Published On: Thu, Feb 16th, 2017

Wonders and Ills in Contemporary Society

In today’s world there are very complex social realities in which people are facing countless unprecedented advantages but also challenges and difficulties. Fortunately many innovative solutions and forms of self-help are more accessible than ever before. But one of the ironies of our era is how it holds tougher problems as well as better tools to deal with them — and yet this point is arguable. An example of one of the most pressing and even most dire dangers of our time is addiction to drugs, even though this problem has dogged human civilisations through history.

People’s relationships to drugs, as well as social concepts of them, have changed radically over the past several decades, and the problem has spread to broad sectors of society.

Addicted to Love’

There is a cast of the usual suspects when it comes to substances that humans have had weaknesses towards for millennia. Without needing to go into great detail about any of them here, it is enough to remark that Western society is well aware of their risks — so much that drug abuse is its own theme in many forms of popular media including music, TV, films, books, news, not to mention social policies. And yet, the issue (as a public health issue) still carries certain taboos and stigmas that make addicts out to seem like criminals, monsters or losers rather than people with a psychological disease.

Many people have fallen into secondary addictions to traditional substances like heroin after they were hooked initially on more expensive pharmaceuticals (often having been given prescriptions for medical reasons). This example may underscore a trend where contemporary perils may be considered side-effects of civilization or new technologies, rather than simple external threats such as a plague or natural disaster in a bygone age.

Sobering State of Affairs

Now that an overwhelming amount of the substance abuse that is being reported and studied can be linked to the over-prescribing and misuse of pharmaceuticals — rather than a host of obscure street drugs, or more exotic imported substances — there is more public outcry and demands for political action. To the extent that this may help to legitimize the plight of addicts there could be a positive overall result for tackling the broader social and cultural problems involved.

In addition to new laws and social awareness campaigns, for instance, opiate addiction treatment facilities are emerging to meet the challenge of helping millions of people. Judging by how prominent modern pharmaceutical medicines have become, the roles of rehab centers that address the specific health conditions of people hooked on opioids (in contrast to harmful characterizations of those addicted to many things including alcohol and tobacco all lumped together) is a promising step in the right direction.