As big and “grand” as a country as America is, there are downsides to it. One of the inevitable downsides to a nation such as ours is the socio-economic hierarchy associated with it. Known as the land of opportunities and the home of the free, one of the biggest negatives about American society is the large number of people categorized as lower class. We, as American citizens, treat these people unfairly because of preconceived notions that they deserve it or that they put themselves in that situation. Because of that there are better options and better surface level thoughts about people in higher social classes and they are viewed in a more positive light. Resulting from this lack of opportunity and disadvantages caused by lower economic status people, this situation heavily encourages continuous substance abuse within people in this class.
We can’t pinpoint the exact reason drug abuse and misuse occur at such a frequent rate in more poverty stricken areas, but an article on the National Council on Drug Abuse sums the situation up pretty clearly. “Drug use and addiction have no single cause but the risk factors for drug use include poverty. A person in an impoverished situation may abuse drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with the dangerous environment she lives in, a way to deal with her financial stresses or a way to cope with physical or emotional abuse.” One of the biggest reasons that these people do drugs is because it’s an escape. It’s an escape from reality, and an escape from their situation. An escape from their lives so they can feel happy, and not think about what they’re doing. Because it is in such an impoverished area, drugs are easier to get access to. With that said some people even sell drugs in hopes to climb their social class and make a living out of it.
As of 2011, 22.5 million americans age 12 and up had used an illegal drug or misused a drug in the past month. This study was taken by the Nation Survey on Drug Use and Health, and it further digresses to say that regular drug abuse and misuse was almost double that of employed compared to unemployed, from 8.4% vs 17%. The types of things that stop middle class Americans from doing drugs does not exist, or has a far lesser influence. Things like family, a stable job and/or, a stable position in a community. This only further backs the points I was talking about earlier, that having a lower socioeconomic status has less advantages and encourages substance abuse. As a part of an article from the Guardian states, “Addiction does discriminate.”
As Dr. David F. Musto stated in his interview with the New York Times, “''The question we must be asking now is not why people take drugs, but why do people stop,'' Dr. Musto said.”. And that truly is the question that needs to be asked. The thing is, it’s already been answered. Part of the answer to that is that it’s just harder in general for poor people to recover from substance abuse. There are less options available to them, the social stigma is higher, etc. “The member of a middle class family who has become addicted to alcohol or drugs has a number of options for recovery. The same person in a poor family has far fewer options. In fact, if they admit their addiction, they risk losing the benefits they currently have. The average cost of a medical detox is $1,707 per day. Insurance may cover $14,000- $20,000 of that amount, but over 25% of Americans do not have health insurance.” From the information we have, we can make the statement that detoxification is a luxury privilege that most Americans cannot afford. Even with the numerous facilities or rehab centers that offer free or reduced treatment, the time taken only disadvantages people because that time is being used for work or the transportation there costs money only digging a deeper hole for these people. This only increases the social stigma that comes along with substance abuse while being poor.
Misconceptions, bias, and stereotypes are everything. They shape how everything and everyone is perceived. The impact of how impoverished people are viewed is far more influential when you also consider the ones that suffer from substance abuse and misuse. One of the misconceptions about drug addicts in general are that they are all poor. This is false as the amount of alcohol and drug abuse spans across almost all the social and economic classes, from the rich to the poor. It’s also more visible and portrayed in media that it’s higher there. Another difference also being that people in higher classes are way more likely to stop as well as having more opportunities and chances to stop. When people are not educated and base all of their decisions and judgements off stereotypes and misconceptions, it’s a recipe for disaster. We start to trust and listen less and we all start to become a little less human.
The impact this has on American Identity is that which needs a lot of work to be reversed. For example, in 2012, in Utah, state Republicans passed and enacted a law that mandated drug testing for Welfare recipients. This wouldn’t be a problem unless you actually take time to know what you’re talking about and what you’re voting on. The overall incident rate for those applying is less than 3.6% for recipients that were actually affected by this law. Similarly, for food stamps, the percentage was also very low. This is all a result of misconceptions and stereotypes of drug addicts and impoverished people. In order to have a society which functions optimally, we need to help the people that are worse off at the bottom. This isn’t really achievable with the way we perceive people that are poor as well as abuse drugs. One could say that this is the way American society behaves and if we change it, then it wouldn’t really be American society anymore. But nonetheless, the point still stands that because of the disadvantages people in lower socioeconomic classes have, it encourages people to stay addicted to drugs and to also try them in the first place.
Smith, Paulette. “Drug Talk.” National Council On Drug Abuse, ncda.org.jm/index.php/publications/drug-talk/66-poverty-a-drug-abuse.
“Truth #6: Alcohol and Drug Abuse Spans All Classes-the Rich, the Poor, and in between.”Voices of Welfare, blogs.elon.edu/voicesofwelfare/truth-6-alcohol-and-drug-abuse-is-a-problem-that-spans-all-classes-the-rich-the-poor-and-the-people-in-between/.
Kerr, Peter. “Rich vs. Poor: Drug Patterns Are Diverging.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 29 Aug. 1987, www.nytimes.com/1987/08/30/us/rich-vs-poor-drug-patterns-are-diverging.html?pagewanted=all.
Szalavitz, Maia. “Addictions Are Harder to Kick When You're Poor. Here's Why.” The Guardian, The Guardian, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/01/drug-addiction-income-inequality-impacts-recovery.
Bouie, Jamelle. “The Myth of Welfare and Drug Use.” The Daily Beast, The Daily Beast Company, 30 Aug. 2013, www.thedailybeast.com/the-myth-of-welfare-and-drug-use.