“I’ve seen the needle and the damage done” sings Neil Young. We can relate to that verse. Due to overdoses, A whole generation of young men and women are dead, dying, lost. I have lost so many family members and friends to this insidious disease. Collectively, we shed a sacred river of tears. Today, I thought of the endless list of my friends who have succumbed to addiction.
Social psychology is a passion of mine–I often feel compelled to ask questions and arrive at some basic truths. So when it comes to a social issue that has resulted in the death of some of the most kind, loving, and gentle souls that God blessed me with the opportunity to befriend, I am duty bound to ask the question “Why?” and to research and explore, and find some answers.
And I’m not writing this article not for MD’s and PhD’s. I am writing it to you, my friends: the addict, the addict’s friend, the addict’s family member. And if I start to lose your attention because of my choice of words or my citing of research, please be confident that in the end, you will understand what I have to say.
Please believe in your ability to produce a positive change. Your questions, answers, and experiences matter to me, and matter to someone out there whose life you could save. Always remember what our goal is here: we are trying to figure out why all our friends are dying to a vicious disease–a disease that, if we’re being honest, wants me dead, and I bet wants you dead too. So don’t let any my intellectual snobbishness prevent you from addressing an epidemic that has changed all of our lives forever.
Already some of you have open-and-closed my research. “Addiction is a progressive disease that if left untreated results in death.” I agree with that statement, and so doesn’t the American Medical Association. But addiction is not a unique psychological illness. There are social/environmental causes that precipitate the disease.
One need only compare the rates of addiction in The United States with that of other countries.
It is highly unlikely that everyone with the biological trait that makes addiction more probable, somehow ended up in the United States.
Something precipitates addiction in American society, whether it is political or sociological/social psychological. There is an anomaly (something different) in the United States that leads to the highest rates of addiction in the world. The answers to the question, “Why have I lost so many people to this disease?” is closer to being answered when we discover these anomalies–these variables.
Let’s take a look at the political anomalies. The United States has a political system that requires candidates to consistently raise money. A congressperson is required to raise $15,000 a week to hold on to his or her seat. That money is not coming from you or me. It is coming from the pharmaceutical lobby. (Aliyah Frumin, “How much does it cost to win a seat in Congress? Well, if you have to ask…” Hardball with Chris Matthews. MSNBC. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.com/hardball/how-much-does-it-cost-win-seat-congre Accessed on 17 August 17)
So far this year, the lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry has spent $1,657,260,107 on bribing your federally elected representatives to pass laws that benefit the pharmaceutical industry (retrieved from OpenSecrets.org on 9 March 2017).
Money has already had harmful influence on our government, but senators like the statesmen Senator John McCain witnessed the greed and harm that infected our federally elected politicians. Senator McCain pushed for limits on the amount of money special interests could donate (or legally bribe) to our elected representatives (keep in mind, as I speak highly of McCain, a Republican who subscribes to a political philosophy that I oppose, still garners my absolute respect and admiration. He is an American–and a hero–who realizes that money is corroding our democracy). With Senator Feingold he wrote legislation that would limit soft money contributions to campaigns.
The conservative Supreme Court’s Decision with Citizens United turned corporations into entities protected by freedom of speech. Even though corporations exist solely to seek profit in the short term without regard for the harm they do to human beings, they are allowed to donate as much money as necessary to sway the electorate. They achieve this through the use of Super-PAC’s, which supposedly have no connection with a candidate’s campaign, even though the campaign directs their people to donate to their particular super PAC, which is run by people who are close to the candidate’s campaign. The SJC’s decision has turned this country into a corporatocracy. The echo of “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people” grows more and more distant.
Why is this important to the issue of addiction? The money donated to campaigns by OxyContin’s producers, Purdue Pharma, “greased the wheel” for FDA approval. And at the time, there were no laws prohibiting companies like Purdue Pharma from enticing doctors and medical professionals from prescribing certain drugs.
How many people do you know received an injury and were given opiates like OxyContin? Did the Doctor tell these people how addictive opiates are and how a tolerance builds that requires one to ingest the same amount just to not feel sick? These drugs were pushed on medical professionals by pharmaceutical industries. According to Forbes Magazine:
The FDA approved the medication in 1995 and it soon took off. By 2003 OxyContin sales hit $1.6 billion as the drug helped drive a huge nationwide spike in opioid prescribing. At its peak in 2012, doctors wrote more than 282 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers, including OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet – nearly enough for every American to have a bottle. (Chase Peterson-Withorn, “Fortune of Family Behind OxyContin” Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/chasewithorn/2016/06/29/fortune-of-family-behind-oxycontin-drops-amid-declining-prescriptions/ accessed on 9 August 2017)
Let’s discuss the corrosive proclivities that exists in the social psychological make up of American society. A pervasive sense of hopelessness in the souls of most Americans suggests a lack of fulfillment.
The genesis of this spiritual malady begins at a young age. We are exposed to commercials and advertisements that darken our souls with the belief that happiness is an external search. We seek money and material goods more than we seek peace, happiness and serenity, which can only be found in the deepest recesses of our minds. The Jesuits at BC High taught me that happiness requires that we commit acts of justice–we must be “men for others”. And I never feel more fulfilled while engaging in acts of justice–particularly social justice. I always hoped that achieving my Bachelors Degree would allow me to be a man for others.
But we who were “lucky enough” to attend college, are corporate slaves in two ways. Most of the jobs available have a corporate atmosphere that engage in individual competition. We are stuck with jobs that promote an “Ayn Rand” philosophy. We owe a lifelong debt to Corporate America, not for helping us achieve a higher education, but for billing us with minimum payments that ensure that we will remain a mucilage nobody, a number, a sucker, to corporates America.
The American Dream is exactly that, a dream. Conservative, Friedman economic policies have made the American Dream elusive for folks seeking forward mobility. Despite my BA in Political Science and my 3.4 GPA, I am a cement mason for local 534. And I am lucky to have found this union. Being a corporate slave or stuck working retail with no options, one can be tempted to numb oneself.
You did everything right, yet you still lack independence. A BA doesn’t get a person as far as it once did. Because of conservative policies, starting with Reagan, which continued with Clintons and the DLC who sought to turn the Democratic Party into a fiscally conservative party, the middle class has slowly disappeared. No jobs, the inability to take care of your family, the rampant hopelessness, all lead to drug use. (Carl Latkin, PhD.; Aaron Curry, PhD; Wei Hua, MD, MS; Melissa Davey MPH, CHES; “Direct and Indirect Associations of Neighborhood Disorder with Drug Use and High Risk Sexual Partners” American Journal of Preventative Medicine Vol. 32 Issue 6 (2007) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379707001110 Accessed on 16 August 17
The United Nations has been able to quantify the happiness of each country. The countries that are the most happy are Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland. What do these countries have in common: universal healthcare, union membership of 80-90%, free day care, good schools, lack of corruption in business and governance. (Retrieved from http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2017/) Essentially these countries learned–a long time ago, at around the same time we were unlearning it–that the economic power of the United States came from the strength of the middle class created by the social programs promulgated by FDR: social security and medicare. Now we have a population of folks who have gone from the middle class to dependency on the government to feed themselves. This is an erosion of their independence and liberty. They are victims of bad government policies and are left with shame and guilt. Some numb that economic hopelessness and the erosion of help in the form of social programs with drugs and alcohol.
Our friends that have succumbed to this diabolical disease are not just the victims of their genetic make up. They are the victims of a society the values money and materialism over human life. Our society is based on the lie that materialism and self-interest are the traditional traits of American Society
We must strive to live the truth. We are meant to serve one another, and be selfless. We are meant to to be “men for others”. When we subscribe to an ideology of selflessness, we can achieve genuine. happiness. Alcoholics Anonymous states that we must give back what we were freely given in order to maintain our serenity. When we refuse to become a cog in a corporate machine that propagates selfishness and greed, we are protecting ourselves from avarice, evil, and even relapse.
Enlighten friends about the materialism and selfishness rampant in our society. Create the “power of the powerless” as Václav Havel would refer to us. Fight back against the political forces and the spiritually sick sociological state in which we live that has cost so many young lives. Václav Havel writes:
THE PROFOUND crisis of human identity brought on by living within a lie, a crisis which in turn makes such a life possible, certainly possesses a moral dimension as well; it appears, among other things, as a deep moral crisis in society. A person who has been seduced by the consumer value system, whose identity is dissolved in an amalgam of the accouterments of mass civilization, and who has no roots in the order of being, no sense of responsibility for anything higher than his own personal survival, is a demoralized person. The system depends on this demoralization, deepens it, is in fact a projection of it into society. (Vaclav Havel, “Power of the Powerless” retrieved from http://www.vaclavhavel.cz/showtrans.php?cat=eseje&val=2_aj_eseje.html&typ=HTML accessed on 16 August 2017