Drug Awareness: Why Addicts Shouldn’t Be Treated as Criminalsholycrosss
Drugs are horrible. They ruin lives, break apart families and are a big reason as to why crime rates are so high. Nobody can deny that drugs are not good for society as a whole, so naturally a lot of people place a stereotype on the users. They believe that because drugs are bad, the people who use them must be bad by association. A lot of people can’t find room for sympathy, and when they hear about someone who is addicted to drugs getting thrown in jail, they tend to shrug it off as ‘just another addict’. These views need to be changed in order to further society.
The problem with drug addiction is we treat the addicts like criminals. Even if they have never committed a crime outside of the actual usage of the drugs, we still feel like throwing an addict in a prison cell is the best thing for society. In a way, we dehumanize drug addicts for no other reason than they have a problem.
The Prison System
If we help, rather than punish people who have become addicted to substances, we can actually make society a better place. Think about it – 46.4% of the entire federal prison population are incarcerated because of drug offences. That’s a staggering number.
But does prison even help addicts? Once they’re released from prison what happens?
One of the main problems is prison is not a drug free environment. Inmates consistently smuggle in drugs of every variety into the prisons, where they can sell them to inmates for money or favors. When someone is physically addicted to drugs, they’ll do anything they can for a fix. This can result in them being in debt to violent criminals, or getting caught using by prison guards – adding to their sentence and starting the vicious circle over again.
The other problem is the fact that prison doesn’t address why addiction is happening in the first place. It’s clear that prison isn’t deterring drug use – in fact illicit drug use is at an all time high. Rather than get to the root of what is causing this increase in drug use, prisons are just putting the abusers in a cell for a while, then releasing them with no guidance. This absolutely will not solve the problem. As a society we need to put an end to addiction by finding the root cause.
Life After Prison
Once released from the prison system, many addicts find themselves out on their own with no where to go. They are offered no help, and think that they only have their old habits to turn back to. There is a very important aspect missing from their lives at this point – hope. Once addicts enter this vicious circle, it’s extremely difficult to get out. This is why we as a society need to take a stand and offer a helping hand.
There is a solution to this. We need to stop treating addicts who commit no other crime than being addicted to a substance as criminals. By treating them as such, we make it so that they cannot make their lives better. Getting a job is extremely difficult as 70 million other Americans have experienced. Without a job, there’s no money, and without money their quality of life severely lowers. However, by helping them rather than punishing them, they can receive the assistance they need, and become a productive member of society again. By giving them a criminal record, addiction won’t be the only thing following them around for life.
By sending them to prison, we are taking away many opportunities for them to make improvements on their life, even after they have served their time. Maybe that’s why 76.6% of the 404,638 prisoners studied in 2005 re-offended within 5 years of release. When you strip opportunities away from someone, they become desperate.
How We Can Help
There is a way we can fix this issue. By helping people with addiction issues, rather than punishing them we can end this cycle before it even happens. In 2013, only 2.6 million of more than 24 million who are suffering from substance abuse received treatment in a rehab facility. This means 21.4 million are not receiving the help that is necessary to get them on the path of success. By helping people rather than punishing, we can get them the treatment they need.
We must also understand how addiction works if we’re going to help these people. When addicts commit crimes, it’s usually because of desperation. Drugs cause a physical dependency that causes withdrawal. Sometimes these withdrawals are so bad they can be fatal. One woman in a Florida prison died due to a lack of treatment for these symptoms. This is something that many people do not understand – while yes drugs are most definitely dangerous, quitting them can be even more dangerous.
A lot of people believe that quitting drugs cold turkey is the best way to do it, which is often misinformation. For example, many physical withdrawals can be dangerous such as seizures, rapid heart rate, tremors and hallucinations. This is why people with addiction need professional help rather than punishment. Jails often don’t take physical addictions into account. By getting professional help from caring individuals who wants to give these people better lives, safe steps can be made to avoid these dangerous withdrawals. Through rehabilitation and counseling, we can more successfully help people beat addiction.
The best way to eliminate drug addiction is by reaching out. We need to focus more on implementing more drug-free programs and reaching out to the at-risk youths that addiction can very well effect. By eliminating the root cause of addiction, we can help prevent addiction from ever happening.
Let’s Treat Addicts as People
Being addicted to a substance is extremely hard. It makes people do things that they would never do in their right mind and it puts their body through more stress than we’ll ever know. Addiction is an illness. Let’s start treating it as such.
Punishing addicts is not helping them. In fact, it’s more of a detriment to the cause than anything else. If we as a society want to beat addiction, then we have to take a new approach to it. Helping, rather than punishing is the right way to do this. By treating addicts as people who need help, rather than people who deserve to be locked up we can help them on the path for an addiction-free life. Compassion, love and care is the first step to recovery. Not only will it help addicts, but it will help society as a whole. The addicts aren’t the evil ones – the drugs are.
To learn more about drug addiction, and our treatment options visit our site! https://holycrossservices.org/about/kairos/mission-philosophy-of-treatment/