The college experience while very exciting and adventurous, has rattled my reality about what I thought was, yet is. Things I had never given second thought before, are suddenly center stage in this journey without warning and causing me to question many things that I had read about or seen somewhere but had never really reflected upon until now. During the most pivotal years of my life, I find myself asking the same one word question I so curiously asked as a child, “why”? Why are there so many homeless people in Tallahassee? Why are the mentally ill not receiving the care they so desperately need? Why aren’t our veterans receiving better medical care and why do we treat certain diseases like they are a choice and in a country with limitless resources are we in such chaos? I can go on about the very many things I see we as a society, as a world are not focusing enough on but I will start with one, substance abuse.
By definition, substance abuse is overindulgence in or dependence on an addictive substance, especially alcohol or drugs. However, nor overindulgence nor dependence begin to truly describe substance abuse with just two words. To truly define the problem, there must be a pattern of destructive and mood altering behavior, affecting an individual, even if just temporarily. That is, before, during, and after addiction. This is not to say the substance being abused would necessarily be drugs or alcohol. Substances such as caffeine, solvents, cigarettes, just to mention a few, can be abused as well. The abuse is evident when an individual’s mood and/or performance at home, school, work, or even in social gatherings changes to the extreme that it impairs normal behavior. The problem is also better understood when all things considered, the end result becomes a gateway to other social problems such as violence, crime/delinquency, homelessness, and even cause long term effects such as physiological damage to the human body, particularly the brain.
I guess It would be easy to blame a specific cause or event in time, but the sad truth is that addiction is a disease that has no prejudice against age, culture, social class or bank account. Perhaps the root cause of said abuse has been dormant like a virus just waiting some life changing event to wake the sleeping giant we so carefully and often, conveniently locked away in the attic of our subconscious since our early years of life. According to data from the National Survey of Adolescents and other studies mentioned by National Stress Traumatic Stress Network, “one in four children and adolescents in the United States experiences at least one potentially traumatic event before the age of 16” and “in surveys of adolescents receiving treatment for substance abuse, more than 70% of patients had a history of trauma exposure.”
So although substance abuse is clearly a problem, perhaps taking a closer or deeper look can help explain the “why” it is there to begin with. I am just scratching the surface, I know, but it is definitely something to think about as young adults, especially once we consider the responsibility of having children, one day.