The United States has a long history of misunderstanding mental health disorders and addiction. Americans have and continue to suffer from a range of psychological issues, and for depression alone, about one in ten people in America suffered from it in the past year.
Mental health challenges are sometimes accompanied or compounded by co-occurring addictions or addictive tendencies. Far from an elective condition, addiction is a complex disease of the brain and body that involves the compulsive use of one or more substances or an engagement in behavioral activities despite serious health and social consequences. It disrupts regions of the brain that are responsible for reward, motivation, learning, judgment and memory, and can damage various body systems as well. Addiction is a severe and chronic disorder; a progressive, relapsing disease that requires intensive treatments and continuing aftercare, monitoring and support to manage recovery.
The form of addiction most overtly synonymous with the term is substance addiction, of which 40 million Americans - or 1 in 7 - suffer from. For these individuals, self-medicating with alcohol, opiates, or other substances or behavioral patterns inevitably evolves into dependencies on these chemicals or actions. Furthermore, substance use and addiction can exacerbate underlying mental health issues, creating a vicious cycle.
While a unified theory of addiction seems curiously seductive, it lacks utility. There are most certainly common features and neurobiological processes across the forms addiction can take, and yet we cannot reduce human beings to their neurochemistry. The variables for those afflicted are many and as unique as the lives themselves. Genetics, biology and psychology; family dynamics and structure; and access to education and community support - or a lack thereof - all play a role in when, how and why those predisposed - but not necessarily predetermined - to mental illness and addiction may or may not become enthralled.
In an effort to better understand addiction as a biological and emotional affliction and to explore the multitude of ways it can manifest for millions of individuals across the United States, 1 IN 7 weaves together the lives, stories and circumstances of a range of Americans living with or affected by addiction.
These subjects and their stories represent tangible narrative references that can further bridge the gap between the neurological framework of addiction and its behavioral expressions. Their stories and experiences humanize and highlight manifestations across the addiction spectrum, including behavioral, cognitive and physiological constructs of addiction and the nature of addictive processes.
The subjects and their stories also act as narrative springboards, introducing a range of home and community settings across the United States. This naturally expands our exploration beyond the individuals themselves to look at how aspects of American culture nurture mental illness, substance abuse and addictive behaviors, ultimately affecting an individual’s mental health and psychological framework and their attraction to various forms of escape.
1 IN 7 surely has moments of darkness and struggle, yet it is ultimately a story of hope. Even in their darkest moments, these individuals find some sense of lightness - their humility and ability to accept themselves and those around them is contagious and of incredible note. Made up of rich, deep and occasionally dark stories spanning individual and communal experiences of addiction, 1 IN 7 possesses a verve and consideration for the characters and subject matter that is not only intimate, empathetic, inquisitive and emotionally engaging, but captivating and enlightening as well.