Safe, effective drug/alcohol treatment

All across this country in small towns, rural areas and cities, alcoholism and drug abuse are destroying the lives of men, women and their families. Where to turn for help? What to do when friends, dignity and perhaps employment are lost?

The answer is Palm Partners Recovery Center. It’s a proven path to getting sober and staying sober.

Palm Partners’ innovative and consistently successful treatment includes: a focus on holistic health, a multi-disciplinary approach, a 12-step recovery program and customized aftercare. Depend on us for help with:

The Dangers of Overconfidence in Addiction Recovery

The Dangers of Being Overconfident in Addiction Recovery

Author: Shernide Delva

Overconfidence in Recovery:

Confidence is supposed to be an excellent quality. We are always told to believe in ourselves in every endeavor we pursue. Whether it is a sport or a school exam, having confidence is touted as the key to success. However, when it comes to addiction recovery, can too much confidence actually become harmful?

Overconfidence Can Lead to Relapse:

The reality is too much confidence is not great in recovery. While it is great to have confidence in your program, it is important to stay humble. The emotions that arise from overconfidence can block underlying issues. Having an overconfident mindset can hinder your recovery process. It is important to make recovery a priority regardless of how much time you have.

Why Overconfidence Encourages Relapse:

  1. Distorted Self-Image: A major part of recovery is staying humble. Overconfidence makes someone believe that they are not as bad as newcomers. They may start to feel they no longer need their program and start to ponder if they are an addict at all. Overconfidence encourages the belief that it is not a huge deal to have a drink or use casually, which is far from true for an addict.
  2. Irrational Thoughts: Overconfidence can lead an addict to believe they deserve certain rewards in conjunction to their success. They might feel they are worthy of a celebration. They quickly convince themselves that one drink is not going to hurt them because they are now “in control” of their addiction. This is risky behavior and can lead someone down a slippery slope.
  3. Complacent Behavior: This is when an addict starts to believe that their addiction is not nearly as bad as they once thought. They start believing that they can now live normally due to the length of time they have been sober. They think they are cured so they slowly stop going to meetings and stop thinking of themselves as an addict. This leads to new addiction or a relapse.

Signs of Overconfidence Include:

  • Rejecting suggestions from others
  • Seeking immediate results
  • Belief in having all the answers
  • Always seeing your situation as unique from everyone else
  • Feeling that you deserve preferential treatment
  • Feeling “healed” or “in control”
  • Always wanting to lead instead of listening

It is crucial to understand that addiction will not simply disappear. Regardless of how long you have been sober, addiction can always creep up again. Addiction is not a curable disease; it is a manageable disease that does not have room for overconfidence.

How We Become Too Confident:

Overconfidence may be a trait acquired in recovery, or it can be a trait a person struggled with before sobriety. In fact, most addicts battle overconfidence their entire life. For example, those times you tried to use and thought no one would notice.

Sadly, this behavior can persist after recovery even after hitting rock bottom. Even those with no history of overconfidence can start to become overzealous in their recovery program. They start to believe that they are above the rest of their friends and family because of the work they have done in their recovery.

Consequences of Overconfidence:

When you act too confident, you hurt yourself and others. You hurt others who are still learning to trust the person you have become. You hurt yourself because overconfidence increases the vulnerability to a relapse. It is important to remember that recovery is something that takes effort every single day. Regardless of how much time you have, stay humble in your program. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Remember to support others struggling, and stay focused on your recovery. Overconfidence is not a quality anyone should strive for. Instead, focus on staying sober every single day. If you are struggling to stay sober, or are currently having issues with substance abuse. Please reach out. We want to help you get back on track.

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What Is the Real Measure of Success in Recovery?

What Is the Real Measure of Success in Recovery?

Author: Justin Mckibben

Working in the blogging and social media sector of the world-wide web you get to see a lot of differences of opinion on a lot of topics; from the most mainstream to the most infamously controversial. In fact, pretty much anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account has exposure on a regular basis to a variety of intense debates and collective views. Of course another thing the internet does is provide us with perspective and statistics, and some of those data inventories actually make a strong impact on our own opinions. However, some figures may miss the mark when it comes to truly all-inclusive data. This is especially true when it comes to the measure of success in recovery from addiction.

Some people claim that the majority of support groups and programs don’t have very impressive or even adequate rates of success in recovery. Others will go as far as to claim that these support groups and recovery programs hurt more than they help. If you dig deep enough, there are plenty of people claiming that nothing out there works for helping addicts and alcoholics who need help.

But is that accurate? Truthfully, I have more than enough reason to doubt these claims for a very simple reason…

Who is truly capable of quantifying someone else’s “success”?

Instead of asking if drug treatment is successful, maybe we should be asking the real question… what is the real measure of success in recovery?

Talking about Treatment

Back in 2013 TIME magazine wrote that because there is no standard definition or what “rehab” is, there is no standard metric for measuring their success. The therapeutic community at one point said they could only claim a 30% success rate. However, the source also indicated that they only count ‘success’ by those who complete the entire program, and between 70% and 80% of people drop out of aftercare around 3-6 months after treatment. To sum that up, some people just stop reporting on their progress, so their ‘success’ could not be confirmed.

Other treatment providers will measure their success rates on how many patients report being completely abstinent for an extended time after leaving treatment. However, as we discuss later in the article, abstinence is not the requirement in the definition of success.

The fact is, because there are various addiction treatment models, to measure the success of recovery based on the numbers even treatment providers themselves gather is actually inappropriate and ineffective.

Focusing on the Fallen

When was the last time you saw a story on the news about an overdose victim? These days if we go 24 hours without seeing one it is surprising, right?

Well… when was the last time you saw a story on the news about a recovered addict who owns their own business, or is working a 9-5 and volunteering in their community? When was the last time you saw a breaking report about the alcoholic who went home to be an amazing parent to their newborn child or started a foundation to help the less fortunate?

I’ll wait…

I thought so. But allow me to blow your mind… because these people do exist!

This is probably one of the greatest injustices dealt to the recovery community. I’ve written about this before, and about how changing the communities views means overcoming stigma. Media outlets are always itching to give a dramatic account of every drug overdose or crime committed by an addict. Thus, that is all the rest of the world sees. It should be no surprise that people claim the recovery programs and support groups are failing, because no one pats you on the back for being a decent person. The only time people seem to applaud recovering addicts in the media is when they’re a celebrity.

It is easy to claim that drug addiction treatment doesn’t work when someone only focuses on the overdose rates in their community. It is easy to point to the individuals who have fallen, who need another chance at getting healthy, and say they are proof that the institutions are broken. Raising awareness on all those who still need help is important, but it is counterproductive to use them as indication that no progress is being made.

Anonymous Recovery

One conflict with measuring success is with 12 Step programs, mainly because they are anonymous programs. As a member of a 12 Step program I am definitely not trying to discredit these methods. The reality is true success rates of 12 Step programs are such a matter of contention because the standard of anonymity. Many people will simply not wish to be involved in studies based on their desire to remain anonymous.

When trying to debate the success rates of 12 Step programs we have to take any statistics with a heaping serving of salt. Out of the pieces of data available, those numbers are not an all-encompassing assessment.

Also, the only data for success in recovery from 12 Step groups is ongoing sobriety percentages, measured by years. And just about any member will tell you time does not equate sobriety. And limited data means the programs may help people to find a meaningful life, but if they do not remain members then they are not included in those success rates.

Some will only measure their success in recovery on a 24 hour basis, because they take life a day at a time.

Even 12 Step literature will point out that they have no monopoly on spirituality or recovery. 12 Step literature acknowledges that some people reach a point where their drug abuse or drinking caused great physical, personal and professional damage, but after intervention and treatment some can turn their lives around without a 12 Step program. Of course abstinence is often suggested as the best course of action for most recovering addicts and alcoholics. Once drugs or drinking create enough devastation, turmoil and helplessness many people find it is far too late to ever go back. Yet, abstinence is not necessarily the requirement for “success in recovery”.

Success in Recovery is Subjective: Speak Up

What truly transcends the debate over effective drug treatment is how we measure success in recovery in the first place. How do we decide someone is successful in life? Because isn’t that what recovery is; building a life that is happy and whole? So how do we calculate the extent of someone else’s transformation?

In essence, that is what we are talking about; discovering a fulfilled and meaningful shift that allows freedom to pursue happiness and connection. Given this description, success in recovery is definitively subjective. The meaning of recovery is more conjectural.

The measure of successful recovery should be a more fulfilled life.

Not just with material wealth, prestige or surface value but with connection, contribution and genuine gratitude. In the end, men and women who struggle with drug abuse or alcoholism recover in innumerable ways. Some turn to religious bodies, while others thrive on support groups. Some focus on physical fitness and mindfulness. There is no way to measure every success story, because they are life-long journeys through self-awareness. Each puzzle piece makes a different picture.

In order to show that there is hope, I hope more of us speak up about our experiences in recovery from alcoholism and addiction. There is so much emphasis on the bad, there is more of a need than ever to show the world something good. This means shattering the stigma that stands against us. People will never know we can succeed if we don’t try to show them how we already have. Recovery from addiction should be outspoken more often. Not because I think anonymity isn’t important; I have great respect for the traditions of 12 Step fellowships.

But… I do believe that if we don’t speak up for ourselves, stigma is going to keep speaking for us.

Every community, including yours, is filled with people who have empowering and inspiring success stories after overcoming drugs and alcohol. It all begins with a foundation. It is up to you to measure your success, but it’s also up to you to take action and make your success story possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

 

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Batman, Alcoholic: Ben Affleck Admission of Alcohol Addiction

Batman, Alcoholic: Ben Affleck’s Admission of Alcohol Addiction

Author: Justin Mckibben

This past Tuesday, Academy Award-winning actor, screenwriter and producer Ben Affleck made a powerful and inspiring announcement to his fans and friends via social media. Since then the internet has lit up with articles and insights on how this public admission could be seen as a heroic moment to so many people all over the country.

Ben Affleck has the honor of being the new face of Bruce Wayne, bringing the Batman to life in the most recent installments to DC’s feature films. So he is no stranger to the role of a hero with a dark past.

Being open and honest with the world Affleck publicized he had completed treatment for alcoholism, and so many in the recovery community and advocates for addiction have found it as a beacon… or “BAT SIGNAL” if you will… (I will)… for all those struggling to overcome the stigma and see they are not alone.

In an emotionally-charged note to his fans, Ben posted on Facebook stating:

I have completed treatment for alcohol addiction; something I’ve dealt with in the past and will continue to confront. I want to live life to the fullest and be the best father I can be. I want my kids to know there is no shame in getting help when you need it, and to be a source of strength for anyone out there who needs help but is afraid to take the first step. I’m lucky to have the love of my family and friends, including my co-parent, Jen, who has supported me and cared for our kids as I’ve done the work I set out to do. This was the first of many steps being taken towards a positive recovery.”

This is also not the first time Affleck has done battle with alcoholism. The 44-year-old actor has faced his own alcohol addiction in the past, while his childhood was also impacted by the influence of alcoholism on his father.

Alcoholism in the Family

In 2012 Ben Affleck did an interview with Barbra Walters discussing his parent’s divorce when he was 12 years old. During the interview Affleck stated:

“[My father] was an alcoholic… I did know that as a child. He drank a lot. My father was a — what did they call him — a real alcoholic. He, you know, drank all day, drank every day, and to his credit, he got sober ultimately,”

“He’s been sober for several decades, which I think is pretty impressive.”

At this time he credited his brother and his closest friends, including Matt Damon, of helping him through a difficult childhood. After Ben Affleck earned his place in Hollywood for his work with Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting in 1997, he gave up drinking at 24-years-old.

Ben Affleck’s First Time in Rehab

In July of 2001, Ben Affleck completed a 30-day residential rehabilitation program for alcohol abuse. But this experience didn’t seem to convince Affleck at the time he was in danger of real alcoholism. In a 2012 statement, he had said,

“I went to rehab for being 29 and partying too much and not having a lot of boundaries and to clear my head and try to get some idea of who I wanted to be.”

Not saying it wasn’t an important experience, but this statement seems to lean closer to the ‘I’m not as bad as some people’ line.

Family Life

In 2004, Ben Affleck married Jennifer Garner, his co-star from another comic hero film Daredevil. Sources at the time said Affleck’s new married put a halt on all the hard partying. Batfleck began to settle down and start up a family. The two were later blessed with 3 children: Violet, age 11, Seraphina, age 8, and Sam, age 5. Affleck says,

“I think becoming a father makes you see the world differently and it’s good.”

However, Jennifer and Ben did eventually split in 2015. Still, early reports are indicating Jennifer is an important part of Ben’s current path to sobriety.

Sober Supports

While Ben Affleck has been more private about his time in rehab this time around, speculation began when Batfleck was spotted with woman while out and about in Los Angeles that a source later told ET was actually a sober coach Ben had been working with named Elizabeth Weaver.

Other sources have indicated to ET reporters that while Affleck no longer works with Weaver, he was supported by another sober companion while showing up to the 2017 Oscars to support his brother Casey Affleck who won Best Actor.

Looking forward a bit, it’s interesting that the next Batman solo movie starring Ben Affleck is also set to star Joe Manganiello as the infamous villain Deathstroke. Joe Manganiello has also had his struggles with alcohol. In a past interview Manganiello stated,

“My life was ruined. I was homeless, careless and broke with no career.”

The former “Magic Mike” and “True Blood” star has been sober over twelve years! In a 2015 interview Joe Manganiello said his sobriety was “very close to [his] heart.” With him starring as a rival assassin and all out bad mofo in the next Batman against Affleck, one has to wonder if a sober bro-mance might blossom between the two Hollywood action heroes.

Heroes and Alcoholism

One inspiring aspect of all this is that it not only gives us a reason to see past the stigma of alcoholism and addiction, but it also makes those who suffer feel more connected to the people who they may look up to; more connected to their heroes.

In fact, I remember watching Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne in the recent Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice movie. In one scene Bruce Wayne wakes up, fighting back his nightmares, and reaches to a nightstand cluttered by wine bottles to get a bottle of pills. Moments later his butler Alfred Pennyworth, played by the amazing Jeremy Iron, even comments on hoping:

“- the next generation of Waynes won’t inherit an empty wine cellar.”

I related in a big way to the idea even Batman is drinking and popping pills to escape. As a recovering alcoholic and lifelong Batman buff, I felt connected to a feeling I believe is unspoken but relevant to the character, the actor, and the reality of addiction.

It’s almost ironic to me, looking back. To see a well-known and highly celebrated actor like Ben Affleck play my lifelong hero, and in the midst of critical divisiveness over his recent projects still have the strength to speak out about his hardship with alcoholism and the love of his family getting him through, it’s an interesting sense of empathy. Again, when his post says,

“… I want my kids to know there is no shame in getting help when you need it, and to be a source of strength for anyone out there who needs help but is afraid to take the first step…”

That is a strong statement. Batfleck has put himself out there with solidarity and compassion for those who are struggling with alcoholism and addiction. He may not be the first, but he is still a pretty prominent voice in Hollywood today, and that means something. He wants his own kids, and everyone else, to know they should never be afraid to ask for help.

A big piece of this we can all appreciate is that when successful professionals, artists or family-oriented individuals take a public approach to acknowledging addiction, it gives us all another perspective. Those on the outside looking in can see it in the men and women they admire. Their peers can be inspired to take a similar stand on self-improvement and raising awareness. Batman himself has said,

“I have one power. I never give up.”

Bruce Wayne is a man who dedicated himself to being a symbol. Ben Affleck is a man who has struggles and is choosing to have a voice. If more of us chose to have a voice, to take a stance and not give up, we could help others still who don’t know there is a choice.

It can be surprising to see so many successful people are recovering alcoholics and addicts. Sometimes we don’t realize our favorite artists and actors have dealt with something so difficult to get through. The more heroes we have every day that step up and share their message of hope, the more hope we may have that people seek the help they desperately need. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

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The Genetic and Psychologocial Science in Each of the 12 Steps

The Genetic and Psychologocial Science in Each of the 12 Steps

Author: Justin Mckibben

Here we are going to discuss some expert opinion on the molecular neurobiological aspects of each of The 12 Step Program.

Understanding of the neuro-molecular biological keystones of The 12 Steps may actually be an important step toward sobriety for some, especially those who rely heavily on the tangible logic of scientific reasoning. To understand and embrace principles of molecular neurobiology could ultimately lead to a better quality of recovery from addiction.

  1. Step 1- We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.

There is science behind the “powerlessness” of the first step. Admitting personal powerlessness over addiction is actually supported by the mechanisms involved in the neurobiological circuits of our brain. Stress and the toxic-effects of the drugs themselves induce changes in brain functions such as:

  • Neuroanatomy
  • Neurophysiology
  • Neurochemistry

These changes create:

So scientifically it is very true that the individual is powerless. The substances themselves continually short out the circuits in the brain that are meant to give people control. The recipe requires genetic predisposition and environmental elements, but everyone is technically susceptible depending on these variables.

  1. Step 2- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Breaking down the wording of the step one could infer:

  • Sanity- sound judgment
  • Insanity- repetitive behavior despite the harm

Poor judgment, or “insanity,” could be a cause of unusual substance seeking behavior despite risk of harm. These decisions are made worse by environmental factors including:

  • Drug availability
  • Non-nurturing parents
  • Social-economic burdens
  • Stress

The individuals sanity also may be impacted by their relationship with a “power greater than themselves.”

In this case, let us look at relapse. The prefrontal cortex and cingulate gyrus are critical areas involved in relapse regulation. Impaired neurochemical functioning of these regions obstruct recovery and induce relapse, typically due to:

  • Genes
  • Toxic substances
  • Toxic behaviors

Understanding the molecular biology of the brain reward system highlights the importance of positive input from a fellowship such as the 12 Steps offer. Positive input from peers can offset unwanted gene expression. Ultimately, this can enable an individual to achieve a state of sanity and make right choices. The power greater than yourself can simply be the environmental element of your recovery.

  1. Step 3- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

Will-power is extremely difficult to regulate in individuals born with a compromised reward system and low levels of endorphins. Will-power is based on both the interplay of genes and environmental elements in society, such as stress or shock. Early stress can cause substance use disorders in adult life as seen with epigenetic effects on Glucocorticoid receptor express.

Because the hard wiring of our brain’s reward circuitry is so difficult to override, it only makes sense the recovering addict  seems obvious to look for reward outside of our genome. So in this step, the idea is to turn that focus away from drugs and toward something such as the fellowship or a spiritual path.

  1. Step 4- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Fearless moral inventory must include the drug of choice and other Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS) related behaviors. A particular drug or behavior is not the only element of an addiction, it includes a range of observable characteristics resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment..

However, the inventory cannot be labeled as “right” or “wrong” because it their own evaluation of self. To understand that there are genetic and environmental aspects to addict means to understand that blame and guilt are not conducive to true self-appraisal.

  1. Step 5- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

This step involves open reflection on our issues with using drugs. This includes the toxic effects of recurrent exposure to these substances on our minds and how that translates into our actions that impact others.

The damage of drugs on the brain’s reward networks is very physiological, and these physiological changes can result in psychological effects such as anxiety or aggression. By evaluating the inventory we have taken, we can consider the “nature of our wrongs” as being the psychological deterioration caused by drugs.

  1. Step 6- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Many would argue that technically our character is shaped by genetic (evolutionary) forces far outside our individual control. So in that mindset it is not necessarily within our ability to change who we are genetically speaking. So, wouldn’t it be up to something greater than us, be it a ‘God’ or our own evolution of perspective, to remove the character traits that do not serve us?

With that said, our environment may influence how we have developed our responses and attached meanings to circumstances. Achievement of step 6 requires:

  • Deep character analysis
  • Painful realization
  • Ability to dissociate the present self from the past self

By rethinking in terms of the “wrong” or “right” of an individual act, we can leave behind our attachments to actions or behaviors and offer up our character defects to the province of a higher power.

  1. Step 7- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Humility is accompanied with gratitude and grace. Spiritual faith and humility challenge someone to accept that good intentions and honest effort alone will not always be enough to succeed. This could lead to chronic depression and relapse, especially with genetic predisposition.

However, the 12 Steps and the 12 Traditions together ask the person to believe that evil, injustice and cruelty will not necessarily always win either.

Humility and faith are not necessarily synonyms for passivity. They actually support the belief that our shortcomings can be removed by our willingness to believe that things can work out. Positive feelings translate to positive epigenetics in the brain, enhancing the chances of removing our shortcomings by expressing more effective and positive genes.

  1. Step 8- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Behind part of this step is the old saying “water seeks its own level,” because it may be an effect of a genetic association. People often seek friends who not only have similar characteristics, but similar genotypes.

So by making amends which may eliminate certain friends that would not be conducive to recovery, an individual is truly going against the genetic grain on a molecular neurobiological level.

A form of happiness is that people exist in comfortable networks of social collectives. So as we reach out to those we have hurt to amend our relationships and our character, we reconnect with a new source of happiness.

  1. Step 9- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

In Step 9, the achievement of making amends is subject to correlations among:

Relationships and happiness are based on neuronal hard wiring. So overcoming relationship issues is both an arduous challenge and a clear answer to achieving healing.

The degree to which someone can make amends is crucial to a healthy recovery. This is partly because mending of relationships is a gateway to the attainment of happiness. Making amends can also activate a natural release of dopamine in reward centers of the brain.

  1. Step 10- Take personal inventory and admit to being wrong

Step 10 is the maintenance for Steps 4 and 5. It continues the practice of taking personal inventory in the 12 Steps to evaluate the self. It is important that addicts realize that depending on their genetic risk taking inventory and feeling good about the self-appraisal is a temporarily “dopamine fix”.

Beyond just having the ability to keep yourself in check and have a positive impact, when addicts continue to “work the steps” on a daily basis it also gives them a primary source from which to replenish dopamine in the brain.

  1. Step 11- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Meditation and prayer, as suggested in step 11, increases the release of dopamine at the synaptic level. Applying the process of step 11 on a daily basis will also offset the genetically induced “hypodopaminergic brain function” by continuing to release dopamine in the synapse.

Increased dopamine will result in a subsequent proliferation of dopamine receptors, even in those with the most sensitive predisposition. The increase in D2 receptors translates to enhanced dopamine function, which will ultimately promote:

  • Greater confidence
  • Better comprehension
  • Stress resistance

Looking outside the 12 Steps, most who study spirituality know the positive effects of prayer and meditation on the brain.

  1. Step 12- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Here it says that working all the steps can allow an individual to have spiritual awakening. For some, one of the most fulfilling experiences they can have is sharing emotions with others. This experience itself and the impact may be decided by the synthesis and release of the brain chemical oxytocin.

Oxytocin is an important human bonding neuropeptide. However, independent of personal genetic makeup, alcohol and opiates significantly impair the synthesis and release of this chemical. So it is important to take advantage of this opportunity to create positive emotions while establishing connections.

So, by carrying the message and sharing experience we can bond further in our recovery, which helps us to rewire the brain with expressions of positive genes while also letting us detach from old meanings and produce more dopamine. All in all the 12 Steps have a pretty decent formula for working with the science of the brain to recover from a pattern of destruction.

The 12 Steps and similar programs of recovery are all very powerful tools. A holistic treatment program like Palm Partners respects the science of addiction, and many seek help here in order to establish a strong footing to move forward. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

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How Criminal Justice VS Addiction Recovery Could Change

How Criminal Justice VS Addiction Recovery Could Change

Author: Justin Mckibben

With the release of the United States Surgeon General report this month came the historical declaration that substance abuse is a public health disorder. While many have insisted upon this perspective in the past, it is the first time anyone holding the office of U.S. surgeon general has made the statement. In this groundbreaking report, Vivek Murthy described substance abuse stating,

“Not as a moral failing, but as a chronic illness that must be treated with skill, urgency and compassion. The way we address this crisis is a test for America.”

This revelation is a long-awaited victory for the countless advocates who have been hoping to change the way the world sees substance abuse and addiction.

Along with this statement, there comes a conversation about how to shift the strategies used to address addiction. Along with that comes the possibility for vast change and reform in the realm of criminal justice. How big is the impact of criminal justice on the addiction issue, and how could a change in perspective change everything?

Current View of Criminal Justice

The big thing here is that for years people have pushed for the world to see substance abuse and addiction as a health issue, both physical and mental. Changing the view from stigma and punishment to treatment ultimately means giving people struggling a better shot at recovery.

The failed War on Drugs has definitely put addiction and substance abuse in a place it doesn’t necessarily belong. Murthy’s report provides an update on drug and alcohol users in the country. According to its figures, in the last year alone:

  • About 48 million Americans used or abused illegal or prescription drugs
  • 28 million drove under the influence
  • 21 million Americans currently suffer from addiction (substance-use disorder)
  • Out of an estimated 2 million inmates in the nation, 65% “meet the criteria for substance-abuse addiction” according to a new study
  • According to thePrison Policy Initiative, over 300,000 inmates currently in state and federal prisons are for convictions related to drugs.

These statistics place a severe strain on the criminal justice system far beyond federal prisons.

  • Local and county jails have held thousands of these same individuals
  • Tens of thousands lost driving privileges due to drunk driving
  • Millions served time and were put on probation
  • Millions became repeat offenders and cycled back through the system

The long and short of it is that in fact, the current system is not anything close to fixing the problem. And at $442 billion dollars spent annually on health-care and criminal justice for substance-use disorder, that is a VERY expensive failure to repeat over and over.

Reforming Criminal Justice

There are many variables that come into play when you discuss reforming criminal justice to be more effective for helping addicts. Some of these include:

  • Ending the tactic of using fear of prison to keep people “in line”
  • Reforming treatment programs through criminal justice system that rely on harsh penalties
  • Ending unnecessarily punitive federal sentencing guidelines

A hard truth is the criminal-justice system is often the first to be in contact with struggling addicts. Thus many people only receive treatment once they are already involved in the criminal justice system, which often locks them into a cycle of failed attempts to clean up and repeated arrests.

Many would say it would be ideal to not have addicts and those battling substance abuse go through the criminal justice system at all; specifically for non-violent, drug-related offenses. They would rather individuals be directly diverted to a system that relies on medical and therapeutic rehabilitation.

Playing Politics

The fact remains; even if state and federal governments begin addressing addiction as a health crisis, any reforms to the existing criminal-justice system will come with their own burdens. This kind of power-shift would have instantaneous economic effects due largely to institutional competition. The massive industrial prison system that has thrived for decades would of course fight to keep its funding if the government tried to divert those funds to healthcare programs.

The surgeon general’s report is a refreshing perspective and a much needed statement. But there is still money to move and the need for playing politics. Despite the fact that most believe mental health and public health institutions are better suited to treat addiction than prisons, some say they do not have the seniority or the political juice to make a claim on the resources to do so.

In the end, setting up an approach on the state or national level that would send addicts to treatment instead of jails and prisons would be an enormous task that we cannot logically expect to happen all too soon. Yet, there is hope. Many states now have more compassionate and treatment-based programs with law enforcement. Crisis-intervention training and other methods have reduced arrests and housing costs in many areas. It does make a difference.

The real difference to reforming the criminal justice system will come when more officials recognize that substance abuse and addiction are health issues and not moral ones, especially officials at the federal level.

Never forget that every day we all have the chance to influence change. Maybe we can’t change the criminal justice system over night, but we can make decisions that make a difference. Understanding addiction and fighting back is a victory itself. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call our toll-free number now to speak with an specialist. We want to help.

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