In his February 18th opinion piece “War on drugs is over—and drugs won,” Paul Mulshine hits a home run by correctly pointing out the folly of incarcerating non-violent drug offenders. But like a lot of sluggers, Mulshine swings mightily but misses badly in his next at-bat by dismissing the importance of drug treatment programs in changing the lives of many addicts.
Mulshine’s naïve and misguided contention seems to be that addicts merely need a night or two in the hoosegow, and someone to tell them to “man up and stop taking drugs.” This approach, as attractive as it may be to some, is incredibly simplistic and doomed to failure.
The sad truth that Mulshine misses is this: people who suffer from the disease of addiction can rarely achieve lasting recovery alone, without any formal services or support. In this respect, the record is clear. Treatment saves lives. The road for untreated addicts usually leads to prison, homelessness and death. Untreated addicts tear apart families, undermine communities and destroy lives.
New Jersey has a hugely successful system of treatment providers that are saving lives every day. As Governor Christie rightly noted in his State of the State address, what's needed is a greater investment into this system so that treatment is available for all addicts when they make a decision to seek professional help. Licensed professional addiction treatment programs follow standards of best practice, and are overseen by New Jersey’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMAHS). And unlike some celebrity-style 14- or 30-day programs that, frankly, seldom lead to long-term recovery, fees for not-for-profit treatment programs are based on the individual’s ability to pay.Millions of American citizens who are living productive lives in recovery are living proof of the effectiveness treatment. Effective treatment saves lives. It ultimately saves taxpayer money. And it makes us safer as a society.