It was recently reported that there were more than 60,000 deaths from drug overdoses in 2016. In 2017, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports up to 72,000 deaths from drug overdoses. It is a climbing number every year, and as it is already 2019, it is important to continually discuss how we can better treat drug abuse within this country.
The legal system is a poor place to “help” those who are struggling with drug abuse. The systems first act is to arrest someone. An arrest is a violent, frightening, and humiliating act. An arrest includes various consequences such as job loss, lost educational opportunities, family shame, potential marital difficulties, and psychological trauma.
The legal system is about submission. First, there is forced submission when an individual is arrested, they must conform to the laws that conduct their arrest. Next, we command the same individual to attend court, which involves ordering a person to make changes in their life, ordering an individual to be placed away from society, and/or ordering a person to have their life, for a period of time, directed by another person (i.e. probation officer).
The idea that the legal system can force people into changing their behavior is only believed by people in the legal system. The system does not consider whether the addict has any buy in to this forced reform. Furthermore, there is no consideration to whether or not the addict can see that such controlling reform will be both necessary and beneficial to their lives.Therefore, not providing those with drug abuse problems a way to see why they should make life changes and work to end their drug addiction.
If we do not provide a way for people to essentially "buy into" quitting their drug addiction, then are we really helping them or the rest of the society? Our increasing numbers in drug overdoses would indicate that we are not.
A fellow attorney gives a great analogy for this issue. In sales, it is important to provide a person with something they need and then help ensure the person understands why they need it. For instance, when Apple markets a new iPhone, they do not simply tell people they have to buy one. They do not explain details such as the specifications or the speed of the processor.
They explain to their customers why the product will benefit and enrich their lives. They show customers taking pictures in exciting places or during special moments; listening to the newest music; having the selection to watch countless movies; and having the ability to communicate with their parents halfway across the world.
Apple knows how to convince people that their products and services will make them happy and fulfilled. Essentially, they are one of the best at ensuring people get to the why their products matter.
The court system needs to shift to this format. By forcing people into making changes, and insisting they submit to a set of rules without educating and/or assisting people in seeing why a change would fulfill their life, the system will continue to cause resentment and disrespect as well as perpetuate our increasing drug problem.
The legal system cannot cure drug addiction. Those of us in the legal system, myself included, do not have all the answers. However, the system needs to shift into an area where they can assist people in seeing the benefits to stopping their addiction. For instance, showing them a different lifestyle they can achieve and relationships available for not only themselves but other people.
Our solution should no longer be to automatically shut those struggling with drug abuse away from society and isolate them from promising lifestyles. I hope to see a future where those struggling with drug abuse will be placed in situations where they can buy into and want to fight for their future. We must help ensure they have that opportunity.