Putting Addicts In Prison Instead of Effective Rehabilitation Programs Isn’t Working
In How to Make Money Selling Drugs, anti-smoking activist Patrick Reynolds uses the allure of smoking to describe how prohibition doesn’t always limit substance abuse. As the grandson of tobacco tycoon, RJ Reynolds who founded companies like Camel, Lucky Strike and numerous others, Patrick Reynold is uniquely immersed in the danger of tobacco as well as the product’s lucrative business. He states that if tobacco were to be made illegal, it would immediately become cool to young people. As a result, illegal production and crime rates would rise and consequently even more money would be focused towards incarceration.
If we look at the war on drugs from this perspective, it may seem like criminalization of drugs is futile. Making a drug illegal increases the the temptation to try it, but is legalization the solution? When discussing the approach to limit the use of tobacco, Reynold’s claims that methods such as high taxes, public usage banning, education for youth and cessation or sobriety programs have been effective solutions in limiting the use of tobacco. How to Make Money Selling Drugs seems to suggest that the tobacco approach could be implemented towards drugs that are currently illegal. If so, would this work for all illegal drugs or should legalization be granted for “softer” drugs such as marijuana, and denied for more addictive drugs such as heroin and meth?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting takes more than good intentions or a strong will. In fact, because drugs change the brain in ways that foster compulsive drug abuse, quitting is difficult, even for those who are ready to do so.” Considering that drug addiction is in fact, a “disease,” putting addicts in prison seems like a roundabout and possibly ineffective method to combat issues with drugs.
Earlier this year, The New York Times published an article that revealed that “Of the 23.5 million teenagers and adults addicted to alcohol or drugs, only about 1 in 10 gets treatment, which too often fails to keep them drug-free.” This doesn’t mean effective means to combat drug abuse don’t exist. The article goes on to enumerate the many innovative treatments that have been developed in recent years. The issue instead stems from these treatments not being incorporated into programs addicts typically get placed into. For example, addicts tend to excel when placed in long-term treatments. Unfortunately, addiction is more commonly considered a temporary affliction rather than a chronic disease and these people are expected to recover in quick recovery programs that are ineffective in keeping them from returning to their bad habits.
Addicts in prisons are even less likely to have access to the most up-to-date treatment programs. Considering how drug use is entangled in many components of illegal activity from theft to abuse to even homicide, it interesting to hypothesize how effectively rehabilitating addicts could potentially eradicate many violent crimes that plague our modern society.
The film posits that the best method would be to end the prohibition on drugs and to instead channel the energies and money placed in criminalization towards effective rehabilitation programs. It’s an ambitious proposal that would uproot many of the political and economic institutions that rely upon incarceration and the war on drugs. The proposal to end the criminalization of drugs also comes with a radical change in ideology that prefaces recovery over punishment. Surely, drug use is an infinitely complicated issue and it audacious to suggest there is one clear solution. How to Make Money Selling Drugs is effective in it’s ability to force contemplation on the war on drugs, an issue that is relevant and demands thoughtful consideration.