Addiction — in terms of substance abuse — is something that is touching the lives of people in every city in America. It affects communities, families, and individuals in a profound way. It’s a problem that plagues everyone differently which is causing a divide in perception. Because addiction has become such an all-encompassing problem, people are more aware than ever about the dangers of addiction and the harm it can cause.
This leads to the question: What progress is being made? It’s hard to quantify. Though there are some steps forward, there are also steps backward. Though there are some positive changes being made, there is also a lot of room for progress.
An Increased Awareness
As more people become aware of the dangers of addiction, they can become allies in our efforts to end it. Knowing that addiction is a major problem, educating others on the dangers of addiction, and being able to quantify how many are affected by it can lead to solutions that wouldn’t be available otherwise. Substance abuse education can be used to prevent future substance abuse. It can also be used in a treatment setting to teach those who are using, as well as their family members, about why substance abuse happens and how to regain sobriety.
An increased awareness can also work to stop the stigma surrounding addiction. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for some to balance holding an addict accountable while still acknowledging their humanity. By creating more awareness on the issues of addiction and their biological, environmental, socioeconomic, and mental health components, more people may understand why addiction can affect certain groups of people more than others.
More Treatment Programs
With more treatment programs comes more availability for those experiencing addiction to find help. One major step in the progress being made on addiction is the treatment programs available. There are some treatment programs that are free, such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous, state-funded rehabilitation programs, or faith-based rehab programs. There are also treatment facilities that take insurance or more expensive rehabilitation programs. Certain schools or counselling services may offer treatment programs as well.
From substance abuse social work, to addiction counsellors, to sponsors who have gone through it, there are many different options to find someone who can help an addict work their way through treatment and sobriety. Though many different treatment programs are working as nonprofits in order to make treatment more accessible, it’s still an area to work harder at.
Experimenting With Changes
Though there does seem to be some progress being made in awareness, education, and treatment available for addiction issues, it’s hard to quantify the changes that are making progress. Not all addictions are created equal, and for the opioid epidemic, it’s hard to see a lot of progress being made. However, an increased awareness of how bad opioid addiction has become has sparked many changes to reduce the deaths caused by opioids.
For one, opioid prescriptions have decreased as more healthcare professionals are educated on opioid risks. Things like needle exchanges, medication, and naloxone (an opioid overdose antidote) availability are all possible interventions that can help the opioid crisis as well as other substance abuse issues. With projections of an estimated 510,000 deaths in the next 10 years due to opioid-related causes, change needs to be made fast.
There’s Still a Lot of Progress to Be Made
The progress that has been made is all very fluid and hard to contextualize. More education and awareness, paired with a higher availability of treatment and more experimental changes to be made, has the possibility of making real progress. However, without laws, funding, and consistency, the progress will be slow. For this reason, it’s still important to make the changes needed to create actual progress.
For one, public perception on addiction still has a long way to go. Stigma can, and has, halted a lot of change in terms of helping those living with addiction. We also need to learn how to help people manage pain without the use of opioids but also not leave them without any pain management at all. Doctors need to be consistent in their efforts to prescribe pain management medication or dosage alternatives so that patients in pain aren’t being punished for the shift in prescriptions. Though there are more treatment programs available, there needs to be more work on making them accessible. There needs to be further progress in these areas.
Addiction is a problem that affects everyone that it touches. It’s hard on the person using, their family, and their entire community. Right now, addiction is in a difficult place. With the epidemic caused by opioid addiction, communities are losing people at an alarming rate. Though some progress is being made, more action needs to be taken in order to reverse the damage that has been done. Through education, treatment, and policy changs, more progress can be made to help save communities from the horrors caused by addiction.