Social Science Suggestions

Social Science Suggestions

My roommate and I have to do research for a social justice assignment. We’re supposed to identify a current event or trend that has widespread effects but also a disproportionate impact on lower-income classes. We need to have data and an outline of the implications. My roommate wants to focus the report on medical or recreational marijuana, but that’s too obvious. It’s also highly controversial right now. 

What’s another possible example? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a drug. Crimes or diseases could count, too. It also doesn’t have to be exclusive to the US. 

One of the most pressing subjects right now is the opioid crisis, which is taking the country by storm and has some experts worried about a possible pandemic. While that might sound sensationalist at first, consider for a moment that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently reported that more than 90 Americans die every day because of an opioid-related overdose. Those numbers aren’t promising for anyone struggling with addiction or the countless others who stand to suffer heartache in the event of an unfortunate overdose. 

What makes this such a good example is how the substance is perceived. Only more recently have things escalated to the point where painkillers have taken the center stage right alongside heroin. However, for a significant period of time, heroin existed almost within a category of its own. The medical establishment suspected that those in vulnerable socioeconomic conditions were at greater risk. Despite opioid addiction being described as an “equal opportunity” opportunity drug, years of evidence would suggest that low-income persons suffer disproportionately

Making matters worse is how stressful socioeconomic conditions produce negative consequences on the mind. Clinical trials using animal models have demonstrated that those agents experiencing external pressures were more susceptible to self-administered addiction. This is part of the reason why dual diagnosis has proliferated. In many cases, as you might suspect, drug abuse and addiction serves as an outlet or escape from undesirable scenarios. Medical practitioners now rely heavily on dual diagnosis to both eliminate the substance abuse and the underlying mental disorder.  

What makes the opioid dilemma so perplexing to people is how quickly it’s exploded beyond what was originally perceived to be a lower-class problem. Fortune writer Sy Mukherjee claims the opioid epidemic is a middle-class problem, too. It’s likely a little late to only now be realizing how widespread prescription painkillers have become. Pharmaceutical companies have successfully marketed numerous brand-name opioid-based painkillers from OxyContin and Percocet to Codeine and Vicodin. Many of them are staples in the American household, freely accessible to anyone sufficiently motivated. Health care costs are expected to skyrocket unless society can find a way to address the problem. 

This changing dynamic underscores the importance of proven recovery treatments made openly available to everyone, regardless of class, race, age, creed, etc. It should be as easy to find heroin addiction treatment in New Jersey as it is anywhere in the US. This isn’t always the case, but it’s something to strive for if we expect to curb opioid abuse. 

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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