The actual magnitude of the effort that it would take to completely eradicate our country’s addiction epidemic is somewhat intimidating. Actually, it is very intimidating. Some organizations contend that it’s unlikely that this is even possible. Some groups believe that we should actually legalize all drugs. These groups are proponents of the idea that we never make any real progress in the war on addiction, yet we are wasting valuable resources in the effort to do so. Even the National Survey on Drug Use and Health published survey findings in 2015 that cite thirty-nine percent of Americans feeling as though we are fighting a losing battle with addiction.
But we can beat addiction completely, and these paragraphs will illustrate the herculean, but necessary, level of action that it would take to accomplish that goal.
Addiction is not going to be something that the government will take care of for us. In fact, there is very little actual change that the government can do for us, as proven by endless failed promises by countless political leaders. No almighty governing body is going to save our country from addiction. No law enforcement group is going to fully prevent the thousands of pounds of drugs from coming into our country. No state-funded rehabs are going to cure the nearly twenty-four million people who are currently addicted to drugs and alcohol. No school system or educational platform is going to teach all of our kids to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says that for every one dollar that is spent on an addict’s stay at a professional rehab center, seven dollars are saved from U.S. taxpayers having to bear the burden of the economic damage that drug addicts cause. Obviously, treatment is a big part of the answer to our country’s addiction epidemic, but it is not the only answer, not by a long shot.
Prevention is also a huge factor. Prevention is actually more significant in America than rehabilitation is. As one can imagine, it’s far more realistic to prevent a man or woman from becoming addicted than it is to rehabilitate them once they are already addicted. This is especially crucial when it comes to young people. Even the best of drug and alcohol rehabs can only offer barely more than a sixty or a seventy percent success rate, showcasing the unfortunately high recidivism rates amongst our rehab program graduates. Prevention, on the other hand, utilizes law enforcement, legislation, community campaigns, education, school programs, after-school groups, etc. to ensure that people do not walk down a path of substance abuse.
As an interesting side note, Iceland has the lowest young adult and teen substance abuse statistics of all European countries per capita. This was huge news to us Americans and was reported on in “The Huffington Post,” “The Atlantic,” and “Mosaic Science.” Does Iceland accomplish this because of their excellent drug and alcohol rehabs? No. It is because the Icelandic people raise their kids with prevention, education, mandatory after-school activities in wealthy and poor neighborhoods alike, and a country-wide commitment to abstinence. We can do this too if we truly want to experience total freedom from addiction.
Most people think, “What can I do? I’m just one person.” Well, freedom starts with you. Just like with any other great change, change is brought on by a large group who were committed to something different.
Completely removing addiction from our country will never happen overnight and it will never happen at all if we do not all get behind it. It’s obvious that incarcerating millions of people for drug related crimes is never going to prevent addiction and in fact may contribute to it’s escalation. This has to be a nationwide effort that we all contribute too. Taking part in things like pledges to be sober, educating kids and young people, volunteering to spread awareness, donating to local treatment centers, helping addicts to get clean and preventing non-addicts from becoming addicts, these all fit the bill for what we must all do if we want to see a drug-free America.