There are many counterproductive stigmas surrounding the disease of addiction and how society treats people struggling with addiction. Lawmakers, law enforcement, city officials, and other community members tend to have a jaded perception of addicts. Generally, our society tends to swiftly serve criminal punishment while leaving no room for rehabilitation and healing for individuals struggling with substance use disorder.
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Criminal Punishment vs. Addiction Treatment
There are numerous classifications and laws in the U.S. against the use of all illicit substances. Possessing these drugs runs the risk of landing a hefty prison sentence. You are breaking these laws, whether you are injecting heroin or buying Adderall on the street. The statistics of illicit drug use are startling:
- At least 80% of individuals of all criminal offenders (whether their charge was drug-related or not) have a substance abuse disorder.
- In 2016, more than 1.5 million people were arrested for a drug-related crime.
- The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world.
- Two arrests take place for drug possession every minute in the U.S.
- In 2017, 68,000 Americans died from an accidental drug overdose.
- In 2018 1,654,282 Americans were arrested for drug law violations.
But, does punishment work for addiction? Many medical professionals and addiction specialists would argue that punishment does not eliminate the addiction crisis we are currently facing. These experts have concluded that addiction is a chronic disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and those around them.
Treating Addiction as a Disease
The initial decision to use an illegal substance may have been voluntary, but after changes in the person’s brain occur, they often find themselves unable to stop using independently. Many commonly misconceive that people can break addiction through willpower alone. But people struggling with addiction may face severe health consequences when they try to stop using.
Treating addiction as a disease requires medical help and support to manage withdrawal symptoms and address underlying issues. Medical professionals have found that treating addiction as a disease is much more successful than criminal punishment.
There are three main types of treatment for addiction:
- Detoxification – Assists the person through the process of withdrawing from the substance.
- Rehabilitation – Works with the person recovering from the addiction and helps them learn how to live a sober life.
- Maintenance – Helps the person manage their chronic disease by using medication or attending therapy.
Helping people struggling with addiction learn how to manage their disease may be more effective than punishing them for relieving the addiction crisis in our country.
The Importance of Mental Healthcare Workers
Mental healthcare workers are on the front lines of addiction treatment. They are responsible for helping people with substance use disorders detox, rehab, and manage their disease. Without them, our society would be lost in a sea of darkness, struggling to find its way out.
Some of the professionals working with people struggling with addiction include:
- Substance use counselors
- Social workers
- Case managers
These professionals work tirelessly to help those struggling with addiction. They provide support, advice, and resources to people trying to recover from this chronic disease.
Find a New Career at Behavioral Health Jobs
Punishing people for their addiction does not help them recover or manage their disease. It is important to remember that addiction is a chronic disease that requires medical help and support.
Finding a job that helps people can help you provide life-changing treatment to people in need. Begin your new career in mental healthcare by checking out the job postings on Behavioral Health Jobs. You can search for jobs that fit your skills and interests, information about education and training requirements, salary expectations, and more.