Addiction is NOT A CRIME

You heard me correctly. It has taken me a long time to come to this conclusion, so I understand if it sounds completely foreign, especially if you haven’t seen addiction’s anti-linear path up close.

After all, many crimes announced on the news, are followed with the unspoken tone of: ‘Oh and by the way’; “He {also} was found with 5 gms of heroin/meth/ marijuana” or however drugs are weighed/measured.

Let’s not be mistaken; these ARE two separate ‘facts’- albeit, preliminary at that.

Yes, addiction CAN lead to crimes. No one can deny that. Just as eating recklessly CAN lead to unfortunate costly events such as a heart attack.

“Yes, but heart attacks don’t harm anyone else”

As a nurse, I beg to differ. I’ve worked in Emergency Rooms where many ambulances brought in heart attacks thereby using 100’s of resources and costing the industry 320/billion a year.

Personally it can cost a person 750,000 to 1 million to have your own heart attack!

Besides the resources and monetary costs of heart disease; there’s also the human aspect of taking care of the obese. (Obesity being one of the main causes of heart disease and diabetes.)

As a nurse on skilled care units for many years, I’ve assisted in the hour to hour re-positioning of overweight patients recovering from heart surgeries or diabetes-related hospitalizations. Providing basic needs to an incapacitated person, takes exponentially more time effort for heavier and less healthy patients. Yes, that’s what those services are there for, but isn’t that true for the mentally ill & addicted members of society also? Don’t we also have a duty to provide medical (and mental) care to those people regardless of how they arrived in that condition?

Yes, prison provides a roof over their heads and some food, but if this how we treat other diseases that lead to unforeseen events?

Now before I get carried away on the behavior of all humans and what consequences their free will causes; let’s explore Pierre Tristam’s article on Addiction Not Being a Crime, which is the basic premise for this post.

In describing the court calendars and jail dockets full of non- violent crimes, he states that we have 7 million people in prisons and jail, on probation or parole in America. A majority of these are for non- violent possession which in most states leads to “intent to sell” if over a certain amount.

“We’re not going to arrest our way out of the crisis.”

The last 50 years of “punitive” rehab has shown us that.

He states that treatment works better when cut off from all these legal threats and penalties. Yet drug court remains the crown jewel of the judicial system’s narcotized scales because like the proud dweller in a squalid tenement, with the comparison being: he can always point to the homeless hordes below” as “proof” of how great the drug court program is.

“Drug court, in itself is a contradictory, fundamentally flawed initiative”.

I completely agree, but I must admit I don’t have a lot of hands on experience with it. I can just compare it to a heart attack patient being monitored on every single food he put in his body after his unfortunate event with his health and punished for going into an ice cream shop- per say. This sounds ridiculous but drug court or the alternative - four cement walls just to be absolutely certain you don’t go in.

Early on in this unwelcome thrust into the dark world of addiction; my son started racking up the court charges for possession. I lived and breathed the county court calendar for over a year until I realized that I was caring more than he was. I couldn’t maneuver through his court cases begging him to get there on time, while he was “out there” being homeless and struggling for even the basic necessities.

Of course, in his mind, drugs were the only basic necessity he needed.

Hence, the nature of addiction.

Nicole Labors describes that obsession in her book Addictoholic Deconstructed.

Because of the pleasure centers in the brain:

“The addict can’t derive ANY pleasure from ANYTHING else, so they spend every waking minute of every single day seeking out ways to achieve that pleasure.”

A healthy brain can’t fathom that primary obsession because we spread out all our needs and habits throughout the day and week.

So here we are, 6 months later. My son still hasn’t been sentenced -That I know of. He has warrants out on him and is running scared; horrified of going to prison, yet still stuck in the ravaged cycle of active deep addiction. He has nothing. The company he spent 10 years building, is all gone. Cars, beautiful home, wife, and 2 precious kids — gone. He lives couch to couch doing what odd jobs he can to scrounge some money here and there. He has so much shame and disappointment in himself that he doesn’t see a way to fix everything, let alone anything.

My boy, the hero and go-to guy of the family, now rejected and dejected, not only from family, but soon to be from society too. He will be isolated to an 8 x 10 jail cell as punishment for feeding his cravings. Cravings that all of us have, but some of us were able to control them better. Cravings that every human being partakes of -just for a moment to feel ok.

Since drug addiction ( possession) is considered a crime in and of itself in this country; a human being whose brain becomes hijacked and is caught with it, can get the most severe isolation: Exiled, like the ancient Roman practice, to four cement walls to “think about his crime and what he should have done differently”.

Am I making excuses for his behavior? No. Do I think he had different choices that could of been made? Yes. But I also know that my son is in deep pain. The son I know and love has the biggest, most generous heart and is mortified at what the last few years have brought to our family.

So just like I would never shame my patient for being overweight and causing herself all her extra health problems; I know that shaming my son into recovery isn’t the solution.

I hope that our jail systems will soon follow the data and see that punishing and banning non- violent offenders into isolation will only further the revolving door that we now have.

Robin Zabeigalski writes this in The Tempest:

“Alcoholics and addicts are not criminals, they are sick people who need treatment. We shouldn’t be focused on locking them up, we should be focused on changing our healthcare system so they can get the help they need. And we should be working on our own understanding of addiction so we can approach addicts with compassion instead of judgement. Doing this will change the state of addiction in this country and prevent thousands of deaths”.

As Gabor mate states in his video about addiction and the correctional system.

In my opinion, the correctional system does very little correcting….[ for the addicted.]

Even though I’m biased, I tend to agree. I will admit, my bias- ness comes from a place of fear. My son has warned me of the gang mentality in prison. I didn’t believe him until I saw the net flix documentary, Big brother. The scene of the reporter standing by the back of the pick- up truck, talking to the “boy” with his cousins confirmed my sons stories.

But, it hardly matters since I have zero control over the outcome. I never have really. But that doesn’t stop this mom from having hope every day that my strong “beautiful boy” will be back soon.



Soon to be author, present day nurse, Mom & 55 year old Grandma, future relax by the pool New York Times Best Seller!

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Samantha Waters

Soon to be author, present day nurse, Mom & 55 year old Grandma, future relax by the pool New York Times Best Seller!