Relapsing on Probation: Is the Justice System Failing Addicts?

heroin recovery

Why Do People Relapse on Drugs?

Drug addiction is a huge problem. As the drug trade is a $400 billion dollar industry, one could imagine the struggle against relapse when rehabs don’t always bring about recovery.

Addiction relapse is very common because drugs are a poison that interferes with your body’s normal functioning and chemical interactions, vital organs such as the brain and heart. They slowly kill the body in such a way that one usually starts hallucinating, can become paranoid, and so much more depending on the drug of choice, and the user is not thinking about anything else but getting that high. The body begins to build a little tolerance over time to the drug it takes so that the same high is unachievable and the addict feels they need to use a higher dose to try to achieve that same high. So often a never-ending cycle, which on the downward spiral of their lives, often result in death by overdose.

People often think of drugs as, “not being that serious,” that, “peer pressure is more important,” or simply that, “just one hit,” isn’t going to turn them into a user for life, but the fact of the matter is that nearly all users who start of down that path don’t think that they are going to become addicted. The dependency on drugs really becomes in the addict’s altered reality, more a necessity of life than food, shelter, or water, not to mention family members being cast aside in their tunnel view of the next high.

When a Drug Addict Relapses

Finding the right rehab so that the addict doesn’t relapse can be very tricky. Often times there are other addicts at a drug rehab who have a different drug of choice from the other users, and in describing their highs and the drug, and even sometimes sneaking the substance in, other users can get out and, not find their normal drug of choice, turn to one they heard about that sounded like a similar high or stronger high. Usually, something happens in their life, such as “friends” who have a bad influence on the user, start coming around, wanting to get high with them or having the intent of dealing so that they, themselves can get their next high too. Or dealers come banging on their door pushing. Or they have a stressful situation come up, such as a job loss or a loved one pass, and not coming up with another solution, they turn back to the drug. Although it can be difficult to predict, willpower and exposure influence the relapse.

One of the questions at present in relation to the judicial system and addicts is, in the eyes of a judge, whether or not a relapsing addict should go to prison or to rehab.

Should the Justice System Have a Hand in Rehab?

Court ordered rehab is when the judge and prosecution feel that a defendant would benefit from rehab rather than going to jail, and the judge makes that the pronouncement. One suggestion is for the judge to create a plan that the addict can implement if they feel they are going to relapse, such as a number they can call or somewhere they could go be that would help them stay clean, but some are concerned with what could this entail; could someone be institutionalized against their will simply because they are addicted to drugs, and experienced the unfortunate but common relapse? But what gives the court a right to interfere with someone’s personal choices bad as they might be, or individual challenges that they face?

One such famous example from 1962 is Robinson vs. California which was taken to the Supreme Court. The syllabus states: “A California statute makes it a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for any person to ‘be addicted to the use of narcotics,’ and, in sustaining petitioner’s conviction thereunder, the California courts construed the statute as making the ‘status’ of narcotic addiction a criminal offense for which the offender may be prosecuted ‘at any time before he reforms,’ even though he has never used or possessed any narcotics within the State and has not been guilty of any antisocial behavior there.”

The main thing to consider is whether it is effective or not for a judge to rule, shouldn’t it be a personal choice of the defendant and isn’t that choice their right? Or should someone who is destructive to themselves and society (and most importantly who is actively partaking in an illegal activity) be under the authority of a judge, dictating that he go to rehab instead of jail time?

Another common factor that holds much concern over the potential of a judge ruling rehab for the addicted is the fact that all rehabs are different and vary in quality and result, and some that might work for one person, might not work for another. For example, if an addict was very religious and felt that their only way to reform was from God’s forgiveness and acceptance first, and guidance next, and they were very devout and didn’t feel they could possibly recover otherwise, yet a judge not wanting to enter into religious matters, enforces the addict to go to a cut and dry rehab. Beside the addict not being able to express his grievances he might not want to go to a rehab and could suddenly have addiction relapse.

A more basic example might be that a person has been to 10 rehabs and has been addicted for more than half his life, and simply doesn’t want to go to rehab, could the law enforce him to come clean, and will it result in recovery? Yet another stance is how far could this be taken? Could a judge get a criminal out of jail time simply because he was also a drug addict?

Where Does the Judicial System Fit In?

Recovery can occur, whether it happens the first time, after relapse or even in or out of rehab, but it seems that rehab nonetheless should remain for the addict to choose, not a judge to enforce. Just as a judge shouldn’t be able to adjudicate whether or not a person should be put into a mental institution, or, as ridiculous as it may sound, ruled to take part in an intensive weight loss program. Recovery only occurs first and foremost with the willingness of the addicted and his decision to achieve a drug-free way of life.

A common question is, “Why do people relapse on drugs?” There are many reasons that the addicted relapses, but it is important to remember, the long road can truly come to an end and persistence can win out. Call Choices Recovery and let us help you on the road to recovery.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *