Fracking and Addiction: The Birth of New Boom Towns

Fracking, which is short for “hydraulic fracturing,” is the process of spraying high velocity chemicals in the ground to break apart rocks and capture natural gas. Although it has led to incredible increases in the availability of natural gasses, there are already plenty of reasons to hate fracking. If that video of a man igniting water from his tap in North Dakota didn’t already convince you that fracking can be a highly dangerous and toxic practice for the environment, then we have good news—there are plenty of other reasons to hate fracking.

Sure most scientists can agree that spraying over 600 chemicals, many of which are carcinogenic, deep into the ground is a bad thing. The waste of water and the contamination of groundwater is an obvious reason to begin to question the ethics of an industry like fracking. But there are other issues arising that aren’t usually discussed by environmentalists.

There are many reports coming out that fracking, and the huge influx of employees that is created has created many other social issues, such as increases in methamphetamine use and prostitution. Fracking is becoming more common in small town communities in states such as North Dakota and Colorado. And like any booming industry, the local social infrastructure can’t seem to keep up with the enormous wave of people flocking to these locations for work. Although fracking has created jobs in these communities, many of which require little or no experience, there are now thousands of young laborers in small, rural towns seeking excitement and leisure when they’re not at work.

So what happens when you have a large number of young men with a new surplus of income and some free time? It doesn’t take a genius to make the logical step toward substance abuse. And with an increase in drugs like methamphetamine, already one of the most abused narcotics in the midwest, this can also lead to an increase in alcohol abuse. The good news is that the leaders in this industry are already well aware of the problem. According to a 2007 NPR report, some companies have started isolating their employees by housing them in “man camps.” These secluded living quarters are meant to provide safety and enforce strict substance abuse policies.

However some people believe this doesn’t entirely solve the problem since many of the workers still leave the camps to go find bars and spend their money in the nearest towns. A better solution might be to educate these young employees on the dangers of meth addiction and abuse and to offer treatment for those who are already abusing drugs. Addiction is a disease which can affect any person from any walk of life. And the workers on a gas or oil rig are just as entitled to treatment and to be aware of the dangers they are imposing on their bodies and minds. Perhaps the real solution has not been thought up yet but one thing is clear—fracking is damaging more than just the environment in America.

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