Does Putting Drug Offenders In Prison Fix America’s Substance Abuse Problem?

substance abuse problemSubstance abuse disorders are difficult mental illnesses to treat. They often occur in tandem with other mental health disorders (though not always), and treating addiction is usually a multi-step process spanning across years.

When illegal drugs are involved, things become even more complicated. Mental health treatment usually comes second to much harsher, and far less effective, sentences when answering to a federal crime involving illicit substances.

Jail time is an all too common and highly expensive punishment for substance abuse in the United States. Not only does this cost taxpayers more each year, but it doesn’t actually help people hooked on drugs to stop abusing them.

You might expect states that imprison drug offenders would have lower rates of substance abuse and drug-related arrests. The reality, unfortunately, is quite the opposite. In areas that punish drug use and possession with jail time, rates of substance use and abuse aren’t any different. Essentially, putting people in prison for drug-related crimes doesn’t make people abuse drugs any less frequently.

This is according to a Pew report published in June 2017, outlining the relationship between drug imprisonment and drug use and related crimes.

Putting drug users in prison doesn’t just fail to reduce drug abuse. It also doesn’t lower rates of overdose deaths, and doesn’t reduce the number or frequency of drug arrests. Though substance abuse interventions and treatments have been proven effective in treating these issues in ways prison can’t, the number of inmates in prison as a result of drug abuse has far from declined.

Researchers, activists, and lawmakers are trying all they can to push for substance abuse treatment in place of harsh and ineffective prison sentences. However, it’s unclear at this time whether or not scientific evidence supporting the more effective alternative will be enough to ensure the necessary laws are put into place to launch any kind of positive change.

Did you know an addiction can be caused by a mental disorder?

One of the primary reasons that mental disorders and substance abuse so often go hand-in-hand is that drugs and alcohol can provide an escape from the pressures of mental health problems. Self-medicating is surprisingly common: you’re not alone.

But unlike real, effective, long-term solutions, such as medication and detoxification in a treatment center, drugs and alcohol won’t amount to effective treatment.

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