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Should Drug Addicts Be Punished or Helped?

Should Drug Addicts Be Punished or Treated?

A majority of people, especially those who commit crimes, are drug users but are not drug addicts. Someone who experiences a loss of self-control, overwhelming cravings, and overthinks about taking specific or multiple drugs has an addiction. Many factors tie together the reasons behind why people form addictions, such as genetics, environment, and social interactions. This culminates in a concerning statistic, seeing as 80% of prison inmates abuse drugs or alcohol.1 The question that Banyan’s Pompano Rehab is here to ponder is should drug addicts be punished or helped.

The Concerning Correlation Between Addiction and Crime

One of the most pressing issues in modern society is the link between addiction and criminal behavior. It has been demonstrated that substance misuse, whether it be alcohol or narcotics, is a major trigger for criminal activity. Addicts frequently become caught up in a vicious cycle whereby their need for their next fix pushes them into engaging in criminal activity. People who are desperate to get drugs may steal, break into homes, or engage in other violent crimes. This connection is further supported by the fact that a sizable segment of the global prison population suffers from addiction. Research continuously shows that a hefty portion of prisoners suffer from drug addiction disorders, underscoring the necessity of an all-encompassing strategy that tackles both addiction and criminality.1

Moreover, addiction and crime share a complex and bidirectional relationship. Substance usage not only makes criminal activity more likely, but it can also make addiction worse while involved in illegal activity. A criminal lifestyle is frequently accompanied by stress, trauma, and social isolation, all of which can exacerbate substance abuse and start a vicious cycle. Furthermore, it has been said that the criminal justice system's harsh attitude to addiction feeds this cycle. Rather than emphasizing recovery and treating the underlying causes of addiction, a large number of people struggling with substance misuse end up behind bars, where they are frequently unable to get the care and assistance they require. This makes their addiction worse and sets the stage for a recurring pattern of criminal behavior.

Inequitable Enforcement

Unfortunately, a person’s race is still a distinct factor in which the exercise of police discretion while passing current constitutional thresholds seems unfair. People with different shades of skin, commonly white and black people, often use the same drugs at the same rate. However, the consequences faced by those with darker skin do happen to be more violent, or in many instances, the actions against them are unreasonable. Black people were nearly four times more likely to be arrested for being found with marijuana than white people in 2018.2

Race and gender are regularly speculated as, depending on these factors, a person is more likely to face a police officer in a negative manner. Of course, the consequences of drug abuse are a rising issue. Instead of the constant arrests, since addiction can be cured, should drug addicts go to jail? 

Criminalizing Addiction

More than fifty percent of state prisoners and two-thirds of sentenced jail inmates met the standard criteria for drug dependence. Those who abused drugs were left untreated before and during jail time. Many of these men or women needed medication or started taking prescribed pills, eventually forming a state of denial, not coming to terms with no longer needing to rely on the drug.

Considerably, less than half of victims of violent crimes state that the offender was under the influence of alcohol. Drugs and alcohol are often related to the offender's motive. The person who commits the crime is attempting to obtain money for drugs and alcohol or is currently under the influence. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics collects data from victims to report crimes committed while intoxicated.

Rape and sexual assault account for around thirty percent, and aggravated assault is less than thirty percent. Robbery and crime of violence are over forty percent while, depending on the state and condition of the environment, many persons are found with multiple drugs in their system.3 Due to the statistics, “should drug addicts be punished or treated?” is a question that remains under investigation by many researchers. This is especially true since weapon violations and vehicle theft are the largest reasons why inmates are in jail.

How Many Drug Addicts Relapse After Jail?

The percentage of addicts who relapse after jail continues to grow since there is no effective treatment plan given to inmates who sit behind bars. Jail is one of the consequences of drug abuse attached to violent crimes committed. The repercussions of crimes such as theft, rape, and violence are “doing the time.'' Why should addicts be punished or treated? According to the Epidemiologic Catchment area study, an estimated 45 percent of individuals with alcohol use disorders and 70 percent of those with drug use disorders had at least one co-occurring psychiatric disorder.4

Therefore, it is possible for many crimes to be avoided if people are to seek treatment prior to addiction. Education and awareness are extremely crucial in this case, especially in low-income locations and high ratings of violence. Addiction is a chronic disease where people lose control of their behavior and sense of good judgment, and there are changes in emotional responses.

Should Drug Addicts Be Punished or Treated?

The question of whether drug addicts should be punished or helped is a pivotal issue in the discourse surrounding addiction. Advocates for punitive measures argue that legal consequences act as a deterrent, discouraging drug use and dissuading potential offenders. They argue that holding people accountable for what they do by putting them in jail or applying harsh legal consequences communicates to them that substance usage is not acceptable in society. Unfortunately, this strategy frequently ignores the root reasons for addiction, which include trauma, mental health issues, and socioeconomic inequality. As a result, people are not given the required rehabilitative help to end their cycle of substance misuse.

A more compassionate and complex approach acknowledges that addiction is really a public health problem that calls for a treatment-focused strategy. This viewpoint highlights the significance of treating the underlying causes of addiction and giving people the instruments and resources they require in order to attain and sustain recovery. Some key points to consider include:

  • Treating the root causes of addiction: Treatment-centered strategies place a high priority on locating and resolving the underlying causes of addiction, including pressures in the environment, mental health issues, and trauma.
  • Long-term recovery: People who are battling addiction are more likely to achieve sustainable, long-term recovery if rehabilitation is prioritized above punishment.
  • Reducing recidivism: Penalties frequently fall short of offering the assistance people need to kick their addictions, which leads to a cycle of criminal activity and jail time.
  • Community support: Treatment-centered approaches place a strong emphasis on the value of counseling, support groups, and community-based resources in aiding people on their road to recovery.
  • Access to evidence-based interventions: In order to effectively treat addiction and avoid relapse, it is essential to provide patients with access to medication-assisted therapy and evidence-based treatments.

Our Addiction and Mental Health Facilities in Florida

At Banyan’s Pompano Beach rehab, we offer a successfumental health program for individuals with co-occurring disorders who are relying on drugs to cope. Our experienced medical staff is prepared to safely get you through the withdrawal process to conquer addiction.

We offer programs to those needing cocaine addiction treatment, alcohol, opioid, or prescription pill addiction treatment. Some of our levels of care offer an intensive outpatient program as well as a wonderful partial hospitalization program.

Please do not hesitate to contact Banyan Treatment Centers Pompano at 888-280-4763 and ask about our Florida rehabs to get started today!



  1. National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics - Drug Related Crime Statistics
  2. National Institute on Drug AbuseCriminal Justice DrugFacts | National Institute on Drug Abuse
  3. American Civil Liberties UnionA Tale of Two Countries
  4. U.S. Department of JusticeDrug Use, Dependence, and Abuse Among State Prisoners and Jail Inmates
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Should Drug Addicts Be Punished or Helped?
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