stigma may cause those suffering to try to hide their substance abuse problem and prolong treatment.  The stigma may also impact a person’s support system because of the incorrect idea that addiction is strictly a matter of choice.

However, if steps are taken to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, including opening up communication about how complex substance dependence can be, the greater the chance is that people would receive and utilize proper treatment.

References:

A brief history of the drug war. (2016). Retrieved September 11, 2016, from http://www.drugpolicy.org/new-solutions-drug-policy/brief-history-drug-war

Substance abuse and mental health services administration. (2016, March 8). Retrieved September 11, 2016, from http://www.samhsa.gov/disorders