Recently, I read and presented an article about a man who was arrested and sent to prison for possessing a small quantity of heroin. The quantity is important here because larger quantities may imply that this man was a drug dealer, but the small quantity he possessed appeared to be for personal use. This controversial article therefore, begs the question – should heroin addicts go to jail for possession?
I always take my time to analyze both side of an argument before presenting my thoughts on a particular subject because regardless of my opinion and strong feelings on the matter, there’s always a reason why somebody feels differently. In this article, I will share both sides and why some people feel that heroin addicts should go to jail for possession and why others feel that they should be mandated to addiction treatment.
What Makes Heroin So Appealing? Why Do People Use Heroin?
Heroin is an illicit drug that people use recreationally in order to achieve a “high” or feeling of euphoria / elation. There are numerous reasons why someone might start using heroin, but reasons typically center on the idea that heroin will make them feel better than they do currently. People often turn to drugs when they experience trauma, loss, grief, stress or suffer from severe anxiety or depression. Those with other pathological disorders such as bi-polar, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), impulse control disorder, borderline personality disorder, etc. are more likely to use and become addicted to heroin.
Those with a genetic predisposition to the disease of addiction are likely to become addicted to heroin and as a result, regardless of the reason they started using heroin, they continue using because of the brain’s new ubiquitous connection and cognitive compulsion, making heroin feel like a necessity. Addiction makes us believe that we can’t live without it and thus, a heroin addict will continue to use and do anything he/she can to acquire access to it – even if it means hurting the people they love. Behaviors of an addict include lying, cheating, stealing, manipulating and even causing bodily injury to anyone trying to stop them.
Why is Heroin Illegal and Those Who Possess It, Likely To Serve Time in Jail?
Regardless of any underlying reasons people choose to use heroin and those addicted to it, possessing heroin is illegal. Engaging in any illegal practices initiates the possibility of penalty. Possession of illegal drugs can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on several factors, including 1) the type and the quantity of the drug involved, 2) possession for personal use or intent to sell and 3) the circumstances under which one is caught possessing drugs. For example, possessing drugs on school grounds is likely to classify as a felony.
Every state is different but just about every state put drugs into categories called “schedules”. These groups are based on the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) – which categorizes drugs by their recognized medical value weighed heavily against the drug’s potential for addiction and abuse. Most states, along with the CSA recognize 5 schedules. Schedule 1 for example, includes the most dangerous drugs (including heroin) and schedule 5 includes less dangerous drugs. Drugs such as morphine which can be very dangerous with a high likelihood of abuse and addiction but can have genuine medical value fall somewhere in between.
Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide recognizes the law, but genuinely believes that in some cases, where possession of drugs is for personal use only regardless of it’s schedule classification, that drug users, especially those who have become dependent and addicted to it should be sent and mandated to an addiction treatment center and/or drug rehab facility rather than prison time. Below are the arguments for and against heroin and drug users and addicts going to jail.
Arguments For Heroin Addicts Going to Prison for Possession
Many people still believe addiction is a choice and that those who engage in regular heroin use are violating the law out of their own volition. Because heroin users sometimes put other people in harm’s way, some believe they should be punished for possession before they hurt someone else with their careless actions. For instance, recent photos and videos taken and presented in social media and the internet show car accidents and children left in the back seats of cars due to heroin use, overdose, etc.
Also, heroin in particular has no medical value and thus, because those who possess it are either using it to get high or with intent to sell to someone else, some people believe that those who possess heroin are a menace and thus, people feel safer with them off the streets. But then why not just put them into treatment? They would still be off the streets? Well here is their argument against treatment.
Regardless of whether or not you recognize addiction as a disease, the physical behavior of buying and using heroin is a choice. Treatment options are available to people before they’re caught and if they’re not going to choose treatment on their own, those who are for putting heroin addicts/users in jail believe that if they didn’t choose treatment before they were caught by the authorities, then they simply won’t benefit from treatment if they are “forced” into it.
Arguments Against Heroin Addicts Going to Prison for Possession
Addiction has been declared a disease of the brain by the CDC (Center for Disease Control), SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and more. Thus, while acquiring and using drugs is a choice, it’s the sickness and disease that’s compelling them. Sick people are better served with treatment, not jail time. As an example, many who commit more heinous crimes (including murder) are often sentenced to psych wards and mental institutions if they are believed to be “insane” by a judge or jury. Insanity is considered an illness and criminal lawyers often use the insanity plea to get their clients a “lesser sentence” where their clients get the help and treatment they need to get better rather than punishment for something that isn’t entirely their fault.
Now, the insanity plea for more heinous crimes is a bit extreme and I feel that this argument often strips a man or woman of personal responsibility and accountability for their actions. However many people (including this organization) believe that if convicted felons can get off on an insanity plea and be sent to an institution to get help and treatment, those who possess heroin or other drugs in cases where the individual has it for personal use and isn’t hurting anyone else should be mandated to get the help and treatment they need and deserve.
In argument against those who say people who possess heroin should be punished and put in jail because they might hurt someone else – punishing someone for a crime they didn’t commit is entirely unlawful. This organization believes in personal responsibility and accountability. Thus, we believe that those who have committed unlawful acts should be punished for them. But we don’t believe possession by itself should be considered an unlawful act when nobody has gotten hurt. And for those who fear that their carelessness may hurt someone, getting them into treatment will get them off the street just as much as sending them to jail will.
In argument against those who say that people “forced” into treatment will likely return to using after they’re time there is up, that’s potentially true. But it’s just as likely that those “forced” to jail will likely return to using after they’re released. Moreover, many people continue to use drugs due to the lack of resources and funding available for drug and heroin addicts to get help. Being “forced” into treatment would be a Godsend to many addicts who desperately want help but are turned away because they have no money and insurance.
Heroin possession and what to do when someone is caught by the authorities can be complicated. But for cases where there’s no intent to sell, nobody’s been hurt and they suffer from the disease of addiction, we believe heroin addicts are better served by being mandated to treatment then being sent to jail. If other crimes were committed while under the influence and/or trying to feed their disease, we do believe they should be punished separately for that as anyone else would. But if treatment for heroin addiction and punishment for other unlawful activities can’t occur simultaneously, then we believe treatment should occur first followed by the carrying out of the punishment that should ultimately fit the crime.
Peace and Love,
William – Publisher and Founder of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
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