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Rethinking Addiction: Is Jail Time the Answer?

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Rethinking Addiction: Is Jail Time the Answer?

For those who subscribe to the theory that addiction is a disease, prison as

punishment is a terrible idea. After all, if addiction is an illness, the person suffering

from it shouldn’t be penalized any more than someone with a cancer or leukemia,

right? As Presidential candidate Chris Christie recently remarked, “We need to start

treating people in this country, not jailing them.”

Interestingly, not everyone agrees. And whether you believe addiction is a

choice or not, there is growing popularity in the idea that jail might help the

recovery process.

How is that possible? How can being thrown in a cell with hardened

criminals actually help someone suffering from addiction?

According to addiction psychiatrist Dr. Ed Gogek, who recently spoke with

Newsweek about the issue, the answer is simple: in many cases, the threat of jail or

jail itself is the only thing that will scare an addict into finally seek treatment.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost 90 percent

of people abusing substances don’t think they have a problem and don’t think they

need help. Sure, they may stop using for short — or even longer — periods of time.

But there’s no motivating factor keeping them clean.

Except, perhaps, incarceration. “I’ve seen lots of people get clean and sober

because they were facing possible prison time,” Gogek relates. “I’ve had patients tell

me getting arrested was the best thing that ever happened to them.” Simply put,

Gogek explains: “Tough drug laws save a lot of lives because the threat of jail keeps

people in recovery.”

In short, says Gogek, “We need the threat of jail or prison. For many addicts

and alcoholics, that threat might save their lives.”

Of course many people — including police officers themselves — will try

everything else possible before turning an addict in for arrest. In Dixon, Illinois for

example, addicts are encouraged to call the police for help. Law enforcement then

arrives at their home to escort them to detox, not jail. It’s a plan that’s been showing

signs of success throughout several Chicago suburbs. In Langloss and Lee County,

police announced that anyone who brought their drugs or needles in and asked for

help would be escorted to a local treatment facility. Since then, property crimes are

said to have decreased. Addiction, said one local police chief, “is not a crime, it’s a

disease, and police can be a voice to facilitate treatment for people who are


Whatever finally prompts an addict to finally seek help — whether it’s a jail

sentence or not — there’s no question that the end goal should always be treatment.

At Reawakenings Wellness Center, our clientele is made up of patients from all

walks of life. And our seasoned staff has helped countless people, regardless of their

histories or backgrounds, get and stay clean. If you or someone you love is serious

about finally breaking the chains of addiction, don’t hesitate to call Reawakenings

Wellness Center today.

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