Addiction: Illness or crime?

On Behalf of | Feb 27, 2018 | blog

There is no denying that drug addiction is a serious problem. Media reports refer to it as an epidemic, relating it to other health issues. However, society seems to deal with drug addiction as a crime, leaving many who suffer from the stranglehold of drugs to face criminal penalties. While it may be true that crime and drugs seem to follow one another, you may simply see that your loved one is struggling, and that is not a crime.

Lawmakers have long tried to assuage the general public by taking a strong stand against drugs in their neighborhoods. They tighten laws and increase penalties so that merely having a substance in your pocket can lead to fines or jail time. North Carolina and many other states may arrest a person who has no controlled substance but is carrying a pipe or needles used to take drugs.

Legal penalties don’t solve the problem

Most jails do not provide treatment for drug addiction. They may feel they are not able to afford it. However, the cost of incarceration is far higher, especially since your loved is more likely to face arrest again after spending time in jail than he or she would after treatment. This is because jail provides your loved one with no resources for dealing with the addiction or avoiding the legal issues associated with drug use.

Additionally, despite the best efforts of law enforcement, drugs are readily available in jails and prisons, and addictions are frequently fed behind bars. If a relapse is common for drug users who seek treatment, imagine how likely it is that your loved one would relapse after months of demoralizing incarceration that can also have a damaging effect on his or her future opportunities.

Hope for your loved one’s future

The purpose of harsh criminal penalties is to deter the use of drugs and, therefore, to protect society from harm. However, those who end up paying the price are often users like your loved one who have no intention of distributing or committing any other crimes. Struggling to stay clean is not easy when a single relapse may result in incarceration, preventing your loved one from continuing treatment that is essential to prevent such relapses in the future.

Treatment clearly provides the more hopeful alternative. It may even be possible for a legal advocate to work for that alternative to incarceration in your loved one’s case or to find a more positive resolution that will improve your loved one’s chances of returning to a healthier life.