So I’m gonna be honest. I’m sick of the “us and them” attitude that I hear so much. I maintain that we are all an “us” but just in different circumstances or phases of life.
Poverty and Homelessness
The majority of the population is a car accident or cancer diagnosis away from huge medical debt, or a layoff away from eating into any existing savings. 46.5 million people, or 15% of the US population, live in poverty and millions more live paycheck to paycheck. There are over 610,000 homeless in the US. That’s no us and them. They may have been us and we could easily be them.
1 in 4 people in the US suffers from a mental illness. 1 of every 4 people means that if you don’t have a mental illness, then 1 of your 3 friends or family members does. That ends up being 61.5 million people over the age of 18 in the US. 1 in 17, or 13.6 million people in the US, suffers from a serious mental illness like schizophrenia, major depression, etc. So in your college class, team at work, or extended family, chance is someone has a serious mental illness. Because of the stigma of “us and them,” 60% of adults don’t seek out or receive treatment for mental illness.
Anyone is a curious mistake or just a few too many of those pills the doctor prescribes away from serious addiction. In 2012 almost 24 million Americans aged 12 and older had used an illicit drug or abused a prescription drug in the last month. That’s over 9% of the population or almost 1 in 10 Americans.
Additionally, just about all of us consume addictive substances every day. 22% of the population, or over 1 in 5 Americans, aged 12 or older still smokes tobacco. Over 50% of the US population regularly drinks and 13% irregularly drinks, making over 6 in 10 Americans users of a depressant. Almost 90% of adults and 76% of children use caffeine on a daily basis. That’s 9 in 10 adults and working on 8 in 10 kids who consume a stimulant every day.
And let’s not forget about addictions to gambling, Facebook, Pinterest, pornography, video games, sports, or work. Don’t think those can become addictive? Let’s reference ASAM’s short definition:
Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response.”
If the addictive behavior is getting in the way of normal everyday functioning, then there may be something that needs to change. With all these facts under our belt, “addicts” make up a significant portion of the population and “drug users” make up almost all of us.
Any one of us is a car accident, work accident, or even sports accident away from disability. In 2011, over 12% of Americans had a disability.
There are plenty of other “us and them” categories, but the point is that regardless of if you’re not currently in the boat of the person or group you’re comparing yourself to, realize that you may very well be on the other side of the fence one day, maybe even one day soon.
Let’s compare instead of contrast. Let’s find commonalities in each other instead of differences. Let’s uplift and support one another as we all work for goals of bettering ourselves, our situations, the human experience, and everything around us.