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Are treatment programs more effective than jail time for drug addicts?

When a person becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, they may do things they never before thought possible, such as committing crimes. Addicts often turn to crime to finance their habits or to secure their dealers to keep drugs coming in. In the past, the solution has been to deal with convicted drug offenders by giving them a jail sentence, but statistics suggest that there may be a more effective way to ensure addicts do not relapse or end up back in jail after releases.

Drug use and crime

The National Institute on Drug Abuse lists five different types of offenses that typically accompany drug use:

  • Any offense involving property damage, injuries, and fatalities that are the result of driving under the influence.
  • Offenses related to sexual assault, domestic violence or other abusive behaviors.
  • Lifestyles, including association with illicit markets or other drug offenders, that result in offenses.
  • Drug sales or possession-related offenses.
  • Offenses that involve a person committing a crime to get access to drugs.

While a person may be given leniency for the first offense, in general the more the offenses someone is charged with, the more likely the individual will be to spend time in jail. Advocates for drug abuse programs suggest that treatment over incarceration can save taxpayers billions of dollars each year.

The problems with imprisonment

It may seem like common sense to throw offenders in jail and let them serve their time, but this is a temporary solution to a long-term, complicated problem. While offenders may be forced to stay clean during their stay, they are likely to relapse into drug use the second the opportunity presents itself again.

Drug addiction is often the result of some type of trauma or self-esteem issue that the individual can't cope with. Few incarceration programs have the necessary services to help addicts address their triggers and find positive ways to deal with them without turning to drugs or alcohol. This is where treatment center programs come in.

The benefits of drug abuse treatment

Not only can court-ordered drug abuse treatment programs save taxpayers money, they can also save lives, reduce crime and provide a better future for addicts and their families. Science shows that addiction is actually an illness and most individuals won't get better without the right types of treatment. Rather than locking them up and throwing away the key, the future may lean toward a treatment-based program for drug offenders.

If you or your loved one are facing jail time for a drug offense that is related to an addiction, a treatment program could be beneficial to the future. An attorney may be able to help you present your case and determine the best way to proceed.

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