It should come as to no surprise that the criminal justice system in America routinely punishes those who use and abuse drugs. There are countless stories and reasons as to why someone would be punished for abusing drugs or Alcohol.

The Opioid crisis has killed over 64,000 people between February 2016 to February 2017 alone, according to the CDC. One of the main issues that we are seeing in tandem with this crisis is because of the way addiction is treated, especially when it comes to the law.

It’s not hard to believe that many who become addicted to drugs or Alcohol also have some issues with the la. A common condition while some are on probation is the need to stay clean and sober, often accompanied by attending meetings, and if they do not, they go back to jail.

Many see this as a good thing, as it forces people into recovery. The problem with that, though, is that it doesn’t do anything to actually tackle the underlying reason for addiction.

The idea that addiction can be cured by ordering someone to stop using the threat of legal action is not something that can be realistically done. If it were true, then addiction and relapse would have been cured years ago. Instead, we are currently experiencing an Opioid epidemic in this country, one that continues to take the lives of many that are suffering.

Recently, in the Massachusetts Supreme court, an attorney by the name of Lisa Newman-Polk brought a case in front of, arguing that people suffering from the disease of addiction should not be punished for being afflicted with said disease.

The Massachusetts Medical society has stated that relapse is a symptom of addiction and it needs to be treated, not punished. Punishment for a disease is one of those things that is obviously horrendous, but when it’s in relation to addiction, there tends to be some pause about it.

It’s understandable though: drugs, such as Heroin, Cocaine and Meth are illegal, and because of that, anyone possessing any one of these substances is viewed as a criminal, and thus, sent to jail. The problem that is apparent is that there doesn’t seem to be a system in place for those who relapse while attempting to get better.

As sad as it may sound, relapse is a part of recovery, an unfortunate one at that. This is not to say that those who are in recovery are expected to relapse, but rather, that relapse, although deeply unnerving, should not be looked on as a slight against someone attempting to recover. Rather, it should be looked at as an unfortunate symptom of addiction.

The argument against this, though, is that there is no real agreement on whether addiction is a brain disease or not. Although it’s generally understood that addiction is a bad thing, there are still some stigma’s that are attached to being labeled an addict, one that undermines the struggle that those suffering from addiction go through each day.

The fortunate thing is that laws are changing at a rapid pace. As more become understanding of the plight of addicted people increase, so too does help for addicted people increase, especially in the trying time we are all in. Drug Courts are an experimental new way to help people in active addiction.

For example, let’s say someone needs help with an addiction to Alcohol, having been arrested for several DUI’s. in a drug court, that person’s addiction will be taken into account, while providing them with intensive treatment. As well, they are required to appear in court frequently so that a judge may review their progress.

Unfortunately, Drug Courts are not everywhere, but with the growing number of deaths the country is seeing because of the Opioid crisis, and the advancements in addiction studies and understanding, more and more counties are adapting to help those suffering from the current addiction crisis.