To date, the perception of the majority people regarding drugs use is mainly rooted in the moralistic view of addiction that perceives addicts as weak-willed, immoral, and people with character flaws that require incarceration or some form of punishment.
Years of public education from the health sector that teaches the true nature of addiction as a disease has not yet changed the people’s perception towards drug use which has resulted in the problem being a greater burden to the society.
This article focuses on changing the mentality of how American people perceive drugs use through illuminating the true nature of drugs abuse and how it affects the entire society.
Changing Views of Drugs Use
A century ago, people including the healthcare sector did not understand the true nature of addiction; thus addicts were perceived as morally degenerate.
They were imprisoned and locked away in asylums with no formal treatment available. It is only until the 60’s that the attitude toward drugs abuse changed in the health sector; where there was more understanding of addiction, with alcoholism being declared as a disease.
In the 70’s, the reforms spread to the law making the arm of the government, with policies recommending treatment as opposed to criminal prosecution.
Despite these milestones achieved towards changing the views of the drug use, the perception of the majority of the American people and the government is still similar to the views of those living a century ago.
The cost of not addressing the problem effectively
It has become a serious public health problem. Most of the major medical problems in the United States can be linked to drugs abuse.
Use of tobacco significantly contributes to heart disease and cancer, while drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine, ecstasy, and steroids significantly contribute to the development of heart disease.HIV/AIDS has been on the rise due to transmission through injection drug use.
Moreover, the top social problems in America also relate to drugs use. Factors such as driving under the influence (DUI) that contributes to 20% of road crash fatalities, violence, stress and child abuse have a deep connection to drugs use with two-thirds of patients that have undergone drug rehabilitation reported having been sexually or physically abused as children.
Drugs use also has a huge impact on the individual through injuries, illness, and even death.
In the United States, there are about 40 million debilitating injuries or illnesses and close to 500,000 deaths per year due to illicit drug abuse.
One fact that we cannot escape from is that drugs use affects us all, either directly or indirectly and is taking a tremendous toll on our society on multiple levels. It often leads to:
• Homelessness: with 31% of homeless people have drugs related problems
• Brocken families due to violence, abuse, and poverty all that is instigated by use of drugs.
• Crime: 60% of adults in prison are there due to drug-related crimes.
• Increase in school drop outs, due to the need for costly special education for the addicts that they can barely afford.
• Addicts can barely maintain a job despite their level of qualification resulting to unemployment.
Unfortunately, the perception of the people in regards to the use of drugs is filled with myths and stigma.
On the positive side, stigma can serve as an inhibitor for some people to indulge in drugs abuse.
On the other hand, stigmatization of any disease prevents the afflicted persons to seek help or treatment and often discourages friends, family, and other concerned parties from encouraging their loved ones to seek help let alone acknowledge that the problem exists.
The common myth that, if drug abusers are sufficiently motivated, they could change their behavior is misguided because people fail to understand the multiple complex factors surrounding addiction.
The situation is further aggravated when the policymakers also do not understand the nature of drug addiction, where addicts are perceived as untreatable and unworthy of public support, resulting in high levels of drug-related incarcerations with minimal and underfunded treatment programs, research and training programs and insurance coverage.
Despite having come a long way in understanding the nature of addiction, the society has a long way to go.
Myths and lack of proper understanding of the nature of drug use have made the problem become a greater burden to the society each day.
As such, there is need to spread and continue sharing the right message that treatment works and prevention is effective. Only by changing our perceptions, is the only way we can start winning the war against drug use.
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