Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Degree Name



Interdisciplinary Studies

Faculty Mentor

Thomas Adams


Paige Vitulli, Jenny Manders, Eric Moody


Substance abuse and addiction have taken a chokehold on our nation. The modern opioid epidemic began sweeping our nation in the 1990s. This epidemic has claimed the lives of nearly 645,000 to opioid overdose alone from the 1990s to 2021, according to information retained from the Center for Disease Control (Opioid data, 2023). Opioids are not the only abused substance sweeping our nation. Cocaine, heroin, barbiturates, stimulants, and benzodiazepines are also among the top ten abused substances in the United States of America (10 Most Common, 2024). As a nation, we have to understand what can be done to help, as we are all being affected by addiction, even if it is not within our own families. We see people suffering within our communities, in our streets or neighborhoods, and we need to understand how they got to this point and our role in solving the addiction epidemic for good. This will allow us to understand the ways we can help, or at least provide a bit of understanding and generate compassion for where they are in their lives. This thesis addresses the argument over addiction and choice, provides an understanding of how different substances alter the brain’s chemistry in different ways, and advocates for comprehensive knowledge of harm reduction, decriminalization, and de-escalation as the most effective solution to this crisis.

Available for download on Wednesday, June 20, 2029