The Centers for Disease Control reports that over 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2019, the highest figures ever reported. However, 2020 is expected to be well over 80,000 during Covid-19 isolation. At the same time, the Surgeon General reports that over 20.8 million Americans suffer from substance abuse, and one in seven Americans eventually will face addiction in some form. Historically, addiction has been addressed by the criminal justice system as imprisonment that often takes the place of treatment. Addiction and the criminal justice system have a long and intertwined history. Typically, drug and alcohol abuse lead to criminal justice involvement both directly (possession and trafficking of illegal drugs) and indirectly (larceny to obtain drugs, motor vehicle accidents/DUIs).
Decriminalization and legalization of Drugs
After decades of strict drug laws and penalties, the United States is in the busy arrival of legalizing marijuana, with more states joining the legal marijuana effort each year. Moreover, some western U.S. states like Washington and Oregon have decriminalized hard street drugs like heroin, cocaine, and meth. Essentially, a small possession to use will give you two options from law enforcement. The individual can opt for 30-day state supported treatment or simply pay a nominal fine of $100. While most agree that getting people help for their addiction is the right move, the question becomes “is 180 degrees in the opposite direction the right approach?” The answer lies somewhere in the middle as a consequence free environment that is void of deterrents will eventually harm American communities.
Drug Court in Florida
In 1989, the nation’s first drug court was established in Miami-Dade County to better assist people with substance use disorders and behavioral health problems. Specifically, drug courts offer drug offenders the ability to get help for their addiction, as a substitute to jail time. The voluntary program involves frequent appearances before the drug court judge, addiction treatment and regular, random drug testing. Typically, the court will demand that the offender remain “clean” for one-year and maintain the prior requisites. In return, the court agrees to drop the charges at successful program completion. Florida now has over 100 drug courts statewide. They are largely touted as a success as studies show that drug courts reduce recidivism, decrease taxpayer cost and are better at serving the community compared to a prosecution leading to prison time.
Expansion of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Addiction treatment programs for those who already classify as addicts in the criminal justice system need repair. One of the most helpful treatment plans would include expansion of medication assisted treatment (MAT). MAT combines behavioral therapies with FDA-approved medicines (Suboxone) that reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, MAT is still fighting for acknowledgment even outside of jails, despite data of positive outcomes. Unsurprisingly, it is even more challenging to implement MAT within prisons. As a result, re-acclimating into the community can be even more tricky with a substance abuse problem. This needs to change!Simple Path Recovery is a beach side, boutique addiction treatment center located in Pompano Beach, FL. Recognized as a Top Florida Drug & Alcohol Rehab, Simple Path is committed to individualized care, 12-step integration, and Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). Their addiction helpline is available 24/7 at 855-467-3625.
About the Author
Matthew Koenig is the principal of Last Call Marketing, which devotes their efforts to Digital Marketing, Content Marketing, Website Design and SEO, primarily in healthcare and tourism concerns. Mr. Koenig is based out of South Florida. His sober date is June 10, 2013.