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Should Addicts be Treated as Criminals?


dark jail cell with sunlight

Addiction and crime tend to have a common correlation. Are addicts inherently criminals?  Many who don’t understand the disease of addiction might think that they are.  The myth that addiction is a choice and the consequences that derive from actions while under the influence are well deserved.  A person who suffers from addiction is unable to control their impulses to use drugs.  Some may believe locking addicts up in prison will solve their addiction, but it doesn’t even begin to treat it.

Addicts are not criminals; they are not intentionally doing harm towards others for their own benefit.  In fact, because of their disease, addicts aren’t really aware other people even exist.  Addiction is a chronic brain disease which causes people to have obsessive thoughts about drugs or alcohol to the point they will do anything to quiet the cravings.  If an addict partakes in illegal activity, it is likely because they are attempting to support their habit or their intoxicated state caused them to be negligent.  

If the only time an addict participates in criminal activity is when it is associated with their addiction, is punishing the crime the best answer?  Treating the addiction is a more sensible solution to the situation at hand.  An addict is not a bad person; they are a sick person.  They lack appropriate life skills and are not able to cope with stressful situations.  Treating their physical and mental dependence to drugs is a more proactive solution to solving crime than locking them up in already overcrowded prisons.

In California in the year 2000, voters passed an initiative called the Substance Abuse and Crime Act, which allowed eligible offenders to opt for a probationary sentence which typically includes the attendance of a treatment program in lieu of incarceration.  Later, California voters passed proposition 47, which reduced certain felony drug crimes to misdemeanors.  These laws are an attempt at solving the plague of addiction which has swept the nation the last several decades.  If we can help sick people get well, we will see an exponential decrease in criminal activity throughout the country.  Treating addicts as criminals perpetuates the present problem in society and creates a stigma they are bad people.  Addicts are not bad people trying to get good; they are sick people trying to get well.

The answer to recovery is Simple. Our multi-tiered program is designed to help your loved one find success on a new path in life through school, work, and meaningful volunteering. Structured for progress, clients at Simple Recovery transition seamlessly through each phase of their recovery. For information on our full continuum of care options for recovery from addiction and co-occurring mental health, call us today: 888-743-0490