Complexities of the War on Drugs: A Critical Analysis of Addiction Treatment

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Understanding Addiction

When the word “addiction” is mentioned often, it is thought that it only happens to the so-called ‘bad’ people who were poor or grew up on the streets. Some people believe it to be something that would never happen to them or to people they know and love. When, in fact, it happens every day across the United States, families are struggling to save someone they love who is struggling with substance abuse.

In society today, everywhere you go, everywhere you turn, there are advertisements or commercials for the latest prescription medicine. Just watch television, and instead of just commercials about the newest car on the market or the latest new technology that is coming out, there are so many commercials for the newest prescription drug that is on the market. Why is there an advertisement to promote more medicine? That should be something only a doctor who’s giving a patient options for whatever ailment that they might have.

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The War on Drugs and Prescription Medication

Also, now, when someone is suffering from substance addiction, a doctor is more likely to prescribe a drug to treat a drug addiction. All too often, it only causes a new addiction for them when they start abusing the prescribed medication that is supposed to stop the cravings for the street drug. The war on drugs has and will continue until we open our eyes and see that there are many other ways to treat street drug addictions or any type of addiction besides adding more temptation or switching from an illegal addictive drug to an equally addictive legal drug.

According to Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine Fourth Edition, the term addiction is a disease of the brain that causes dependence upon or a persistent, compulsive need to use a habit-forming substance or an irresistible urge to engage in an activity despite harmful consequences. Addicts are usually driven by the increased need for more of the substance or activity to obtain the same effect as the first time they engaged in the activity or used the substance (Sternbergetal. 55). There are various different types of addictive and legal and illegal substances.

The State of Addiction in America

Some examples are alcohol, heroin, tobacco, methamphetamines, and prescription painkillers. In America, an estimated 22.2 million people abuse or are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Prescription pain pill abuse has also become a major issue for Americans. It is estimated that 2 million Americans use prescription pain relievers for non-medical reasons. There has also been a major increase in heroin addicts. 467,000 Americans suffered from heroin addiction between 2002 and 2012. According to the government, overdoses from methadone and prescription painkillers quadrupled from 1999 to 2010, killing more than 16,000 in 2010 alone. Even the Attorney General Eric Holder and the governor of Massachusetts both stated that the rise in overdoses from heroin and prescription painkillers’ an urgent public health crisis.’

Addressing the Issue: Alternative Treatments and Political Influence

This is a subject that hits home for me because my best friend’s daughter, whom I have known since she was little, got addicted to heroin at 18 years old. She entered a maintenance program in which she was given a 60 mg dose of Methadone at a clinic to help her not want heroin. She became so addicted to methadone to the point she even overdosed on it 3 times. She even was in a coma and almost died one of the times she overdosed. She came out of the coma but struggled to get off the methadone.

What is even more awful is that there is a drug available that her mom and I researched and found to be less addictive. When her mom requested it, they said it was available but still continued to give her the methadone instead. A program like this has one main goal: to decrease the dosage until the addict no longer needs it. Unfortunately, this process may not be as effective due to the fact that some of the drugs used in the treatment of drug abuse are themselves addictive. She was on Methadone till 2016.

Her mother convinced her to move to Michigan with her and found a doctor who put her on Naloxone. Naloxone blocks the opiate receptors and makes it so the user cannot get high. It does not stop the withdrawal symptoms, but certain medications that are also not addictive help with that part. I completely agree with Chicago Recovery Alliance’s Bigg, who said, ‘It’s been around for 40 years, it’s a pure antidote, and there are no side effects.

It consistently reverses overdoses via the intramuscular injection; it’s very simple to administer. If people have Naloxone, it becomes much, much easier to avoid overdose deaths.” Naloxone is now in some states made available over-the-counter without a prescription to help stop the heroin or opioid overdose epidemic in those states. There are some very traditional ways of dealing with addiction that are well-known even by those who have never suffered from addiction.

Most addictions can be treated by entering into a treatment program or rehab. Many programs in these facilities usually rely on re-education and often have recovered addicts who understand and can relate to newly admitted patients. There are many forms of treatment for someone who suffers from addiction. Not every treatment program is right for every type of addict, and some are weaved into the fibers of other treatment programs. There are many types of alternative treatments for addictions, such as harm reduction. Although very controversial, harm reduction gives the user the decision to abstain completely or to just cut back on using without being told they will always be an addict.

The major principles of harm reduction not only help addicts understand their relationship with alcohol and drugs but also help them learn how to make decisions and choices that reduce harm in their lives and the lives of those they care about. Then they can learn to no longer be ‘under the influence’ of mind-altering drugs, but rather they can be ‘over the influence’ (Denningetal. 1). Some other self-help groups are Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

They are considered 12-step-based programs that dominate the self-help landscape and account for 93% of all alcoholic and other drug treatment programs in the United States. There are many reasons that using medication to treat addiction is not the best way. Many people cannot deal emotionally without the drug that treats the craving for the substance to which they were addicted. Therefore, they become completely dependent on the prescription drug to feel functional. So what is the difference between the treatment drug and the drug the addict is trying to kick the habit of, except one is sold in a pharmacy, and one is sold on the street? Both drugs make a person dependent on it to feel ‘normal.’

Many began to sell or abuse legal drugs to get the same euphoric high that originally caused the whole addiction. Factors can be put in place to help people who are suffering from addictions by providing more funds for drug treatment programs in and out of jails or prisons, having local groups full of family and friends who lost a loved one to addiction come out to talk to addicts about how addiction affected their lives, and finding new ways to help fund overdose prevention programs.

The politicians think the money should be spent on what they think is the war on drugs. That includes pushing more addictive legal drugs to users who are trying to rehabilitate themselves and capturing drug dealers and drug smugglers. Yet the DEA reports only 10% of all the drugs that enter the US are taken off the streets. The United States spends $50 billion a year on the war on drugs. The issue of drug addiction doesn’t just affect the addict. It affects their family, too.

Adding another addiction because the pharmaceutical industry wants to make more money instead of curing the addiction seems to have become a trend. The subject of drug abuse hesitance swept under the rug for too long. The American people need to stand up and fight politicians for more funding for drug treatment programs and overdose programs. It has become almost like the pharmaceutical industry has its hands in the pockets of every politician who is supposed to do what is right for the American people. Adding drugs like methadone to the equation of drug abuse is only guaranteeing an addict to relapse back into addiction.


  1. Sternberg, E., Sternberg, C., & Sternberg, R. Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine Fourth Edition.
  2. Denning, P., Little, J., & Glickman, A. Over the Influence: The Harm Reduction Guide for Managing Drugs and Alcohol.
  3. “The United States War on Drugs”.

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Complexities of the War on Drugs: A Critical Analysis of Addiction Treatment. (2023, Aug 28). Retrieved from

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