Our entire country is learning more and more about addiction. Maybe it is just me and because I work in the field that I feel like the stigma is slowly diminishing and that people are actually starting to get it but either way I do want to point out that it is getting better. And maybe one day, we will fully understand what is going on. But as of right there are some major ways society has failed addicts and is still failing them. These are the 5 biggest ways society has failed addicts:
1. We Have the Largest Prison Population in the World
Now we aren’t saying that everyone in prison shouldn’t be there but we are saying that there are hundreds of thousands of people incarcerated every day for non-violent drug offenses. The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, with about 2.3 million behind bars. More than half a million of those people are incarcerated for a drug law violation. And a lot of this has to do with the laws surrounding drug use—for instance the three strike rule. See number 2.
2. The Three Strikes Laws
In some parts of America, marijuana possession may land you in jail for life. That was the case for Cornell Hood, a New Orleans man who was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of possessing and attempting to distribute marijuana. Similarly, the three strikes law, a statute enacted by some states, orders a minimum prison sentence for a convicted felon with two or more prior convictions. Repeat offenders in California; for example, face at least 25 years in prison for any third felony, ranging from crimes like murder or child molestation to nonviolent offenses, such as drug possession.
3. Lack of Treatment
Twenty-three million Americans are currently addicted to alcohol and/or other drugs. Only one in 10 of them (2.6 million) receives the treatment they need. The result: a treatment gap of more than 20 million Americans.
4. Misunderstanding, the stigma, and ignorance
- “Drug addicts are scum.”
- “They brought it upon themselves.”
- “They got what they deserved.”
- “Why don’t they just stop?”
- “They are just bad people.”
We could go on forever with comments people make about drug addicts and alcoholics. But this kind of misunderstanding and ignorance perpetuates a serious problem. Because while the majority of society believes this is merely a moral failing, addicts are going to struggle getting the help they need. These kinds of comments are microcosms of what is actually going on in the world today when it comes to addiction. Granted it is getting better, but not without a cost. The slow process and lack of understanding has already led to thousands of deaths.
5. Treating the drug use and not the reason behind the drug use
So listen, we all know about the heroin epidemic going on right now, but it is important to note that it is not a heroin epidemic. The heroin use is merely a symptom of the addiction all these individuals have. So what we really have going on is an addiction epidemic. And that is what we need to start calling it. We are fighting a war against substances—we are on a mission to save human beings from their disease. If this was any other disease, it would be clear. It would be treated. Instead we are focused on the symptoms of addiction and we aren’t treating the real issues.
Understanding Our Failures Is The First Step
Realizing where we are failing is a good way for us to start changing those areas. Obviously what we are doing and have done isn’t working. This is an issue that needs to be addressed. Why, you may ask? Because people are dying. End of story, you don’t need a bigger reason than that.