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Drug Abuse Treatment vs Incarceration

Posted on :  January 4th, 2017  |  By :  towardsrecovery

Do you agree that drug abusers should be sent to treatment programs rather than prison? Did you know that doing so is a more effective crime deterrent that allows for billions of dollars in savings? These savings supposedly would come from immediate drop in the cost of incarceration while addressing the addiction in a better manner. What do you think?

Drug Imprisonment

What is the problem if we incarcerate drug offenders or those with drug related offenses? Although in our justice system it is but right for a person to face the consequences of his actions, the more important thing to ask when it comes to drug addiction is, are we getting to the root of the problem?

Did you know that 50% of those sentenced in federal facilities from 2001 to 2013 were convicted of drug related offenses? The cost of incarceration according to a 2011 report of the National Drug Intelligence Center was around $113 billion. According to the same report, the cost for treating drug abuse was only about $14.6 billion.

More than the cost difference, which is staggering, it is believed that incarceration does not get to the root of the drug problem. This is evidenced by the fact that most of those serving sentences in prisons today are repeat offenders. In comparison, treatment is a more cost-effective way of not only reducing the crime incidents, but more importantly, reviving the user to the point where he becomes more productive in his life and career.

In this context, drug imprisonment seems a less efficient way of dealing with the drug abuse problem.

Saving Billions with Treatment

Using treatment to address the drug abuse problem will not only save huge amounts of money, but more importantly, it makes use of a holistic approach that gets to the real cause of the problem. It should be understood that every drug user is unique in the sense that their abuse triggers and dependence can vary.

By choosing drug abuse treatment, we get the benefit of choosing the proper treatment method to be used based on the actual cause of the dependency. This allows us to peel off the covers and see what lies underneath causing the drug dependence that may eventually lead to crimes. When we successfully do this, we will drastically cut down the incidents of re-arrest and re-incarceration.

Think about this, if we send just 10% of eligible offenders to effective treatment programs, the drop in spending would be $4.8 billion on the average.

Why Support Drug Abuse Treatment

To sum it all up, there are 4 basic reasons why drug abuse treatment should be supported over incarceration. What are these?

  1. Save a Life – isn’t it better if we could save a life by treating the drug user to the point where he becomes an active and productive member of society? How valuable is it for the community to see a person get back on his feet and rebuild a life that is drug-free?
  2. Monetary Savings – even if only 40% of those eligible receive drug abuse treatment instead of incarceration, the criminal justice system will be saving close to $13 billion. That money can go to other projects that are equally worthy and beneficial. What more if we go for 100%?
  3. Reduction in Crime – many of those incarcerated are guilty of crimes that are higher than mere possession. Normally, the crimes were done to get money to buy drugs. So even if they are released, they go back to their old ways and commit the same type of crimes again. By treating the problem we reduce the volume of crime and make our streets safer.
  4. Cure the Illness – incarceration does not work because experts believe that drug abuse and addiction is an illness. It can even be considered as an epidemic because of the sheer number of dependents. So as an epidemic, the solution is to treat its cause rather than contain it.


Although it may seem clear that when it comes to drug abuse treatment vs punishment, treatment is preferred, it is vital that the right treatment center handle the rehabilitation to ensure the desired outcome.

Call Towards Recovery Clinics Inc. today to get the highest quality and most effective drug treatment programs.

Who We Serve ?

  • Individuals using/abusing street narcotics (e.g. heroin).
  • Patients abusing prescription narcotics(i.e., Codeine, Talwin, Percocet/Percodan, Dilaudid, Morphine or Demerol, et cetera).
  • Individuals displaying any of the following behaviours: Compulsive drug use or drug seeking/craving.
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