Incarceration Alone Will Never Solve Addiction in America

Inmate thinking.

In the subject and arena of drug and alcohol addiction, there is always the debated topic of whether we should treat drugs addicts through rehabilitation, or whether we should just incarcerate them. Americans go back and forth on this topic constantly. We’ll try to shed some light on this, and prove once and for all why simply incarcerating addicts is always a loss, and why rehabilitation and addiction treatment is the only way to actually help a person overcome an addiction habit.

Different people feel differently about drug and alcohol abuse. Some feel that addiction is a moral failing, a conscious decision that the person is making every day to continuously abuse drugs and alcohol. These individuals are usually the ones who feel as though drug addicts and alcoholics should be incarcerated.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who feel as though addiction is a personal crisis, an affliction, a life-changing struggle that one cannot escape from. There are those who sympathize for addicts, who understand that an addict is going through a terrible event, every single day of their lives. These individuals usually feel as though drug addicts and alcoholics should have access to drug and alcohol rehab centers where those addicts can receive the tools, help, support, and assistance that they need to garner freedom from addiction for life.

The Direction of the Current Administration

Unfortunately, the current federal Administration is heading towards a pro-incarceration stance, reigniting as they have the failed “War on Drugs” approach from the 1980s. This approach takes a heavy-handed law enforcement approach to the drug problem, essentially treating addicts like criminals, incarcerating them, and not treating them. The War on Drugs is a very expensive, very judicial and law enforcement-based approach to the drug problem. It does not offer much in the way of compassion or efforts to help struggling addicts, even the ones who want to get help.

Much of the direction of the current federal Administration is carried out by the new Attorney General, a man named Jeff Sessions. According to Sessions:

“By enforcing our laws, we keep illegal drugs out of the country, reduce their availability, drive up their price and reduce their purity.”
Police arrested drug addict.

”I'm convinced that our law enforcement efforts save lives because they prevent new addictions from starting. By enforcing our laws, we keep illegal drugs out of the country, reduce their availability, drive up their price and reduce their purity.”

No one can deny that there is a strong need for federal action on the U.S. drug problem, but whether or not a heavy-handed law enforcement approach is appropriate or not is another question entirely. Using law enforcement on addicts is more than a little bit off the mark. Addicts need help, not jail time.

The President himself spoke out on the addiction issue, discussing his Administration’s plans for tackling the opioid problem: “The United States is by far the largest consumer of these drugs, using more opioid pills per person than any other country by far in the world. No part of our society, not young or old, rich or poor, urban or rural, has been spared this plague of drug addiction and this horrible, horrible situation that's taken place with opioids. This epidemic is a national health emergency. As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue. it is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction.”

As we can clearly see, President Trump feels very strongly about this issue and is resolved to do something about it. The only part that is in question is the efficacy of how he will go about it.

Some Officials Disagree with Turning on the Heat with a New War on Drugs

President Trump and Jeff Sessions are not without criticism. Even from within the federal government, there are those who believe that reinstating the war on drugs is going to be a losing battle. According to Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Administration: “The administration’s declaration does include directions to increase access to telemedicine, allows the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to appoint specialists, allows the U.S. Department of Labor to issue dislocated worker grants and shifts funding for HIV/AIDS care to substance abuse. However, these changes are not nearly large enough to make a dent in this growing public health disaster.”

Benjamin continued his bold statement, saying that: “We hope that the administration will implement a more comprehensive plan in the coming weeks and work with Congress in a bipartisan manner to allocate additional funds so that our country can see immediate action to end this epidemic, as promised.”

The White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and Opioid Crisis, an organization within the White House that is firmly bipartisan, is of the mind that, no matter what happens, something needs to happen fast. This group gets to see the devastation of the drug epidemic, front and center, every day. According to them:

“With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks.”

“Our citizens are dying. We must act boldly to stop it. The opioid epidemic we are facing is unparalleled. With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks.”

At the end of the day, the entire federal Administration needs to get behind an effort to rehabilitate and treat drug addicts and alcoholics, because that is the only way we are ever actually going to resolve this climbing epidemic.

Why Treatment is the Answer

Narconon Drug Rehabilitation

Drug and alcohol addiction treatment through inpatient rehabilitation centers is the only way to truly help a drug addict, and the only way to actually remove addiction risk from an addict’s life. The truth about drug and alcohol addiction is that this is a multi-faceted drug problem, a problem that is gripping and extremely concerning, a problem that threatens to take over and completely overwhelm a person. At the end of the day, this is not something that just, “Goes away” because an addict is sent to jail for an extensive period of time. It simply does not work that way.

An addiction to drugs and alcohol is about seventy percent mental, psychological, and spiritual, and only about thirty percent physical. While a jail cell might take care of the physical part if only by cold turkey detox alone, a jail cell is not going to do much of anything at all for the mental, spiritual, personal, behavioral, and psychological aspects of drug and alcohol addiction.

A jail cell does not have the treatment tools and recovery methods necessary for helping addicts get to the bottom of what caused them to become addicts in the first place. And since jails do not have these services, an inmate who went to jail for drug or alcohol-related crimes is just as likely to go right back to substance abuse when they get out of jail as they were when they went into jail. It is unfortunate, but the truth of the matter is that incarceration is not a way to solve addiction.

Real Solutions are Found in Rehab

Drug and alcohol rehab centers, on the other hand, offer real solutions for struggling addicts. These facilities help addicts get to the bottom of their underlying issues, their hidden incentives for drug use, and any other problems or difficulties that may have inspired them to abuse drugs and alcohol in the first place. Rehabs help recovering addicts find these difficulties, address them, and get rid of them so they can be free of addiction for life.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.