Mandatory Addiction Treatment Can Be Ineffective

addiction recovery

In the circles of addiction recovery around the globe, it is often said that people with substance use disorder need to want to get better in order to do so—often times a “rock bottom” experience is required for such a desire to arise. The friends and families of addicts and alcoholics know all too well that there is an element of truth to that idea. No matter how much you want someone to seek help and recover, the onus falls on the afflicted to accomplish the feat.

Naturally, there are exceptions, but most people with long term recovery would probably agree that they had to want sobriety—and did whatever it took to maintain it—before recovery came to fruition. It is no secret that relapse is quite common, being a part of many an addict or alcoholic’s story. Putting down the drink or drug can sometimes happen with ease, managing to not pick drugs or alcohol again is the hard part.

Recovery for the Wrong Reasons

People living with the disease of addiction will often find their way to treatment and/or 12-Step meetings on account of wanting to please someone close to them. And, while their intentions are no doubt good, the reality is that drug and alcohol use is merely a symptom of the mental health disorder known as addiction. Breaking free from the disease requires not only steadfast dedication to a new way of thinking and living, but also eternal vigilance.

Those who seek recovery to appease others will often “cherry pick” their way through the process, failing to see the forest for the trees. Another common saying in recovery is: “the only thing you need to change is everything.” The people who are willing to go the distance are typically those who want recovery for themselves; life had become so unmanageable that a paradigm shift was required.

Involuntary Recovery

In the United States, and in a number of other countries where illicit drug use is illegal, it has become more and more common to offer addiction treatment to those who would otherwise be sent to jail for a criminal charge like possession. While there is little doubt that treatment is certainly the preferable punishment, it is rare that those who complete required treatment will stay sober and live a life in recovery.

In prisons and jails across the country, the majority of people serving time were incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses. This the byproduct of fighting a war on drugs for nearly half a century. Naturally, as we continue to face an unprecedented opioid epidemic, we cannot continue to arrest away the scourge of addiction. Offering access to treatment over jail is certainly the lesser of two evils, and may actually help people with a substance use disorder find recovery, said addicts will actually need to want recovery. We know that involuntary addiction treatment is not the most effective.

Mandatory Treatment

New research suggests that mandatory treatment for people with substance use disorders is not effective in reducing their drug use, BMJ reports. A global data analysis conducted by researchers at Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine found that most countries “often lack the capacity to treat substance use disorders.” What’s more, they found that treatments often fail to utilize effective treatment modalities.

“The evidence presented in this article provides additional argumentation supporting the position of all UN organizations that mandatory treatment settings do not represent a favorable or effective environment for the treatment of drug dependence,” said Fabienne Hariga, MD, MPH, senior adviser to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime during the recent meeting in New York. “The United Nations therefore calls on States to transition from mandatory drug treatment and implement voluntary, evidence-informed and rights-based health and social services in the community.” 

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Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

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