I read an article the other day that confirmed what I already knew. Opiate based drugs are the most dangerous and addicting around. So much so that police officers are starting to carry special opiate antidote that blocks the brain receptors that heroin and other opiate based drugs latch on to.
Each week I receive calls and inquiries from people who have been arrested or charged with offenses related to prescription pills and heroin. Many of these individuals have quickly spiraled out of control, losing jobs, relationships, and families in a matter of months.
In many instances, the escalating addiction began through the over-prescribing of pain medications following a surgery or orthopedic issue. Some of my clients were no longer able to obtain prescription pills from doctors so they started getting them on the streets. When the pills became too expensive, they started to use the cheaper alternative…heroin.
Prescription fraud, theft, possession and distribution offenses, wandering to obtain CDS are some of the multiple charges that are characteristic of the addict. Failed attempts at rehab and trips to the hospital are not uncommon.
The criminal justice system punishes most drug offenders on what I call an escalation scale. Punishment for first offenders may include PTI or other deferred adjudication programs. A second offense for possession may include probation. But when a defendant starts to rack up charges and convictions, jail time becomes more likely.
These drug are particularly difficult for the courts to deal with because of the high rate of recidivism. Jail time is arguably not a deterrent. Most individuals will start using when released. Those who get clean and remain clean are becoming the exception, not the rule.
Do we continue to fill our jails up with drug users? Where else do we put them? It is clear these people are committing other offenses to get money for drugs. Do we have the resources to treat the growing numbers of drug addicts? Is it society’s responsibility to address the problem? Government? Private Industry? One things is for certain, the drugs are not going away. It doesn’t matter where you live. If there is a demand, the drugs will find a way in. Try as we may, feel good drugs will always be part of our world.
Some people will get help because they want to stop. Some people will go to jail because they can’t. Some people will relapse and some people will die. Others will succeed. Jail isn’t for the protection of the drug user, its to protect society from them. You can’t make anyone do what they don’t want to do unless you hold a gun to their head. Most people will not change their lives unless they have to, and even then its questionable if they will.
Tragic demise and great potential wasted is unfortunately a thematic thread that courses the fabric of our human condition. Drugs are just one of those threads. I try to give people another chance and hope that THEY will make the decision to change. Nobody else can make it for them…not the judge, not the jail, not the government, not their family. No amount of money spent will affect it. The programs are in place. We can argue as to whether the programs are adequate, but that is making excuses.
I received word yesterday that my cousin, mid fifties, died of drug related complications. He couldn’t stop. At the end of the day, he was by himself. Drugs had isolated him. He lost it all. He had his fair share of second chances.
But that is not why I wrote this today. Its the second chances idea that inspired me and the police carrying opiate antidote story that makes my point. We are trying to keep these people alive so they have another chance. That all we can do. The rest is up to them.