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.

$1 of tax money put towards treatment saves $7 in societal costs. Why are we building ever larger prisons?

When governmentally funded organizations release cost benefit statistics that indicate a single dollar spent on drug treatment saves seven in societal costs, why do we not see a marked increase in public money funding access to drug and alcohol treatment facilities?

A study by the national institute of drug abuse has determined that every $1 dollar in policy money directed towards drug treatment programs has a direct societal savings of $7, and other conservative groups have estimated that the magnitude of savings can swing as far as 12 to 1.

How’d They Get That Figure?

This figure was determined by comparing the long term costs of abuse and the relative costs imposed upon society by those who receive drug treatment, when compared with those that don’t. The figure was determined after evaluating the costs of crime, police enforcement and incarceration, as well as reduced work productivity, and increased health care needs.

  • When an investment into access to drug treatment yields a 700% societal return, why are policy makers and governments not rushing to the aid of those suffering addictions, and building ever more treatment facilities as opposed to ever larger prison facilities?
  • And when statistics show that the initial motivation towards entering a treatment program has little overall impact over the eventual success rate and sobriety achieved, why are we not sentencing drug offenders to long rehabs rather than to long incarcerations?

The answer I think is largely political, and those that wish to become governing officials realize that it’s a lot easier to sell tough prison sentences on drug offenses, than try to persuade the public to lend their tax dollars to the badly perceived "addict".

20k per year per federal drug inmate

It costs almost $20 000 a year to keep a drug offender in prison, and with the average sentence for a drug offense in a federal prison topping 70 months – Why not use a fraction of that money ordering a court mandated long term period in rehab, that greatly reduces the likelihood of further addiction, and as such greatly reduces the likelihood of a further need for re incarceration?

Attitudes surrounding addiction as a public health issue have been growing in acceptance over the past years, but obviously a lot of work still needs to be done to change the attitudes of voters too easily swayed towards a knee jerk reaction of imprisonment over treatment. The voting public needs to realize that addiction does not mean weakness or immorality, that the face of addiction is the face of America and that all of us are equally at risk to the seductions of substance abuse.

It’s in our nature to use and abuse mind altering substances, and rather than fight human nature with inefficient prison terms, we should be educating and healing those of us that fall prey to the devastations of addiction. No one feels sorry for the junky sent to jail for their crimes, but no one would want to see their mom, sister or uncle serve time for what is clearly a mental health issue.

We all need to treat each other as we would want our immediate family to be treated, and there is no great difference between a heroin addict on the corner, and a soccer mom battling an addiction to pain pills. Both have lost control, and both suffer from the physical and mental costs of their respective addictions.

Let’s stop rewarding politicians and elected law enforcement who strive for victory with yet more promises of ever harsher enforcement.

  • On one level, it just makes good economic sense. Spending a dollar to save 7 seems like a pretty solid bet, and when the recommendations towards more spending are coming from governmentally funded drug policy organizations, it makes you wonder why the obvious economic benefits are being ignored.
  • On another and more compassionate level, we need to start treating addiction as the mental health problem that it is. How can we classify addiction medically as an uncontrollable compulsion, as on the other hand also imprison people for what is accepted as uncontrollable?

We need to care for the sick in our society, and since addiction can touch anyone, you never know when someone you love will face a battle with addiction, and hopefully they’ll get the help they need, rather than the incarceration they don’t.

When governmentally funded organizations release cost benefit statistics that indicate a single dollar spent on drug treatment saves seven in societal costs, why do we not see a marked increase in public money funding access to drug and alcohol treatment facilities?

A study by the national institute of drug abuse has determined that every $1 dollar in policy money directed towards drug treatment programs has a direct societal savings of $7, and other conservative groups have estimated that the magnitude of savings can swing as far as 12 to 1.

How’d They Get That Figure?

This figure was determined by comparing the long term costs of abuse and the relative costs imposed upon society by those who receive drug treatment, when compared with those that don’t. The figure was determined after evaluating the costs of crime, police enforcement and incarceration, as well as reduced work productivity, and increased health care needs.

  • When an investment into access to drug treatment yields a 700% societal return, why are policy makers and governments not rushing to the aid of those suffering addictions, and building ever more treatment facilities as opposed to ever larger prison facilities?
  • And when statistics show that the initial motivation towards entering a treatment program has little overall impact over the eventual success rate and sobriety achieved, why are we not sentencing drug offenders to long rehabs rather than to long incarcerations?

The answer I think is largely political, and those that wish to become governing officials realize that it’s a lot easier to sell tough prison sentences on drug offenses, than try to persuade the public to lend their tax dollars to the badly perceived "addict".

20k per year per federal drug inmate

It costs almost $20 000 a year to keep a drug offender in prison, and with the average sentence for a drug offense in a federal prison topping 70 months – Why not use a fraction of that money ordering a court mandated long term period in rehab, that greatly reduces the likelihood of further addiction, and as such greatly reduces the likelihood of a further need for re incarceration?

Attitudes surrounding addiction as a public health issue have been growing in acceptance over the past years, but obviously a lot of work still needs to be done to change the attitudes of voters too easily swayed towards a knee jerk reaction of imprisonment over treatment. The voting public needs to realize that addiction does not mean weakness or immorality, that the face of addiction is the face of America and that all of us are equally at risk to the seductions of substance abuse.

It’s in our nature to use and abuse mind altering substances, and rather than fight human nature with inefficient prison terms, we should be educating and healing those of us that fall prey to the devastations of addiction. No one feels sorry for the junky sent to jail for their crimes, but no one would want to see their mom, sister or uncle serve time for what is clearly a mental health issue.

We all need to treat each other as we would want our immediate family to be treated, and there is no great difference between a heroin addict on the corner, and a soccer mom battling an addiction to pain pills. Both have lost control, and both suffer from the physical and mental costs of their respective addictions.

Let’s stop rewarding politicians and elected law enforcement who strive for victory with yet more promises of ever harsher enforcement.

  • On one level, it just makes good economic sense. Spending a dollar to save 7 seems like a pretty solid bet, and when the recommendations towards more spending are coming from governmentally funded drug policy organizations, it makes you wonder why the obvious economic benefits are being ignored.
  • On another and more compassionate level, we need to start treating addiction as the mental health problem that it is. How can we classify addiction medically as an uncontrollable compulsion, as on the other hand also imprison people for what is accepted as uncontrollable?

We need to care for the sick in our society, and since addiction can touch anyone, you never know when someone you love will face a battle with addiction, and hopefully they’ll get the help they need, rather than the incarceration they don’t.