influence of alcohol and drug addiction on political socialization in america essay

Effects of Drug and Alcohol Addiction on Political Socialization in America

Political Socialization is the process, by which citizens of a particular region, nation, state, city, or country develop the ways in which they develop views and beliefs about the political issues of their respective areas. This process is developed in America, through this nation’s citizens’ families, peers, the media, and their political party involvement (if any). It is the intent of this research paper to show the reader how the rise in alcohol and drug addiction has had adverse effects on this process called political socialization, in America. The paper will lead the reader through the four influences in this process and show how addiction has a negative effect upon each .

The first influence in a United States citizen’s life is the citizen’s family. The ways in which the family views political issues has a big effect on the ways that the individual also views these issues. Parents teach their children about the value of participating in the political system through their example and approval. Therefore, if the family has a strong addictive, anti-social tendency towards the political factions of their society, there will be a stong tendency towards the same anti-social perspective created in their children. In The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Volume 24, number 4, Jeanette Taylor, M.A. states that, “after tabulation for the families of 35 delinquent, substance-abusing (multiple problem) adolescent males, as expected, a significant, positive correlation among conduct disorder, anti-social personality disorder, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse was found for each corresponding male’s family. It was concluded that identifying male multiple problem youths also identifies families with a high incidence of similar problems.” This information states that a families tendencies are an almost mirror image of what their children’s tendencies are likely to be. With these conduct and personality disorders on the rise, our nation can only be led to increasing non-participation and growing ill feelings towards political issues in our country as well as a decline in general morality and good health. In a recent National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information press release, the findings were revealed that, in fact, “an estimated 52 percent (113 million) of the U.S. population, age 12 and older reported current use of alcohol in 1998. Of these, about 33 million (29.2 percent) were engaged in binge drinking and 12 million (10.6 percent) were heavy drinkers. The percentages of the population falling into these different groups have not changed since 1988. These facts clearly define the problems associated with alcohol and drug addiction in the United States, as does this further information from the same press release define this country’s problems of drug addiction. “In 1998, an estimated 13.6 million Americans overall (6.2 percent of the U.S. population age 12 and older) were current users of illicit drugs.” The NHSDA provides annual estimates of the prevalence of illicit drug, alcohol, and tobacco use in the U.S. and monitors the trends in use over time. The above information is based on a representative sample of the United States’ population age 12 and older, including persons living in households and in some group quarters such as dormitories and homeless shelters. In 1998, a sample of 25,500 persons was interviewed for the survey. It is important to note that the finding revealed alcohol and drug usage at earlier ages than previously realized. It is at these early ages in which children are most influenced by the daily occurrences within their homes and by their environments and peers. These early ages are clearly defined as the “formative” years.

With such a prevalent existence of substance abuse in this country, one cannot help but understand why participation in our political processes is decreasing. “Far more alarming is the trend in Prison populations. Since 1980, the number of persons incarcerated in state and federal prisons has increased from about a half a million to more than 1.7 million,” also quotes the text, American Government and Politics Today, by Schmidt, Shelley, and Bardes. Those individuals, so incarcerated, are already removed from our political process in the sense of this paper. There is no more influence from family in how people such as these view our nation’s issues. Filled with apprehension and resentment for any authority figures becomes their belief system and their only hopes become to participate in their own lives, let alone any form of political issues.

In addition, from the text, American Government and Politics Today, the authors point out on page 23 that “Change also continues in the structure of American families, although the traditional two-parent family is still very strong. Just twenty years ago, more than 85 percent of children lived in a two-parent family. Today, 71 percent of children under age eighteen live in two-parent families and 25 percent live with only one parent. About one-fourth of the children living in one-parent families live in poverty.” As is the case with the addicted and incarcerated, these one-parent, poverty induced children are far more concerned with daily survival and other pressing, individual issues and haven’t the time nor concern to take part in the political process enough to be educated about these issues, much less take a stand on pertinent issues. The problems that surround this percentage of our population grip the mind and seize any and all excess energies, which might be exerted in efforts to effect a change in our society and the issues surrounding their daily lives. The only hopes for these, after the families’ efforts, if any, would come from some form of intervention from outside sources, such as schools and peers.

This too poses a problem for those citizens facing addiction problems. Addiction and the antisocial characteristics of the disease, mentioned above, do not lend an open invitation for guidance and education. The dropout rate of teens in America is staggering and enforcement of attendance within the home is dwindling. The drug of choice, be it alcohol or illicit drugs, totally consumes the afflicted and the chances of significant, further influence are slim. In Karen Sandwig’s book, Growing Out of an Alcoholic Family, she speaks of this process of relearning, by saying “To be really free from negative effects of the alcoholic family network, I found, during my own recovery as an ACOA*, that a person goes through a five-stage process:

1. Identifying the fact that there are problems in your life that stem from the alcoholic family network.

2. Examining what these problems are.

3. Recognizing why you believe, act, or feel the way you do.

4. Reconciling yourself to the need of changing destructive

behavior and beliefs patterns into ones that are constructive.

5. Restoring your original, healthy personality.”

This process or any other in the treatment and elimination of negative influences in the addicts life, and in the lives of his or her family members, become far to overwhelming to allow enough freedom for the individual to focus on issues outside one’s own personal life. These issues alone can take up to a lifetime resurrecting and rebuilding, and any peer-involvement is sure to be, and best, invested in these areas. Let alone to say that a small portion (2 percent) of persons either afflicted or related to the addict ever even begin this process, let alone complete it through it’s successful consummation into a broader expanse containing political socialization. Very few recovering people make it, even with the broad array of treatment available and the huge network of support that exists. Of those that do recover long enough to change at all, many are more focused on “catching up” on the past and becoming career-minded with hopes of “getting it together” in time for retirement. Recovery also leads to finding other sources of recreation and new circles of friends. With the new circles come new perspectives and it is in those circles, that a recovering person might gain some insight about him or herself and how he or she feels and believes in the areas of politics and government. Once the layers of anger and resentment are “peeled”, resurfacing in these areas can be instilled with the help of positive influence. The newly recovering individual can begin a process of self-discovery and change. With the right guidance, these new people can be guided and helped to grow into good citizens, having much to offer their society and fellow citizens. This fellowship of recovery often introduces the addicted persons to a world they had tried to leave behind through their use of alcohol and drugs.

A large part of this new world is also a large part of the process called Political Socialization. The mass media perform a number of different functions in America. Almost all of them have political implications, and some are essential to the Democratic process. These functions are as follows: (1) entertainment, (2) reporting the news, (3) identifying public problems, (4) socializing new generations, (5) providing a political forum, and (6) making profits. The media seems to play the largest and most constant role in influencing how recovering people view political issues in America, as it is usually the last form of influence that is ruled out as being untrustworthy. We, as a people, trust the media to be honest with us when discussing our government’s role in our lives. Addiction of any kind builds walls and destroys personal relationships. Many times, the only source of input in an addict’s life becomes the media. Be it a newspaper at work (if he or she still has a job), or the television (if he or she has not yet sought to pawn it), the media is out there, working when people are no longer trusted or shared with, when the family has given up hope, and the addict has chosen to separate themselves from society. Recovery for the addict frees up a lot of energy, previously wasted towards efforts of getting another drink or drug, clearing up last night’s wreckage and debris, and repairing relationships almost gone anyway. This new time can easily be spent reviewing the issues present in society and, many times, there is a newfound joy in participating. With the implementation of the Internet, the newest form of mass media, in the political socialization of America, this process of becoming a citizen once again will only be made easier and more pleasant for the recovering person.

With the possibilities of recovery and embracing life also comes the potential of fellowship and association with other recovering peoples. Within these fellowships, new friendships are brought into light and those, who would seemingly never converse, become the best of friends. This process can also aid political socialization in America as these affiliations with one another could grow into affiliation with a chosen political party (if there previously was none). In addition, increased party affiliation and participation could stem from the recovering person’s newly found life. Because most of the respective parties’ strengths lie at the state and local level, an increased party affiliation would definitely be beneficial. The newly recovering person, armed with facts about him or herself, could certainly make a beneficial contribution to such gatherings.

The efforts of government to remedy addiction in this country are far-reaching and all-inclusive. On 4/27/99, The New Medications to Treat Addiction Act of 1999 was introduced into the 106th Congress Senate Committee of Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, where it still resides to this date. The purpose of this bill (S 885 Is) is to find new methods, other than Methadone, to treat drug addiction in the United States. The reasons provided in the bill’s explanation, were that Methadone, when used to treat addiction, merely substituted addictions for the afflicted, and no recovery/abstinence that leads to lasting recovery is instilled. The sponsor of this bill was and is Senator Joseph R. Bidden Jr. There were no co-sponsors listed when researching this bill. The intentions of this bill are to amend the Public Health Service Act and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to provide incentives for the development of medications to prevent addiction to illegal drugs. This bill also intends to set the standards of manufacture and production if said treatments and the distribution of these medications to persons so addicted. This bill also set aside funds received from the Victims of Violent Crimes Fund. These funds for Fiscal year 2001 and Fiscal year 2002 were set at $100,000,000, respectively. The components included in this amendment to the Public Health Service Act, Section 101, included the reauthorization for Medication Development Programs, and a recommendation for the investigation of drugs to treat addiction. Sec. 571 also included the criteria for an acceptable drug treatment for addiction to heroin and cocaine. Section 572 covers the patent protection rights of the manufacturers and developers of the narcotics to treat addiction, including their rights and responsibilities.

I, personally, interact with hundreds of recovering people in the Lansing area, and I know what it has taken for me to become willing to change and look at how I view society as a whole, let alone any issues that might arise. Upon my first day, I would never have conceived voting, let alone enrolling in a government class and writing a research paper. Many said that I could not put a sentence together, let alone voice an opinion on anything current and constructive. Being a thirty-year old, white male, I believe I represent a radical percentage of radical young adults in recovery, and can honestly say that few are knowledgeable, or interested in things politically in nature. Our conversations contain little that would benefit the “elite”, and for the most part, we simply do not care to coexist with them. Our daily lives contain the same blessings and benefits as any other citizen, able to walk freely among their peers.

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