The first thing I want to say is addiction does not mean only drug addiction. Addiction has a broad scope of things that people can be addicted to. These can include alcohol, sex, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, love/relationship addiction, cigarettes, food, control, you name it. If there is a substance or action repeated continually to press down emotional and mental issues, it can be an addiction.
Addiction is an illness, not a crime. We can’t divide the substances or actions mentioned above and only lump some into crimes and others not. Our country went through the prohibition years, where alcohol was suddenly illegal. Can you imagine suddenly tons of alcoholics going through withdrawal without help? Can you imagine how many alcoholics went to jail because they had to sneak to drink or create their own? They had to do so or go through horrible withdrawal symptoms.
Food can be an addiction for many people. Some don’t even know they are addicted to food or can’t admit it. Can you imagine if people were ushered into state prisons because they could not stop eating? Or could you imagine a food addict forced to sell food on the streets to keep themselves from going through withdrawal? I know it sounds silly. It’s just as foolish with any substance. What if suddenly cigarettes were banned? They do cause cancer. I should know. My father died from lung cancer in his late 50’s. Way too early for someone to die. If a sudden ban on cigarettes happened, millions of people would be forced into either sudden withdrawal, rehabilitation, or jail.
Where do we draw the line, and when we bring in compassion? Can you imagine a food addict being taunted by society because Hostess cupcakes were being sold on the street corners? A sugar high is just as powerful as a drug high. It all triggers the same centers of the brain than any other substance or action that a person is addicted to.
When Coca-Cola first came out, it contained cocaine. Everyone loved Coke! Cocaine was legal. The father of psychology, Sigmund Freud, used cocaine himself. Then cocaine became illegal, and Coca-Cola inserted caffeine. Caffeine is a drug. Millions of people are addicted to caffeine, either in Coke or coffee. I should know. I had to stop drinking caffeine in my coffee and went through withdrawals twice! Was I an addict? Yes! Millions of people are addicted. That means they are addicts. I still drink coffee without caffeine because the act of having a cup of coffee in the morning is an addictive habit.
How are these things different from any other addiction? My point here is addictions must be treated humanely with mandatory rehabilitation and not mandatory prison sentences. Allowing a methamphetamine addict to go to jail and detox cold turkey is dangerous! That is why rehab centers give drugs to help the withdrawal symptoms. Allowing an alcoholic to go cold turkey withdrawal can also cause seizures and many other harmful effects. Cutting off someone’s prescription drug they are dependent on can cause sudden danger or death in some cases.
Am I splitting hairs here? I don’t think so. Go back to my first statements about addiction. It is an illness. Some people are dependent on drugs that help them survive. I am one of them. Without one particular drug, I can not survive. It helps level out the field in my body. I should know. I was forced to live a year without it, and it is was the worst dysfunctional year I have ever had.
Without some anti-depressants, some would not live. Depression can kill. I know this for a fact. Many depressed people die from stroke or suicide because they are never treated. People who are addicted to relationships suffer under the hands of abusive partners—some die. Many die in the United States DAILY.
This is my huge point here. Drug addicted people often do not know to do the right thing for their lives. The drug causes them to have dysfunctional thinking. To say they should know better, put them in prison, and let them suffer the consequences is the same as taking a cigarette smoker and throwing them suddenly in prison under the same principle. The exact same centers of the brain are affected, and the exact same lack of rational thinking occurs in either addiction.
I am not an advocate of crime. This is not the point here. I am an advocate for life. I hate seeing people die unnecessarily. I hate to see people misinformed, making wrong judgment calls because of an addiction or suffering because they believe no one cares, and no one will help them.
Where is our education on these issues, and where is our compassion? Why are we sending non violent drug offenders to prison and not creating MANDITORY drug rehab centers instead? Don’t give an addict a choice. They can not choose because their judgement is flawed. Give them LIFE instead!
Loving you from here,
Dr. Rev. Jenine Marie Howry, PhD
***”In addition, the Prohibition era encouraged the rise of criminal activity associated with bootlegging. The most notorious example was the Chicago gangster Al Capone, who earned a staggering $60 million annually from bootleg operations and speakeasies. Such illegal operations fueled a corresponding rise in gang violence, including the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago in 1929, in which several men dressed as policemen (and believed to be have associated with Capone) shot and killed a group of men in an enemy gang.” (History.com, 2020)
Bellum, Sara. (2012). Coca-Cola’s Scandalous Past. National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://archives.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/coca-colas-scandalous-past
History.com. (2020) Prohibition. https://www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties/prohibition
Tartakovsky, Margarita M.S, (2018). 3 Facts You Might Not Know About Freud and His Biggest Addiction. PsychCentral. https://psychcentral.com/blog/3-facts-you-might-not-know-about-freud-and-his-biggest-addiction/