Methamphetamine, or meth, and other drugs are still taking over communities at a rapid pace. With the COVID-19 pandemic all over the news there are some news stories that are slipping through the cracks. There is still a massive drug problem in the United States.
The opioid epidemic shed a lot of light on addiction in recent times in our country, but just because it is not on the news everyday, does not mean that it is over. The drug problem in the country is still here and always adapting.
Our Drug Problem
In the United States, drugs and alcohol have always been a problem that has changed and adapted as time has gone by. The 18th Amendment or prohibition was passed in 1920, making alcohol illegal to manufacture, sell, or transport. This created a large blackmarket of alcohol sales and manufacturing. Prohibition was repealed in 1933. Then during World War 1, morphine was given to injured soldiers and a lot of them became addicted.
In 1971, again, there was a growing heroin problem among U.S. servicemen in Vietnam. The War on Drugs was declared in June 1971. In 1973, the DEA, or Drug Enforcement Administration, was created.
Then in the 1980s, the cocaine and crack epidemic took over the nation. In 1981, Nancy Reagan began her highly-publicized anti-drug campaign “Just Say No”. Criminalization of drug users and drug dealers was a large part of the ‘solution’ of the War on Drugs. This began the zero tolerance policies in the mid 1980s.
The number of people behind bars for nonviolent drug law offenses increased from 50,000 in 1980 to over 400,000 by 1997. During this time, there was really no focus on rehabilitation, drug abuse and addiction, and the negative stigma of drug users only grew larger. During this time, the spread of HIV/AIDS became a nationwide problem.
Then came the opioid epidemic. Along with these epidemics came other diseases like Hepatitis C because of unsafe behaviors. Sharing needles, pipes, and unsafe sex these diseases spread like wildfire. All those years people were suffering and dying because of the lack of focus on rehabilitation and addiction.
The Focus on Addiction in the Past
There were attempts to help “cure” addicts and alcoholics. So, there were people trying to help alcoholics, but because of lack of research and knowledge of addiction many of these “cures” failed. Hospital stays for 31 days, injecting gold 4 times a day as a “cure”, sentencing to a mental asylum, and more.
Physicians and doctors were trying to help, but the ideas and practices were off the mark. Luckily, in 1935, there were a few people that were acknowledging the lack of successful help for alcoholics out there. Those men included Bill W and Doctor Bob Smith created Alcoholics Anonymous. They created the 12 Steps, a series of principles that used spiritual and moral development to offer help.
They created a safe place and a safe community for people to come and feel comfortable talking about their addiction. As time has gone by, we have made strides in the right directions. Thanks to doctors and researchers nationwide we now understand addiction is a disease.
What We Know Now
We now know how we need to help addicts and alcoholics. They do not need to be put in jail. They need rehabilitation programs and therapy. Because we have done the research, we understand addicts and alcoholics are not addicted because of a “moral failure”.
We know now that there are many different reasons that people become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Addiction is a disease that changes the way the brain works. Addiction creates a compulsive need to continue to use regardless of any negative consequences.
Addiction will always become impossible to control. Researchers have found how drug and alcohol abuse changes the brain and body. Repeated and long-term use changes the way the brain releases essential chemicals.
For example, heroin immediately releases high amounts of dopamine- the “feel good” chemical in the brain. After time, the brain becomes dependent on the drug to release that dopamine, and other essential chemicals, leaving the brain unable to release them normally. When an addict or alcoholic tries to stop using on their own it can be extremely painful or even dangerous.
Detox and Rehab
Alcohol and benzodiazepine, xanax or klonopin, withdrawal can cause seizures, visual and auditory hallucinations, or even death. Long-term drug and alcohol abuse can cause short-term or long-term psychological effects.
This is why detox and rehab are so highly recommended. Trying to detox on your own is so dangerous and oftentimes unsuccessful. In a detox or rehab setting, there are medical professionals and addiction specialists available around the clock.
Being in a rehab setting, you are surrounded by peers, professionals, and people that understand what you are going through. These are truly safe environments for people in such fragile states. We have been able to create these safe environments because of the research that has been put into addiction and also because of the caring people that work in these facilities.
Being in the grips of addiction is a painful experience. Becoming sober and working towards long-term sobriety can be painful, too. Working through that pain shows you how strong you truly are.
The work that you put into long-term sobriety makes you a stronger, healthier, and happier person. We all carry scars, but those scars make us who we are.
If you are suffering right now make that phone call. If someone you know or love is suffering listen to them and help them reach out for help. Sometimes, people aren’t ready to reach out for help, but there is always hope. Also, there is always help.