Efforts have been made to approach substance use disorder more humanely in recent years. People found in possession of a small amount of drugs are, in many cases, given the option of treatment rather than jail. Some prisoners arrested in the 1980’s and early ‘90’s have received pardons and sentence commutations. In individual states, judges can decide if a mandatory minimum is warranted or not, on a case by case basis. All of the above are steps in the right direction, but more needs to be done to undo the effects of waging war on drugs for decades.
It’s easy to understand the mindset of people who are (or were) in favor of a zero-tolerance approach to addiction. Drugs are addictive and hazardous, people who sell drugs turn a profit on others' misery. Handcuffs and prison time seem like the only way to make individuals change their behavior, at least that is the general line of reasoning regarding the war on drugs. However, evidence suggests that the vast majority of people do not learn the lesson that lawmakers would have one learn. Look no further than recidivism rates in America, and they are staggering.
When Addiction Hits Home
Historically, the law enforcement officers charged with arresting and imprisoning drug offenders believed that what they were doing what was just. That is what Kevin Simmers, a former drug cop from Hagerstown, Maryland, thought about the work of getting drugs addicts off the streets, WAMU reports. Until that is, addiction found its way into his own home.
“At the end of the night, we’d go home and say ‘man — we got seven arrests tonight, we’re putting a dent in this stuff,” said Simmers. “I felt like I was doing God’s work. Then when it hit my own family, I was in for an awakening.”
Mr. Simmers went from fighting addiction on the streets to becoming an advocate for addiction treatment, a change of heart that came at a significant cost. In 2013, his daughter Brooke confided that she was dependent on Percocet, according to the article. Brooke was seventeen, at the time. Prescription opioids led to heroin, and her opioid use disorder required addiction treatment. Brooke went through several programs, halfway houses, and experienced many relapses. She finally wound up in jail, and it seemed like she was ready to pour all of herself into recovery.
While in jail, Brooke had a dream that she shared with her father. Brooke dreamt of building a home for women in the throes of addiction, according to the report. Unlike the crumby houses, where she tried to recover; her house would be “clean and beautiful.” Not long after Brooke’s release from jail, she died of a fatal overdose on April 14, 2015.
“I believed wholeheartedly that enforcement — incarceration — was the answer to this,” Simmers said. “But then when addiction hit my house, I saw that that wasn’t true. What we need is drug treatment. We need to help the person.”
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Simmers has every intention of building Brooke’s House and has raised more than $500,000. The home will be just as Brooke envisioned it in her jailhouse dream, a long-term residential treatment center for young women.
Opioid Addiction Treatment
More than a hundred overdose deaths occur in the United States, every day. Synthetic opioids are more prevalent than ever, exponentially increasing the risk of death. If you are struggling with opioid use disorder, please contact Celebrate Hope at Hope by The Sea. Recovery is the only way to break the cycle of addiction and avoid a fatal overdose.