Alcoholics; Lets Lock Them Up – Seriously

At the end of the day – whether or not a person wants to drink too much, or use drugs, is pretty much a personal decision – right? It’s their body, it’s their life – it’s their decision.

Maybe – it’s certainly something that a concerned family may hear when attempting to convince an addict to get help. It’s certainly something someone trapped in the self-delusion of the disease might spout – and even believe.

 But is it true?

If you drink alone, hermit like in a remote cabin, never seeing another soul – then OK, it’s your business. You hurt no one but yourself, and it’s no one’s business but yours.

So alcoholic hermits aside…

  • If you drink to a stupor each night in front of your family, in front of your kids – even if you do no immediate wrongs – you model something terrible. Do you have the right? Does it become the family’s business at that point?
  • If your substance use prevents you from getting or keeping a job, from providing for yourself and your family – do those that would subsidize your existence have the right to tell you what you can and cannot put in your body?

We live together, as family, as a community, and our actions and choices affect those around us. Those that drink or drug heavily impact the rest of us, whether painfully in the family, or through social costs in the community. We have the right to demand change – it is our business, it’s everyone’s business.

We don’t have the right to demand impossible change though. Addiction is a disease, entrenched and enduring, and you can’t just will it away. We can demand change in the family, we can demand change in the community, but first, we must provide a means for change.

We, as a society, can say that alcoholic level drinking is unacceptable. It does harm to more than just the individual, and we are not going to stand for it anymore. We can divert some of the ludicrous quantities of money going into our prison system (we now incarcerate 1 in 100) and build 1000 new treatment centers – and we can make people use them. If we can put someone in jail for the possession of a small quantity of crack – why can’t we save through enforced healthcare those that would abuse even legal drugs, such as alcohol?

It would save money in the long run – it would save lives right away. Sure it’s an ethical minefield, and committing people to hospitals does sound a bit scary – a bit too "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest" for comfort. It wouldn’t be easy. But we could do it and maybe we should.

At the end of the day – whether or not a person wants to drink too much, or use drugs, is pretty much a personal decision – right? It’s their body, it’s their life – it’s their decision.

Maybe – it’s certainly something that a concerned family may hear when attempting to convince an addict to get help. It’s certainly something someone trapped in the self-delusion of the disease might spout – and even believe.

 But is it true?

If you drink alone, hermit like in a remote cabin, never seeing another soul – then OK, it’s your business. You hurt no one but yourself, and it’s no one’s business but yours.

So alcoholic hermits aside…

  • If you drink to a stupor each night in front of your family, in front of your kids – even if you do no immediate wrongs – you model something terrible. Do you have the right? Does it become the family’s business at that point?
  • If your substance use prevents you from getting or keeping a job, from providing for yourself and your family – do those that would subsidize your existence have the right to tell you what you can and cannot put in your body?

We live together, as family, as a community, and our actions and choices affect those around us. Those that drink or drug heavily impact the rest of us, whether painfully in the family, or through social costs in the community. We have the right to demand change – it is our business, it’s everyone’s business.

We don’t have the right to demand impossible change though. Addiction is a disease, entrenched and enduring, and you can’t just will it away. We can demand change in the family, we can demand change in the community, but first, we must provide a means for change.

We, as a society, can say that alcoholic level drinking is unacceptable. It does harm to more than just the individual, and we are not going to stand for it anymore. We can divert some of the ludicrous quantities of money going into our prison system (we now incarcerate 1 in 100) and build 1000 new treatment centers – and we can make people use them. If we can put someone in jail for the possession of a small quantity of crack – why can’t we save through enforced healthcare those that would abuse even legal drugs, such as alcohol?

It would save money in the long run – it would save lives right away. Sure it’s an ethical minefield, and committing people to hospitals does sound a bit scary – a bit too "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest" for comfort. It wouldn’t be easy. But we could do it and maybe we should.

Lets Stop Throwing Sick People into Jail, and Being Surprised When They Don’t Get Better!

The vast majority of drug offenders incarcerated…and there are millions, receive either no drug therapy, or minimal prison based treatment, and these two approaches have not historically shown much effectiveness in reducing recidivism either to drug abuse or to re-offending.

A NIDA funded program in Delaware prisons looked to explore a different matrix of treatment, using a three stage approach to therapy prior to complete release. Inmates begin in the general prison population, proceed then to a structured prison based drug treatment program, and finished their sentence in a community based drug treatment facility.

The results demonstrate quite clearly that a progressive and lengthy model of correctional treatment shows far greater efficacy, and ultimately saves a great deal of money. Of prisoners who proceeded through the three stage program, 77% had not re-offended after 18 months, compared to only 43% of prisoners having participated in prison only drug and alcohol treatment programs. Demonstrating yet again that incarceration alone for drug offenses does not solve the problem, and that every dollar spent on treatment as versus incarceration yields an incredible societal dividend.

Let’s follow the lead of Delaware, and give sick people treatment, instead of just locking them away.

The vast majority of drug offenders incarcerated…and there are millions, receive either no drug therapy, or minimal prison based treatment, and these two approaches have not historically shown much effectiveness in reducing recidivism either to drug abuse or to re-offending.

A NIDA funded program in Delaware prisons looked to explore a different matrix of treatment, using a three stage approach to therapy prior to complete release. Inmates begin in the general prison population, proceed then to a structured prison based drug treatment program, and finished their sentence in a community based drug treatment facility.

The results demonstrate quite clearly that a progressive and lengthy model of correctional treatment shows far greater efficacy, and ultimately saves a great deal of money. Of prisoners who proceeded through the three stage program, 77% had not re-offended after 18 months, compared to only 43% of prisoners having participated in prison only drug and alcohol treatment programs. Demonstrating yet again that incarceration alone for drug offenses does not solve the problem, and that every dollar spent on treatment as versus incarceration yields an incredible societal dividend.

Let’s follow the lead of Delaware, and give sick people treatment, instead of just locking them away.