For years, no one knew of David’s daily inner struggles of life, how his social anxiety crippled him from doing normal day to day things, how his depression prevented him from loving life, and how he was too scared and embarrassed to ask for help. This led to years of self-treatment with the use of illegal prescription drugs, mariajuana, and eventually heroin. When his drug abuse was discovered through law enforcement encounters, he refused treatment requested by his family citing he could take care of it on his own. Eventually the legal system stepped in when he was caught with possession of heroin. Instead of jail time, he was placed on probation, but by then his addiction had reached beyond his ability to stay clean and meet his conditions of probation. This drove David into further depression and despair until one day, when he knew he was headed to jail, he attempted to take his own life with the drugs that led to his destruction. Because of the overdose, David suffered an anoxic brain injury as well as a traumatic brain injury with a skull fracture when he fell. Although David survived, he was left with brain damage along with cognitive deficits and multiple medical problems. He now requires 24-hour supervision, a behavioral plan, and 13 medications to manage his behavioral and medical conditions. Due to his young age of 30, there are very few, very expensive long-term care facilities that he is appropriate for, so his family is left to care for him at home. All of this could have been prevented if David had been required to attend a multidisciplinary drug and medical type treatment facility instead of being left to his own accord. His underlying conditions that were feeding his drug use would have been discovered, and this tragedy could have been avoided. Situations like this are not uncommon, and more and more teens and younger adults are requiring long-term medical care due to the effects of a society focusing on punishing an individual and not getting to the root of the problem and treating it. Mandatory automatic admission into multidisciplinary medical/drug type residential treatment facilities for rehabilitation and reintegration of drug offenders and drug addicts, as well as investigation and treatment of any underlying issues that are contributing to the use of illegal substances should be the course of action when presenting in front of a judge for each and every drug offense. Creating these types of facilities would provide a solution for our overcrowded justice system, would free up resources for our first responders, emergency rooms and hospitals, and would provide families with the help they need keeping their family together while treating the addiction and preventing further societal discord.
It is no secret that our criminal justice system, including courts, prisons, and juvenile detention centers are all facing a backlog and overcrowding problem in the United States. What may come as a surprise is the sheer number of inmates that are in jail for drug possession related charges. According to the statistics from the Federal Bureau of Prisons updated on September 29, 2018, 46.1% of the total inmates were incarcerated for drug related offenses. (BOP 2018) Most of these inmates are most likely repeat offenders, often never receiving rehabilitation for their drug abuse problem, but instead the criminal justice system is relying on time served to be the deterrent for illegal drug use. This is simply just not enough to combat the addiction problem of most of these offenders. There are also often underlying issues that are contributing to the abuse of an illegal substance, and without affordable health care or the push to seek treatment, these individuals are prone to self-medicating without the proper supervision of a treating physician. This ultimately leads to inaccurate use of prescription drugs which often leads to addiction. As time progresses, these individuals seek stronger, and increasingly more dangerous ways to combat their underlying illness as well as feeding their addiction, often forcing them into a life of crime just to support their habit. The vicious cycle then begins with no way out. Mainstreaming these individuals into a world of harden criminals at a correctional facility where drug use is just as rampant as it is on the streets is clearly not working and is not the answer to the problem. According to the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), “half of all prisoners meet the criteria for the diagnosis of drug abuse or dependence.” (Chandler ?? 2009) This is an alarming number of incarcerated people who need treatment for drug dependence, not jail time. *** If we had a required automatic admission to residential multidisciplinary drug/behavioral health facility for treatment of drug abuse, addiction, as well as treating the underlying cause behind the drug abuse use instead of straight into the criminal system or putting them back out on the street under probation guidelines leaving them to their own accord, the chances of successfully rehabilitating and treating these individuals would be much greater. In fact, “research over the last 2 decades has consistently reported the beneficial effects of treatment for the drug abuser in the criminal justice system.” (Chandler, ?? 2009). In a multidisciplinary type of facility, not only would the drug problem itself be treated, but the underlying problems that are contributing to the individual’s desire to use and abuse illegal substances would be investigated and treated. This multidisciplinary approach would include different therapy services, including psychiatric, behavioral, as well as medical services. Since we are already spending private citizen tax money as well as government funding to care for these individuals in overcrowded correctional facilities, it would make more financial sense if the money was spent in fixing the problem and not simply putting a bandaid on it.
The longer an individual abuses drugs, not only does the chance of jail time increases, but the so does the likelihood of an overdose occurring, drug related accidents happening to themselves or innocent people, self-injury, or even suicide. A study done revealed that from 2001 through 2012 an estimated 663,715 admissions had occurred in the United States due to heroine and opiod overdoses, and the hospital costs from the opiod related admissions alone was 5.5 billion dollars. (HSU) This trend is likely to continue in the years to come as the popularity of drugs like opioids, meth and marijuana have been on the rise as evidenced by the numerous drug related arrests and drug related emergency calls seen on reality first responder shows such as Live PD and Nightwatch. Every night there are a multitude of emergency calls for drug overdoses across the United States. “According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 52,000 people died of drug overdoses in the United States in 2015, more than triple the number from 1999.” (nist***) Our emergency personnel are not only stretched thin, but their safety is also of concern. Accidental overdose of a first responder is increasing at a rapid rate. They are accidentally coming into contact with the dangerous substances like fentanyl from the very same individuals whom they are trying to save. (Knight 2017) If the overdosed individual is fortunate enough to be able to be revived by the first responders, then these individuals end up in our emergency rooms requiring long hospital stays for severe cases, and then quite possibly admitted into long-term care facilities for outcomes that resulted in brain damage. Many of these individuals are often under insured, falling into indigent care which costs our country millions and millions of dollars every year. For those who face life long medical issues as a result of a drug overdose or self-injurious behavior due to drug use, including those who require 24-hour care, the burden is then cast upon the family members often leaving them with no real long-term solution. Just as in the case of David, the lack of affordable long-term care facilities for young or middle-aged individuals needing care is scarce; therefore, these individuals often end up back home and their family has to struggle to provide fulltime care for them. Other individuals who do not have family to return to often find themselves living alone, unsupervised or cared for, or worse they end up homeless living in the streets where the drug cycle is likely to start all over again. Sadly “despite increasing evidence that addiction is a treatable disease of the brain, most individuals do not receive treatment.” (Chandler, ?? 2009). However, if we were able to start treating the drug problem in the beginning stages with a mandatory multidisciplinary program, we would be able to lower the number of overdose calls our first responders receive saving our health care facilities a lot of money, reduce the number of self-injuries due to drug use, and prevent the senseless accidents that harm innocent individuals.
Prior to the 1970s, drug abuse was considered to be a part of the underground world, revolving around rock and roll musicians or deep in the inner cities. It was something that the everyday working-class citizen did not give much thought about. Unfortunately, times have changed, and now illegal drugs are more prevalent than ever in every day society. They are seeping into every neighborhood, oblivious to social status, race, age or gender, becoming increasingly detrimental to family and to society. “As we begin the 21st Century in America, there is no place to hide from the problem of substance abuse and addiction.” (No place) Divorce, child abuse, financial strain, one parent households, legal issues, stress, illness, and homelessness are all real possibilities families face when an individual makes the choice to abuse drugs. Children are often thrown into a world of uncertainty when one or both parents abuse drugs, our youth are destroying their opportunity to become successful adults when they make the choice to experiment with drugs, and our professionals, such as physicians, put innocent people in harm’s way when they make the choice to mix pleasure with work. The one thing those who abuse drugs have in common is no one consciously makes the decision to become a drug addict. There is a reason behind each and every person’s desire to take that first pill or smoke that first joint. This reason, whatever it may be, is the root of the problem and that is what needs to be addressed. No family member wants to see their loved one in a correctional facility for a drug related offense where they are not receiving treatment for the actual problem. The situation will lead to further deterioration of self which leads to the desire for further use of drugs and future incarcerations, and the never-ending cycle continues. This self-destructive behavior leads to broken families and shattered lives. No one is immune, yet everyone should have the right to be treated. A multidisciplinary facility designed to help each individual with a personalized program tailored for them would allow them to be successful in not only stopping addiction before it progresses, but it would help break that cycle for those who have found themselves in the midst of the drug turmoil.
Society seeks normalcy, cohesiveness, and the real desire to help those in need. Finding a solution for the drug problem that is taking over our youth, destroying our families and crippling our country should be at the forefront of our law makers. The emphasis needs to be on a solution to the root of the problem leading to the use of illegal drugs, and not just treating the symptoms of it. As in in the case of David, if a multidisciplinary drug program had been in place and had been mandatory, his underlying problems would have been discovered. He would have been treated properly and avoided the life altering incident that has led to a lifetime of extensive medical care for him and emotional stress and financial strain on his family. Society would benefit by treating individuals instead of adding to the problem by tossing them into correctional facilities. If we had a system in place that combines treating the medical, psychological, and behavior aspects along with the enforcement of the legal system in conjunction with a supportive family system, we could work together to solve this problem and we would be able to rehabilitate and reintegrate these individuals back into society to become productive citizens. As a result, our jails would feel a relief and we would have more room for those who commit more serious crimes against society, our emergency medical personnel along with our medical facilities _______, our drug crime rate would go down, and the family structure would have a stronger basis and quite possibly remain intact.
https:// https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/08/health/dea-first-responders-opioids/index.html knight 2017
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2681083/ chandler 2009
Chandler, R. K., Fletcher, B. W., & Volkow, N. D. (2009). Treating Drug Abuse and Addiction in the Criminal Justice System: Improving Public Health and Safety. JAMA?: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 301(2), 183–190. http://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2008.976
https://web-a-ebscohost-com.databases.wtamu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=17&sid=e2abdbc0-a751-4a3d-846e-f23f201f1b9e%40sdc-v-sessmgr06Hsu, D. J., McCarthy, E. P., Stevens, J. P., & Mukamal, K. J. (2017). Hospitalizations, costs and outcomes associated with heroin and prescription opioid overdoses in the United States 2001-12. Addiction, 112(9), 1558–1564. https://doi-org.databases.wtamu.edu/10.1111/add.13795https://www-hsdl-org.databases.wtamu.edu/?view&did=800819Publisher:National Institute of Standards and Technology (U.S.)
Retrieved From:National Institute of Standards and Technology: https://www.nist.gov/
https://www-hsdl-org.databases.wtamu.edu/?view&did=799892Publisher:Columbia University. National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse
Copyright:Copywright © 2000 The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University
Retrieved From:The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University: http://www.centeronaddiction.org/