Why a New Culture of Sobriety is Needed and Makes Sense

a sober couple

There are so many ways to help people overcome problems with alcohol or drugs. Perhaps the most important right now are drug prevention for youth and drug rehabilitation. These are, as you may know, the services that Narconon centers around the world offer. But there are additional changes that need to occur if we are, as a culture, to overcome the losses being incurred by abuse of, and addiction to, substances like alcohol, heroin, and pills.

Just to comment on these losses for a moment, the primary among these is the terrible loss of life. Around the world, more than two million lives are lost due to alcohol consumption, according to the World Health Organization. And more than two hundred thousand lives are lost each year to drug abuse. These lives are lost both due to direct overdoses and indirect causes such as illnesses like pneumonia, cancer or liver failure that result from drug or alcohol use.

In addition, millions of people have their hearts broken each year. Each time an addicted wife, son, mother or other loved one promises to quit – promises to start caring for the children, going to work or taking care of themselves – but then fails completely, everyone suffers.

There are many reasons that people who really do need rehabilitation don’t ask for it, but some will say that it is because they fear what other people will think or they are so ashamed of themselves that they think they are not worth helping.

Imagine, for a moment, that we could magically transform our current culture into one that wholeheartedly supports sobriety. What would that look like and what would happen to those who are now dependent on, abusing or addicted to drugs or alcohol?

Here are some of the ways this bright new world might look:

  1. There would be plenty of drug and alcohol-free activities. Music and party venues would offer plenty of non-alcoholic drinks. It would be expected that a person drinking alcohol would drink in moderation.
  2. College students would be focused on their educations and their future careers. Greek Row and other student residences would still feature some crazy parties but without the presences of alcohol or drugs, the damage would be kept to a manageable level.
  3. Schoolchildren would be unshakably certain that their environments should be free from drugs and alcohol and they would work with teachers and administrators to rid the schools of any infiltration.
  4. If a person did start drinking too much or using drugs, he would have a choice of support groups or affordable out-patient or in-patient rehabs, depending on his needs. And as soon as things started to get out of hand, his buddies made sure he got the message that he needed help and he wasn’t afraid to admit it.
  5. When a person goes to rehab, the community thanks him for keeping himself, his family and other community members safe.
  6. Movies would not feature drug use or heavy alcohol use in a way that made them look either harmless or entertaining.
  7. The town or city management, county, state and national governments agree that sobriety is a fundamental rock on which a strong country is built. Sober heroes offer leadership at every stratum of society.

It may seem hard, in this cash-strapped society, to find the funding for the rehab and drug prevention that could begin to tip our current situation over into this one that I see as far more ideal.

But right now, there’s so much money being pumped into or lost due to drug or alcohol abuse, if we can reduce those costs, there would plenty to help with drug prevention and rehab. There’s a bit of a Catch-22 here, but if gradual progress can be made in reducing the funds lost to addiction, there will be more available for supporting healthy, sober lives.

Financial Costs of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy report of 2012, Americans spend somewhere around about $116 billion on alcoholic beverages and $100 billion on the top four illicit drugs (cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine) annually. If you add prescription drug overuse, dependence, and addiction, that would add billions more, just in drug costs.

In 2011, the Department of Justice estimated the financial burden of illicit drug use in America. Adding in law enforcement, rehabilitation, health care, social costs like welfare and foster homes for children, losses due to crime, illness, and loss of productivity, the bottom line is $193 BILLION dollars per year. That’s over and above the amount actually spent ON the drugs and drinks.

At this point, we have not much choice except to influence our own immediate areas, continuing to offer effective rehabilitation and prevention services to those we can reach.

The truth is, however, there is a role for each and every person in this country in creating a new culture of sobriety. Television series or movies that matter-of-factly feature heavy drug or alcohol use? Skip them. Someone in your network of friends drinks too much? Don’t tolerate it. In your family? Get the family together to make sure that person gets help pronto. Your child is moving from elementary to middle school this year? That’s a critical time to make sure they understand the damage that each kind of drug does. On an online forum or social media and people are joking around about someone being smashed or high? Register your disagreement. Put in a plug for a sober culture in which lives are saved. Then let the argumentative comments fly. You don’t have to respond to them.

The cumulative effect of millions of small insistences can begin to add up to a new consciousness, a new culture, in fact. One person in any town or country can start this consciousness. You can help. Your help is welcome.



Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.