Spurred on by the War on Drugs, our society tends to punish and incarcerate people with addiction. However, punishment does not work. Providing treatment, therapy, and compassionate help are much more effective.
Addiction is considered a chronic brain disease. This means that regular use of addictive substances changes the brain. People are not at fault for their addictions, so punishment is fundamentally misguided.
One major criterion for diagnosing a substance use disorder is that the person continues to drink or use drugs despite personal consequences. These repercussions are often significant; it’s not uncommon for people with addiction to continue to use substances after getting DUI’s, losing jobs or housing, or experiencing serious health concerns. If negative reinforcement worked, those people would get sober.
Despite this, as of September 2016, nearly half of people incarcerated in federal prisons were there for drug offenses. This contributes to mass incarceration of People of Color, and especially Black people. Black and white people use drugs at similar rates, but Black people are six times more likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses.
This is one reason Amatus Recovery Centers began our Social Justice Scholarship, which provides the full continuum of addiction treatment free of charge to BIPOC struggling with addiction. If you or someone you know needs help, learn more about the scholarship here.
Stigma around addiction reinforces the notion that those who suffer from it are lazy, morally corrupt, or selfish. This can cause hesitation in seeking help, creating a cycle of shame and continued use.
Fortunately, attitudes about substance use disorders appear to be changing. A good indicator of this is the 2020 general election; the majority of Americans favored policies that decriminalize drugs and focus resources on treatment. Connection, support, and other positive reinforcement helps people get and stay sober.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will bring empathy and kindness to your care. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.