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How Is Addiction Viewed in American Culture?

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How Is Addiction Viewed in American Culture?

Addiction is not new to the American culture. While addiction may not have been so publically discussed in the 1950s, for the past 50 years, the media has been contributing to America’s awareness of drugs through newspapers, tabloids, films, and music. How Americans perceive addiction has also evolved over the years.

Americans’ Views on Addiction from the 1960s to Present

The Gallup group is an organization of 2,000 professionals including noted scientists, renowned subject-matter experts, and bestselling authors who work in a range of industries. This group delivers analytics about the attitudes and behaviors of citizens around the world. They have consistently taken surveys about Americans’ views on drugs since 1969.

In speaking about their findings for the 1960s and 1970s in their July 2, 2002, Gallup post, Gallup reported that Americans had grown increasingly more concerned about the effects of drugs on young people. For instance, in 1969, 48 percent of Americans told Gallup that drug use was a serious problem in their community. In 1986, a majority of Americans, 56 percent, said that the government spent “too little” money fighting drugs. By 1995, 31 percent said drug use was a “crisis,” and an additional 63 percent said it was “a serious problem” for the nation as a whole.

How Is Addiction Viewed in American Culture?

The report further explained Americans’ view on addiction indicating that Americans felt that unsuccessful government programs, underfunded law enforcement, and irresponsible media content all contributed to the failure of the country to solve the problem of drugs. In addition, Americans felt that part of the problem was due to ineffective drug prevention programs.

In a follow-up survey dealing with the 1980s and 1990s on July 5, 2002, Gallup post indicated that in 1986, Americans felt that crack and other forms of cocaine were the most serious problem for society during that year. In addition, new campaigns were created that attempted to remove the scare tactics of the previous decade’s anti-drug initiatives. Drug abuse prevention began to center on education. Instead of attempting to frighten people about drugs, new outreach programs such as DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and Partnership for a Drug-Free America were created.

In the 1990s, federal funding for the war on drugs reached $17.1 billion dollars. However, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids reported that the use of a new wave of drugs including methamphetamines and ecstasy, by high school students doubled between 1990 and 1996. In the third-part poll in this series, the 2007 Gallup post shows that survey respondents are still feeling that drug is a very serious problem.

Contributors to How Addiction Is Viewed

Some common themes through the past five decades on how the American culture views addiction include the following:

  • Addiction is a series of societal issues.
  • Addiction is a costly issue.
  • Educating yourself about addiction is an important step people should take.
  • We need to do more to inform people in an effort to prevent addiction.

Different strategies to inform and educate people have varied over the decades. Since its inception in 1974, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has had a mission to bring the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction. As part of this mission, they partnered with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to create a series, produced by HBO. The documentary, titled Addiction, offers the unique perspective of having both addicts and scientific experts deal with a variety of components of drug and alcohol addiction. This effort was intended to inform, educate and provide viewers with knowledge about the risks of drug use and strategies to avoid drugs.

Culture Versus Personal Choice

There is no doubt that a person’s culture has an influence on his or her personal choices. However, the most important step that people can take to formulate their views on addiction is to educate themselves. There are a variety of sources available such as NIDA and NIAAA, and support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. If you are concerned about a loved one, you may want to attend Nar-Anon or Al-Anon.

The more you educate yourself, the more aware you will become of the hazards and destruction that addiction causes. This awareness may make you realize that a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse. If that is the case, reach out to him or her and offer assistance to get them the help they need.

If you believe that you are struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, it is important that you do not waste valuable time seeking cultural acceptance of your need to seek treatment. Here are several things you will want to do to get you on the right path to getting the treatment you need:

  1. Visit your healthcare provider to get a baseline health assessment and to talk to your family doctor about reliable resources in your area.
  2. Call your insurance company to get a list of in-network treatment facilities.
  3. Reach out to the facilities to check on availability and the specific services they provide.
  4. Get into treatment.

While there are only four steps listed, each step can be frightening, and you may feel overwhelmed at times. Reach out to a friend or family member who can encourage you, do some of the research with you, and who can keep you motivated to get treatment.

Get Help for Drug or Alcohol Addiction

If addiction is affecting your life, you need to act quickly and aggressively to get the treatment you need. We can help you do this, so please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about treatment for drug abuse and addiction.

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