Drug and Alcohol Addiction Rests at the Foundation of a Crumbling Society

Drugs,gun,and gangster’s hand.

The 21st-century might not have brought flying cars, convenient space travel, or the utopian, science fiction world that many pop culture books and movies from the 1900s might have indicated that it would. But the 21st-century did bring with it a lot of problems. We face difficulties and crisis issues in our country and in our world that many of the old folks would have thought we’d have “figured out by now.” But instead, we still deal with things like hunger, disease, illiteracy, crime, an overflowing prison population, a burgeoning deficit, corruption, economic struggle, and many other negative factors.

When we strive to address these issues, we often miss the mark on addressing what causes these issues. And that is because drug use, alcoholism, and the crisis that is addiction often rest as the building blocks of these struggles, the very foundation of them. Yet that truth is so often missed on us. If we look close enough though, we are able to trace just about every major humanitarian crisis or struggle that our nation is faced with back to either being caused by substance abuse or at the very least as being exacerbated by it.

The State of an Addicted America

It would take being fully disconnected from society to not know that the United States is struggling with a serious addiction epidemic. Just the opioid crisis alone has created such dire straits in our country that President Trump labeled the opioid epidemic a “National Public Health Emergency” in October 2017.

Girl teenager holding a pill.
  • According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with more than fifty-two thousand lethal overdoses in 2015. ASAM also reported that, between 1999 and 2008, overdose deaths on pain relievers, the sale of pain relievers, and admissions into treatment centers for painkiller addiction all increased in tandem by about four-hundred percent.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than sixty-three thousand people died from drug overdoses in 2016. Also according to the CDC, the misuse of synthetic opioids was crucial in the increase of overdoses, mainly from synthetic fentanyl analogs mixed with heroin and other opioids.
  • According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than seventy-two thousand people died from drug overdoses in 2017. About thirty thousand of those deaths were related to fentanyl alone, fentanyl now being the most lethal drug in the U.S. NIDA also reported that at least nineteen thousand people died from taking opioid pain relievers, whether they were prescribed them or not.

When we begin to realize just how prevalent and severe our addiction crisis is, how can we not see that addiction rests at the foundation of a crumbling society?

Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence

If we can bear to look past the sheer death toll and loss of life that comes from the drug addiction epidemic, we start to see a lot of other societal problems that are caused by substance abuse. For example, substance abuse plays a close role in the incidences of domestic violence.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, about twenty people per minute are suffering from some form of intimate partner violence. That comes out to about ten million people every year.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, roughly forty to sixty percent (depending on which study you’re reading) of all instances of domestic violence include substance abuse on the part of either the aggressor, the victim, or on the part of both individuals. So on average, we can safely say that literally half of all incidences of domestic violence have substance abuse as a present factor. A terrible phenomenon that affects millions of Americans has substance abuse resting at the base of fifty percent of all of its occurrences.

Substance Abuse and the Workplace

Problems in the workplace are also often linked to substance abuse. It is not uncommon for people to struggle in the workforce, to have a hard time “making it work” in their chosen job or career, or to struggle with moving up or being happy with what they do, etc. But what a lot of people don’t know is that drug use and alcohol misuse are often the cause of unrest and difficulty within the workforce.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Alcohol Dependence, Inc., twenty percent of workers and managers across a wide array of industries and company sizes indicated that a coworker’s alcohol misuse problems jeopardized their own productivity and safety in the workforce.

Also according to the same organization, at least seventy percent of the nation’s fourteen million drug users are gainfully employed, causing problems in the workforce and making jobs hard for everyone. Twenty-four percent of workers drink at least once, at work, every year. Addiction to drugs and alcohol has permeated the workforce and is now causing problems.

Substance Abuse and Raising Children

Parent addict holding bottle of wine and hugging little daughter.

When a child is having problems, the first place we should look to is the parents. But our society is so driven currently to focus on the child, and to attempt at implicating something within the child’s brain or mind as being the cause of the problem. But did you know that more than twenty-eight million sons and daughters in the U.S. have at least one parent who is an alcoholic? And that eleven million of those sons and daughters still live at home with that parent? We can’t look at this problem with a straight face and say that the substance abuse habits of parents doesn’t have something to do with problems amongst our nation’s youth.

According to the National Association for the Children of Alcoholics, child welfare professionals indicate that substance abuse in the parents is the cause of fifty percent of all child maltreatment. Furthermore, children of addicted parents are far more likely to go on to misuse substances themselves than children of non-addicted parents are.

Creating a Better Society by Addressing Addiction

The misuse of drugs and alcohol lies at the root of much of what our country struggles with. Too often do we get wrapped up in addressing the effects of these problems, rather than focusing on the root cause of the problem itself. Going forward, we should be far more concerned about helping people overcome addiction, preventing other people from becoming hooked on drugs and alcohol, and in general supporting a sober society for our nation. If we do this, much of what our nation struggles with will sort itself out as a result.


Reviewed and Edited by Claire Pinelli ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.