SOCIETY'S MENTAL ILLNESS
Addiction to drugs is a mental illness. By making certain drugs illegal, people who use those drugs are branded as criminals.
Was Phillip Seymour Hoffmann a criminal? He was addicted to heroin. The possession of heroin is illegal. The use of heroin is illegal. Should Phillip Seymour Hoffmann have walked into a police station and turned himself in? Or should he have walked into a hospital and asked for help with his addiction?
This society has little or no compassion for drug addicts because this society, and others throughout the world, is stricken with a disease called Puritanism. Puritanism maintains that our shortcomings, such as addiction to drugs, are the result of our lack of determination to strengthen our wills and rid ourselves of our addictions or any other conditions determined to be detrimental to both the individual and for the general welfare of society. If the condition, addiction to illegal drugs, creates an underworld of supply to meet the demand for those drugs, we make the suppliers, the users, and the possession of that substance subject to criminal prosecution. The mental illness of addiction is criminalized because we determine it to be a condition we can avoid succumbing to and failure to do so is then deemed a criminal act which is punishable by incarceration rather than rehabilitation.
Law enforcement personnel make money off of illegal drugs. We employ thousands of DEA agents. Police departments create drug enforcement divisions, hiring more officers to investigate and prosecute drug use. As long as certain drugs remain illegal, law enforcement will profit. Making these drugs legal is objected to by law enforcement, not because of their compassion for addicts, but because of the revenue generated by arresting suppliers and users of those drugs. If there were no more illegal drugs, law enforcement would have to lay off thousands of personnel.
The solution is simple isn’t it? Get law enforcement out of the drug business and put professional medical personnel in charge of regulation, control, and administration of these substances. I don’t go to the police department to get a prescription for Vicodin; I get it from my doctor. If I get it off the street, abuse the dosage, and get caught by law enforcement for possession without a doctor’s authorization, I’m subject to prosecution.
Drug addicts are mentally ill. So is the society that criminalizes it.