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1. When America was just starting out, during the colonial days, alcohol was brought over on the Mayflower and other ships. By the late 1700’s, colonial New England had 140 rum distilleries and the colonists were also consuming large amounts of beer and cider. Once the 1800’s came around the colonies coffee was considered a drug and alcohol remained popular. But regardless of who was drinking the alcohol led to violence, death, poverty, and family problems-as it does today. Before and after the Civil War opium was the drug of choice because it was a painkiller and made people feel good. It was used in several medicines. At the end of the 1800’s, hundreds of thousands of Americans were addicted to opium but at the beginning of the 1900’s the drug was banned by the federal government except for prescription use. Today, opium products include but are not limited to heroin, oxycontin. Vicodin, and morphine. Additionally, Marijuana was legal in the 1800’s and was included in several medicines.American is less than 500 years old but since the first colony came to America drug use and alcohol use has been heavy and is to this day. Today, it is widely known that those who live in America are know to binge drink. Marijuana is fully legal in 12 states today and is expected to be legalized in others. But as of 2017, over 19 million Americans battled substance abuse as per the NSDUH. Substance abuse means the compulsive drug use the disrupts your daily life and includes the abuse of alcohol. So from 500 years ago to now, America hasn’t really gotten anywhere. Millions of Americans suffer from drug and alcohol abuse like they did then.

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2.  In the United States, according to a 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 17.7 million Americans (aged 12 and up) have dealt with the issue of substance abuse disorder. This same survey reported that 74% of adults involved in the study were dealing with alcohol abuse while 38% were struggling with illicit drug use disorder; 1 in 8 were dealing with both issues at the same time.

Historically speaking, “Overall illicit drug use reached a peak in the late 1970s, declined during the 1980s, rose again in the 1990s, and has remained relatively stable during the past several years” (Schilden, Thomas, & Compton, 2009). Over the last several years there has been what I believe to be an uptick in the media coverage of the drug abuse problem in the United States due to the opioid and prescription drug crisis in this country. This has made it seem like there is more of a problem – I am not denying that drug and alcohol abuse is a problem because it is but perhaps it is not as big of a problem overall as in the past.  I believe with the economic downturn this country faced back in 2007 and 2008 (the ‘Great Recession’) may have exacerbated the use of illicit drugs and alcohol. With that increased use there seems to also be an increased ability to forgive people with these types of problems in not only the court of public opinion but also in the judicial system. Back in the 80’s and 90’s there were stiff punishments for people caught up in the crack crisis but now there seems to be more sympathy for the people swept up in the opioid crisis. While we can’t go back in time and fix some of the problem created by the some of the harsh penalties for relatively minor drug infractions against communities of color, we can take a look at the toll the drug abuse has on this country as a whole – economically and socially, and make better and more compassionate choices as a society.

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