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Substance Abuse in The USA and South America

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Addiction is an everlasting battle. Most people have either been an addict or had a family member, friend, or loved one battle the cycle with addiction. There are a few things that I am going to discuss around the topic of substance abuse, such as, how the United States of America regulates illegal drugs, addicts and laws compared to South America. Also, how a couple of 2020 president’s views on this topic vary. Then I will dive into what I think about substance abuse and why.

When discussing illegal drugs and South America, Colombia is a place that many people think of. Colombia is one of the biggest mass producers of cocaine to this day. Colombia has minimal drug laws, meaning that if you are caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana or 1 gram of cocaine it is considered personal use; you typically won’t get in criminal trouble, but it is evaluated by the judge as well. The USA has a no drug policy, so even the smallest amount of illegal drug substances puts you at risk for fines/jail. Sometimes it’s easy to assume that if we just get rid of cartels, made drugs illegal, and criminalize every situation in order to make the drug problem go away. The problem is that there is the balloon affect when we try to do any of those things. Such as, in 2002 the USA poured billions of dollars into the “Colombia Plan” which the intentions were to eliminate cartel and mass production of cocaine and other illegal drugs. They successfully dropped the rates of cocaine production in Colombia, but all the production moved and spiked in Peru and Bolivia. As the name says, it is like squeezing one side of a balloon and watching it blow at the other end. By pushing all the cartel away from Colombia and stopping mass production we just pushed them into other countries which caused long term socio-economic damage. In neither the USA nor South America is it “culturally” accepted to do drugs or overlooked. When pertaining to illegal drug use, I don’t think anyone wishes that demon upon anyone. Both countries try to keep the border patrol staffed, drug laws obtainable and people held accountable, but the fact is, drugs are a sought out by so many that somewhere/someone will always find a way to produce hence why it’s a multibillion-dollar industry. The drugs of choices between the countries are surprisingly different. In addiction treatment centers in South America, there are more marijuana users then there are “hard” substance abusers seeking help. In the United States treatment centers, in the last 10 years we have had a massive spike in opioid and methamphetamine abusers. One of the reasons that the United States have one of the highest opioid substance abusers is because we also have some of the best healthcare, right? When people are sought out for medical care for any injury, pain or disability they have we are out to fix them in the United States. When in medical school/Pharmaceutical school we are taught about vital signs to monitor as one of the key essentials when checking out a patient concern. There used to be only five vital signs but within the last 8-10 years we have added a sixth. The original vital signs were blood pressure, oxygen saturation, temperature, respiration rate and pulse. The sixth vital sign we had added about 10 years ago is pain. If you notice that the other vital signs are measurable and non-subjective, unlike pain which is completely subjective and dependent on the persons pain tolerance (coincidence that is roughly the same time that our opioid epidemic started?). So when addressing our vital signs we are taught that for someone to survive those are the things that we will assess and put our attention to first, which means that our doctors did what they had learned, prescribed a narcotic that is made to bring the patients pain down. The thought behind it was in order to get a patient to be strong enough to participate in their plan of care, we needed to “eliminate” all pain. At that point in time we didn’t understand the psychological factors that came along with narcotics and we have learned quickly that is chemically changes the way people think. Most other countries deal with addiction just like the USA does, but we medically started our addiction, typically addiction was higher in poverty in other countries. But addiction doesn’t care whether you are old, young, a mom, a dad, a daughter, a son, black, white, big or small. It doesn’t discriminate against anyone because addiction takes you down a path that is a forever battle, even after sobriety and treatment.

This is the section where I have chosen two different presidential 2020 candidates to compare their views on illegal drugs and addiction. I chose to do Trump and Sanders for the fact that they identify in two different categories. Trump classifies as a Republican and Sanders identifies as a Democrat. Trump has made his opinions very vocal about drugs and his solutions to drugs. Trump has proposed the border among the USA to help control drugs. One of his biggest campaigns was about stopping the opioid epidemics and helping those in needs to seek treatment. Sense Trump has been president he has passed a policy reform regarding marijuana, believing that it should be statewide decision on how they proceed with that instead of having it a federal law. It had successfully passed a couple months ago. On OCT. 9th, 2017 Trump was asked “how would your administration addressing the growing opioid problem?” Trump responded “We first should stop the inflow of opioids into the United States. We can do that, and we will in the Trump administration. As this is a national problem that costs America billions of dollars in productivity, we should apply the resources necessary to mitigate this problem. Dollars invested in taking care of this problem will be more than paid for with recovered lives and productivity that adds to the wealth and health of the nation”. Trump has been very open about traumatic experiences when he was young about his brother dealing with alcoholism and dying from it so that he has subjectively abstained from ever walking the path. Sanders believes that we should end the drug war and put the billions we spend on the war elsewhere. He believes that we should spend our time treating the addicts and not fighting the source. He thinks by doing this we could also release a mass amount of incriminate people who are not “scary” and could just use the help of treatment centers. He has not had any policies go through as he has never been president yet. As you can tell, they have different views on the drug war as Trump believes to crack down, build walls and continue battling and Bernie believes we should retreat, save money and put our attention strictly back the USA drug problems and stop sending military personal and money overseas to fight the drug war. They can both agree that there is a problem, and that the problem has spiked and there needs to be action taken. But the solution the problem is different between them.

My views on this topic vary. I have had personal experiences with addicts as my father is an addict, my daughters’ father is an addict, and I work in a treatment center all who are battling some form of addiction. I think that the two forms of argument around addiction typically revolve around “it’s a disease” and “it’s a choice”. I personally find a balance between the two answers. Because yes, before someone who has substance use disorder, they don’t know the struggles because it took a “choice” to get them there. Which is sometimes true, such as, if you break your arm and are prescribed a narcotic. It only takes one time for the chemicals in your brain to form, but that doesn’t mean that will happen to every person, which is why sometimes people believe that it is a “myth”. There are also other factors that revolve around having a substance abuse disorder. Such as typically people who have substance abuse disorders also have very poor coping skills. Let me explain this. Let’s say there are two different girls who both break their arms, so they go to the hospital and are prescribed a narcotic. Let’s say girl A takes them as they are prescribed and then when they run out has no problems coming off them. Then let’s say girl B has taken them as prescribed but has mental difficulties when she comes off them and can’t seem to concentrate and her body physically starts hurting again (even though it can be your mind telling you it hurts). Both girls could have had chemicals change in their brain, but it is not only the chemicals that take over when addiction starts. Girl B could have never been taught any healthy coping skills in tough situations, so she wanted a quick fix to her problem and seeks out how to get more narcotics. Girl A has a successful time coming off them because she knows how to make a healthy change.

There are so many factors that determine addiction and I believe we all battle our own battles so that shouldn’t be something we judge upon. I think when it comes to drug laws, we should maintain strict drug laws. I ride the line on whether I think marijuana is a “bad drug” or if it has health benefits. I have done hours of research that will battle both ways on marijuana and how it can be a gate way drug or how it cures cancer. I think that marijuana is like alcohol, sometimes people can become addicted to it but under normal circumstances it could be used in a recreationally and safe way as well. But that doesn’t mean down the road we won’t find problems that are associated with it, just like how alcohol can cause medical problems as well. I think that is the best option because no matter what laws you put out there, people will find a way. We need to help people understand the mental aspect of addiction and not just that they are drug seekers. It is a mental battle that they deal with for the rest of their live that is unspoken. I think there is a fine line between how they should be criminally punished to how they need to be helped. I am not an expert and I don’t know what that may be because when it comes to addiction nothing is black and white. There are so many unknowns. There is a poem that I read that I think anyone who wants to kind of understand addiction should read.

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Substance Abuse In The USA And South America. (2020, September 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from
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