The flight from reality has existed for all of recorded history, but the study of addiction is a relatively new field.
The Alcoholics Anonymous school of thought places the problem on the
use of alcohol. Narcotics Anonymous takes a broader approach,
identifying addiction as the problem.
A shared reality seems to be that addicted people have a
preferred drug, but when that isn't available they aren't so
The next addition of the American Psychiatric Association's
diagnostic manual is shifting back to the word "addiction" after
abandoning it for the less stigmatizing "chemical dependency."
The idea is to differentiate between a person who may be
experiencing tolerance and withdrawal as a result of the legitimate use
of a prescribed medication, and those experiencing compulsive drug
Religions are still defining drug use as a sin, but progressive
spiritualists are finding meanings for sin that transcend pleasure
seeking or the defiance of God's will.
From an anthropological perspective, addiction is an adaptation
to life, however ineffective. Sociology continues to help us identify
at-risk populations and psychology continues to help with
While current drug use trends seem frightening, I'm not
convinced they haven't been as bad in the past. We are doing better at
education, but there is more to be accomplished in this area.
Teen use is often driven by availability. A young person will come to school with something they found in a medicine cabinet and say, "Try some
of this." A recent survey in Utah revealed that 97 percent of
individuals abusing the deadly painkiller OxyContin said they got it
from a friend or relative with a prescription. Eighty-five percent
indicate it was given to them and 10 percent say they stole it from the
Butte County's Methamphetamine Strike Force is reaching beyond its
original focus on meth. They are helping the prescription abuse problem
with a "Drop the Drugs" program. The program encourages people to turn
in unused medications. Announcements about the next drop-off event are
The Sheriff's Office, working with the Strike Force, is
developing a mentor program that will help selected individuals break
patterns of drug use and criminality. Few counties have such
A grant is being written to provide more drug education in Butte County schools.
What we call addiction, and how we understand it, will always be
in flux, but the incredible costs to society make it a problem that
cannot be ignored. Thanks to all of those on one front line or another
in the fight to reduce addiction