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.
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.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Since back in 1949, Mental Health America and other affiliate organizations all over America have led the charge in a collective observance of National Mental Health Month in May by actively reaching out to millions of people in the country to raise awareness, spread information and acknowledge those living with mental health disorders. Using media, local events and mental health screenings these movements take action throughout the month of May to spread the word about mental health as an issue everyone should care about.
As we highlight some of the activities and outreach programs happening this year, we want to challenge everyone to get involved.
All together the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has put together a catalog of options to use as part of a social media toolkit to help raise awareness for #MentalHealthMonth. Included in their toolkit is a variety of hashtags, including the others listed below that correlate with the activities they encourage advocates to get involved with, including:
The official theme for 2016 National Mental Health Month is Life with a Mental Illness calls upon individuals to share what life with a mental illness feels like for them in words, pictures and videos. One way to connect with the movement is to:
- Post on social media with #mentalillnessfeelslike
- Submit stories or content to MHA anonymously
All posts will be collected and displayed at mentalhealthamerica.net/feelslike.
The idea is to let millions of people everywhere speak their own truth about their experience and perspective. It gives people an opportunity to share their struggles and triumphs, while also raising awareness as to the signs of mental illness to others who may not yet know what they are struggling with.
Another way NAMI has helped with pushing for National Mental Health Month is their PSA pledge. In their call to action, they have said it is now time “for all of us to step up and change the conversation.” Found in the PSAs on their website are a few celebrity videos taking the pledge, including:
- Mayim Bialik, PhD- American Actress/Neuroscientist
- Torrey DeVitto- American Actress/Musician/Former Fashion Model
- Clark Gregg- American Actor/Screenwriter/Director
In these videos, the celebrities speak on the stigmatized terms commonly attached to mental illness that are harmful to the people fighting to overcome these conditions, and challenge the viewer to take the pledge to be #stigmafree with instructions on making video pledges for social media.
Petition to Congress
In the wake of years of school and workplace shootings to private family tragedies, more and more people are pushing to take action in effectively recognizing and treatment mental illness in America. Despite the fact that nearly 60 million Americans live with mental illness, there has yet to be a comprehensive mental health bill passed through the United States Congress in 40 years!
NAMI has also helped push a petition demanding the passage of a comprehensive mental health bill this year, with legislation that is intended to:
- Improve access to mental health services
- Improve reimbursement for mental health services
- Improve integration of mental health and physical health
- Increase funding for mental health research
- Provide vital early identification and intervention
On the NAMI website the petition is signed every few minutes, adding to tens of thousands of supporters pushing for the government to take innovative action in helping support those struggling with mental illness.
Everyone Makes a Difference
In a nation where 1 in every 5 Americans will be impacted by a mental health condition in their lifetime, there needs to me awareness and support. We are all impacted in one way or another; be it a family member or loved one. According to reports collected by NAMI:
- Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. experiences serious mental illness in a given year
- Approximately 1 in 5 youth between 13-18 years old experiences a severe mental disorder at some point
- 1% of adults in U.S. live with schizophrenia
- 6% of adults in U.S. live with bipolar disorder
- 9% of adults in U.S. have at least one major depressive episode in the past year
- 1% adults in U.S. experience anxiety disorder (including PTSD/OCD)
- More than 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition
The fight for better mental health treatment should be especially important to the addict. Out of the 20.2 million adults in America who have experienced a substance abuse disorder, 50.5% had a co-occurring mental illness.
For someone like me who has survived depression, drug addiction and suicide, something like mental health awareness treatment is critical. I know from experience that far too many people will go undiagnosed and untreated, and far too many will lose their fight before they find help.
Bringing education and understanding to shed light on the realities of mental illness and mental health treatment is something we should make a priority, not just one month at a time… but all the time.
Palm Partners understands the importance of mental health treatment when it comes to substance abuse, and dual diagnosis treatment is designed to acknowledge the overlapping nature of these disorders and create the right recovery plan to overcome the disease of addiction and confront issues with mental health. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help, you are not alone.
Another new law marks the death knell of the war on drugs. In a packed hearing room in Utah, applause erupted when the House Law Enforcement Committee unanimously endorsed a bill that will drastically change the state’s criminal justice laws. House Bill HB348 seeks to greatly enhance drug and mental-health treatment and reduce the time addicts stay in prison by dropping some crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor.
War on Drugs Continues to Lose its Footing
The bill was created as a way to allow for early assessment and intervention for people convicted of a crime. If the person committing the crime or crimes was motivated by drug addiction or mental illness, they would be ushered into a treatment-heavy program with a lighter prison sentence; the treatment they receive in prison would continue when the offender is released.
This massive change requires a major increase in funding for treatment providers. It’s estimated that it would take $21 million to provide enough treatment slots.
County prosecutors have their own worries. They fear reducing drug possession charges from a felony to a misdemeanor would shift many offenders from the state system to the county jails, which could become a financial burden.
But the plan would move people with addiction problems out of the jail faster since they would have shorter sentences. And enhanced treatment should reduce the number of people who return to jail or prison for violating probation or parole.
Two-thirds of the people admitted to the state prison in 2013 had violated their probation and parole and that over the last 10 years, drug sentences have grown longer by from two to four months.
“We have more people going to prison, and more people spending more time in prison, even though we have fewer crimes being committed,” Hutchings said. “It is not logical. It doesn’t make sense.”
Committee members said they were worried about properly funding the bill but were supportive of the plan, which is an extension of a nationwide “justice-reinvestment” effort. More than two dozen states have passed similar reforms meant to slow the growth in the prison population.
Utah currently has about 7,000 incarcerated people.
Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield, who is a former district court judge in Utah, argued that HB348 is an appropriate step away from tough-on-crime policies of the past.
“I think we have been on a 30-year binge of the felonization of America,” he said.
Drug dealing will still be a second-degree felony and prosecutors can charge an offender with a felony on their third drug possession case.
HB348 will now go to the full House.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction or is facing legal issues because of their drug addiction and/or mental illness, Palm Partners can help. We offer dual diagnosis treatment for people who suffer with both a substance abuse disorder and a psychological disorder as well as offer services such as case management in order to address the obstacles that our clients may be facing. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today.
By Cheryl Steinberg
When I talk to normies about being in recovery, more times than not, their first response is one of sympathy, bordering on pity. They always say things like, “I’m sorry that happened to you,” or “it must be tough,” or even, “life must be a daily struggle for you.”
Huh? *scratches head*
No, none of that is true. Well, maybe the first thing because, I can’t control how people feel. But, the myths and misconceptions behind these thoughts and statements are so far-off base.
Let me make a distinction. My life in active addiction was a struggle; an uphill battle.
My life in recovery is great. Better than my life was even before I picked up a drink or a drug. And I’m not even exaggerating.
Here’s why I’m grateful for my addiction.
First, I am one of those people who think back on all of life’s experiences – good and bad, positive and negative – and think, “These experiences are what molded me into the person I am today.” And I really like the person I am today. That being said, those years I spent in active addiction helped me to become, well, me.
Secondly, going through the things I went through – and there were some pretty messed up situations that I survived – proves to me that I am stronger than I could imagine and that helps me overcome the trials and tribulations of life, in other words, being able to deal with life on life’s terms.
Thirdly – and I kind of referred to this before, already – having gone through what I did, and then getting clean and having a solution in my life has improved my life immensely. I am grateful to at least know why I was so miserable and why I turned to drugs and alcohol as a solution.
In my daily comings and goings, while running errands or driving on the highway, I see so many miserable people who don’t have a substance abuse disorder but who don’t know why they are miserable or even really realize that they are miserable. They just go about their daily lives being angry and making everyone else they come into contact with miserable, too.
Man, I feel sorry for them.
Even though they don’t have a problem with alcohol and other drugs, these are the people who feel like they have to come home and unwind with a drink, just to relieve their stress or to somehow alter how they feel. Now, I’m not one of those recovering addicts who gets jealous that others can “use successfully.” I really don’t care. My question is, though, why would they need to have a drink or joint to “unwind?”
For me, having a solution in my life means working a program of recovery means being honest, accountable, humble, grateful, spiritual, and remaining teachable. These are the principles by which I strive to live on a daily basis. And I don’t need something external, such as a substance, to make me feel better.
Are you struggling with sobriety? Do you have a substance abuse disorder such as addiction and want to put an end to the cycle but don’t know how? Are you afraid of what recovery is? I was just like you. At first, I was in denial, when I realized I did have a problem, I didn’t know what to do and I was afraid to ask for help. I am so glad that I finally got up the courage to seek treatment, though and my life is so much better today. Call us toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist. We can answer your questions, day or night.
Substance Abuse is a Medical Condition
Substance abuse treatment in Medina, WA is a specialized program that treats the medical condition known as substance abuse disorder – a patterned use of a substance – where the person uses the drug, or drugs, in doses and/or in ways that are harmful to themselves or others. It is also commonly called drug abuse. Substance abuse simply-put is a harmful or problematic use of drugs.
Substance abuse treatment in Medina helps people who are abusing drugs and alcohol and cannot stop because they have become physically dependent and psychologically dependent and/or addicted. Substance abuse treatment in Medina combines the use of certain medication and therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and other talk therapies.
Substance Abuse Treatment in Medina WA
Physical dependence and addiction often overlap in when it comes to a diagnosis of substance abuse. They are two separate medical conditions but often go hand-in-hand and therefore the most successful type of treatment incorporates methods to treat both simultaneously by professionally-trained staff. That is what we do at programs of substance abuse treatment in Medina, WA.
Substance Abuse Treatment in Medina Offers Medical Detox
Detox with dignity and in the utmost of comfort at our substance abuse treatment in Medina. We begin with a medical detox in order to ensure your health, safety, and comfort. We will evaluate you to find out your substance abuse history and what you have been using before arriving at our treatment facility. You will provide a sample for drug screening by way of a urine test and then you will meet with an admissions counselor to talk about your substance abuse. This is done in order to plan your course of treatment. Substance abuse treatment in Medina is just like receiving any other type of medical treatment in that it is strictly confidential and your rights will be protected.
The Importance of Medical Detox at Substance Abuse Treatment in Medina
Withdrawal syndrome is a serious medical condition that occurs when you try to stop drinking or drugging; it involves unbearable and sometimes fatal symptoms if not treated properly. Depending on what substance or substances you are detoxing from, you will be given specific medication to manage your withdrawal symptoms and keep you as comfortable as possible in the detoxification process. This is why it is important to seek professional help when treating your substance abuse issues and substance abuse treatment in Medina can help.
Rehab: Substance Abuse Treatment in Medina
The next phase of substance abuse treatment in Medina is rehab and lasts up to 30 days. During this phase, you are in a safe place while you heal and recover from your substance abuse. During rehab, you will have all your needs provided for including comfortable housing and well-balanced meals while you receive important information about substance abuse and addiction. You will go toindividual and group therapy sessions where you will learn the necessary tools and coping methods to live a healthy lifestyle once you complete substance abuse treatment in Medina.
Outpatient Treatment: Substance Abuse Treatment in Medina
Substance abuse treatment in Medina can also include something called intensive outpatient treatment. IOP for short, it offers group therapy sessions and some individual sessions with a therapist during the day. Some people live at home while they attend IOP but it is highly recommended to live in a halfway house or other sober living community while taking part in IOP in order to support you in your recovery and efforts at sobriety. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, addiction or is seeking substance abuse treatment in Medina, WA please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.