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Why addiction should be treated as a health issue, not a criminal issue

Clinically Reviewed By Dan Schimmel, LCSW, CAP
Updated On

The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that addiction is chronic, relapsing brain disease. It is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. When an addict is using they are not thinking of the repercussion of their actions, they are only thinking about getting high. As our understanding of addiction grows it is clear to most that we should be treating it as a health issue, not a criminal issue. More and more local governments recognize this and are making the choice to issue people court mandated treatment rather than sentencing them to jail time due to their actions as a result of drug or alcohol use.

Court Ordered Addiction Treatment

More and more judges in conventional criminal court recognize the need for treatment and are sentencing offenders to some
form of addiction treatment as a part of their sentence. If the judge himself does not make this suggestion as a supplement to jail time, your lawyer may work out a deal with the prosecutor prior to your appearance in court so that you can complete a certain period of treatment as part or all of your punishment. Regardless to how you get there, the need for treatment is clear and you are given the choice of treatment or time in jail, most in your situation will choose treatment.

What Type of Rehab Offers Court Ordered Addiction Treatment

Both Government run and private rehab facilities offer court ordered addiction treatment. You may be allowed to choose the facility that best suits your needs in this type of situation. Both types of rehab facilities hold their own benefits, those lacking insurance or the financial backing for private rehab may feel forced to choose a government run program. This is because they are unaware that many private facilities offer scholarship programs, focused on helping those who are truly committed to their recovery and to create better lives for themselves in recovery.

What Happens After Treatment?

What happens after treatment will depend on the severity of your criminal charges. You may go on to serve the remainder of your sentence in a jail or you will be released on probation where you must make regular visits with a probation officers, taking mandatory drug tests. You will be encouraged to continue with follow up care to continuing healing from addiction and to take part in local NA and AA Meetings.

Many people have seen the benefits of addiction being treated as a health issue, not a criminal issue. They have moved forward with their lives, leaving the past in the past and creating brighter futures as productive members of society. The goal of court ordered addiction treatment is not to punish you but to rehabilitate you so that you can move forward in your life and get out of the cycle of addiction and criminal behaviors.

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