Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Guest post: Mandatory treatment for drug users

As part of a continuing series that I just started and will repeat whenever I feel like doing so, below is a guest post from a reader who takes a position contrary to my own on at least one topic -- in this case, mandatory treatment for drug users who are perceived to have crossed a line and so necessitated government intervention. The author is Denny Chapin, Managing Editor at AllTreatment.com.

Wait with eager anticipation for my response.

'Leave My Drugs Alone'
by Denny Chapin

As citizens of the United States, we want two things: first to be protected against the Hobbesian Leviathan of governmental power and second, to be protected by that governmental power when other citizens are threatening our freedom. We ask our government to stay out of matters that don't concern them, while demanding they protect us from irate citizens that diminish our quality of life.

In practical terms, we want freedom from government oppression when we want to do something our government does not allow, like taking drugs, and we also want protection from the government when a drug addict breaks into our home to fuel his addiction. The question we must ask is this: when, how, and what actions should our government take to ensure the protection of its citizens? and when is this protection oppressive and negative? How do we weigh these two forces against one another? Is there a satisfying solution, or is will this balancing act always produce argument and dissatisfaction?

Real World Example: Drugs

Alan I. Leshner, Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, defines addiction as "uncontrollable, compulsive drug seeking and use, even in the face of negative health and social consequences." Drug addicts, by their nature, act in uncontrolled, compulsive ways, having a negative impact on their health and the social atmosphere around them.

Many drug users desire to be protected against governmental prosecution for using illegal drugs. They say "let me smoke marijuana in peace, it's my body I'm hurting, not anyone else's!" or "I'm less crazy when I take a hit of heroin, otherwise I'd be messing up even more peoples lives". And to a degree, there is some merit to their arguments, since many drug users casually use drugs without negatively impacting those around them.

But what about those drug users who cannot--does the government have a responsibility to step in and demand some form of action when an alcoholic completely ignores, or worse, physically abuses their children? Does our government have a responsibility to get heroin out of households? "They're my kids, so what if they see a few needles or a joint around? I'm not forcing them to do anything." This disposition is far more dubious, with the potential to truly harm the future generations of Americans, our youth.

Landing in Jail

In America, many criminals are forced into treatment programs because their crime was caused by, or related to their addiction, resulting from their uncontrolled, compulsive, and harmful behavior. When it gets to the level of incarceration, our government has a duty to intervene, not for the sake of an addict, but for the sake of the people that addict is surrounded by. It is at this extreme degree of action that we must enforce mandatory drug treatment, irregardless of the intentions of the addict. At their worst, an addict won't benefit from treatment, simply going through the motions. But hopefully, at its best, treatment will give them some perspective, showing them a window of sobriety to look through and see the world as they've built it up, and the world they could have.

There will never be a satisfying answer. People will always abuse drugs, always disrupt families, and always harm others in pursuit of a high. And people will always defend their abuse, deny its effects, and bring themselves and others down with them. If we accept this reality, we can still act for a future of change, bring hope to families, and shake the dirt from career drug addicts. And to that degree, we must take action. Never is it 'just their problem'; it's ours.

My response is here.

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Blogger Fred said...

But what about those drug users who cannot--does the government have a responsibility to step in and demand some form of action when an alcoholic completely ignores, or worse, physically abuses their children?.

I don't think anybody is suggesting, in a case where drugs are related to criminal activity, that the criminal be able to continue either his criminal- or drug related- behavior.

That said, as it is, the drug treatment thing is already being used by druggies to avoid punishment for criminal behavior through, oddly enough, so- called "Drug Courts".

I remember watching a Drug Court session on the old Court TV some years ago. A younger gal was arrested for shoplifting. The first thing does is request to the court that her case be diverted to drug treatment- blaming her stealing on drug use.

Ok. I'm fine for that for the first time, but after that these people need to be held accountable for their criminal behavior. There shouldn't be any problem with the State intervening with drug use that leads an individual to criminal behavior, but drug use shouldn't be allowed as a continual excuse.

Those convicted of drunk driving are often restricted from alcohol use during their probation time and it's often done with those guilty of just about anything else, even though drugs might not have anything to do with the crime the person was convicted of.

I'm not sure just what the answer is, as far as dealing with criminal activity and related drug issues. I do think that someone shouldn't be arrested simply for smoking pot or growing dope for personal use (I knew a guy that went through legal hell just for growing 3 pot plants for personal use).

As with everything government- rule wise, the drug testing and treatment thing often gets abused.

I was attending a juvenile court session in a different county back when I was working at our local juvenile facility. The case regarded a kid that fell under W&I 300- ward of the court because he didn't have anyone responsible to live with. He had committed no crimes. He just didn't have anyone to live with at the time.

As the session closed, I was surprised to hear the judge pro- tem order continuation of regular drug testing for the kid. I asked her, after the kid was led out of the room, how she could require drug testing for a kid that fell under section 300. She replied, We can pretty much do whatever we want.

That rubbed me the wrong way, as you can imagine.

March 10, 2010 7:22 AM  
Anonymous JdL said...

What nonsense! Try reading some Thomas Szasz, Mr. Chapin. And J.D.: why are you giving airtime to advocates of Big Brother?

March 10, 2010 8:16 AM  
Blogger J.D. Tuccille said...


Thanks for the perspective and insights. In particular, it's worth knowing how drug treatment is used in the actual court system rather than some ideal system of our imagination.


I gave Denny (and may give others) a forum because pro-liberty arguments are most effective when we have actual debating partners. We risk getting flabby when we fence with straw men.

March 10, 2010 9:03 AM  

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