Society has taught us, without fault, that substance abuse is an ever deteriorating issue that has impacted, if not altogether ruined, the lives of many, and many more of those around them. Violence, crime, mental issues, broken relationships, derailed careers, homelessness… There are countless negative associations to substance abuse that have been drilled into us, all of which point to a singular message that is hauntingly lucid: Don’t abuse substance, for they are the cause of problems. We perhaps view substance abuse as a chasm under the glorious bridge that is society; a chasm into which once you have fallen, you are engulfed and entrapped by the darkness and void that symbolize all the concomitant woes and struggles in the life of an addict; looked down upon by everyone above as you gasp and grapple against the weights that keep on pulling you down. Indeed, drug use and addiction are not only a subject of scientific curiosity, but also a social reflection, perhaps a direct manifestation of the philosophical inquiry regarding the meanings of society, life, and happiness.
However, the aforementioned impression and perspective is inaccurate. Drug abuse itself is not the “chasm of darkness”, but more of a biblically doomed refuge in the darkness below the bridge of society; a warm, cozy cottage burning on its structural pillars. Many of those who found themselves in the vicious cycle of poverty, crime, and substance abuse are victims of circumstances in the first place . Drugs were not the root of their problems, but an escape - a temporary, destructive one, but an escape nonetheless - from the reality that could be cold, desolate, and unforgiving.
Why ditch the surge of euphoria and comfort and the illusion of safety and warmth, for the cold, desolate reality that despises and rejects you? For those addicted, what is satisfaction, what is happiness, and what is left of conventional, socially defined life for them?
Society and media have too often regarded addiction as the ultima quaestio - the ultimate problem; that everything would be naturally resolved if the issue of addiction has been overcome. But it is not so; addiction is only a piece of the vicious cycle of circumstantial hardships that contribute to high rates of mental issues, suicide, and relapse . These people need support and compassion; they need, just like all of us, happiness and fulfillment, a sense of security, of comfort, of hope. Yet reality has failed to be a friend to them.
In this context, then, the chemical, psychological, addictive qualities of substance abuse are part of the problem but not the crux of the problem. A comprehensive social support system must exist to combat homelessness, unemployment, and poverty, before we can make a logically sound dent in the armour of the giant substance abuse crisis in our country.
To cry righteously that addiction is bad for health and bad for prospects in life, bad for society and social security, is incredibly nonchalant and removed from reality. Those who preach such thoughts often do not imagine the struggles and harshness of reality faced by those who choose drugs as an escape; and their actions would only push those whom they intended to help further away. The remedy for those individuals in the vicious cycle of addiction is a sense of hope, longing, and motivation for the redemption of their role in society. Society must prove itself worthy enough, bright enough, supportive enough a place for them to climb back onboard.
 Whitesell, M., Bachand, A., Peel, J., & Brown, M. (2013). Familial, Social, and Individual Factors Contributing to Risk for Adolescent Substance Use. Journal of Addiction, 2013, 1-9. doi:10.1155/2013/579310
 National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, July 10). Treatment and Recovery. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery