Letter: Outdated approach to addicts | PostIndependent.com

Letter: Outdated approach to addicts

At this time of groundbreaking discoveries made in the field of neuroscience regarding drug addictions, a disease of the brain, the Garfield County Court, 9th Judicial District attorney and probation refuse to acknowledge or accept these findings. They continue to make decisions affecting the lives of defendants using outdated research and information.

Drug addiction is defined as “a disease of the brain that affects behavior.” Those who struggle with a drug addiction are obsessed with the next 15 seconds of their lives and how they can acquire the drugs that will provide a dopamine-producing high. Chronic drug use alters the brain and an addict’s ability to make appropriate choices. Without taking into consideration the life-altering affects of addiction, the local criminal justice agencies have failed the defendants they see in court.

Defendants who suffer with severe drug problems and co-occurring disorders, such as ADHD, trauma, depression and anxiety, need longer treatment programs that last three to six months. Treatment must be long enough to produce behavior changes. Forced abstinence (when a defendant is incarcerated) is not treatment, and it does not cure addiction. Treatment offers the best alternative for interrupting the drug abuse/criminal justice cycle. Offenders who meet drug dependence criteria should be given higher priority for treatment than those who do not.

It is a statistical fact when drug abusers return to the environment where people and activities associated with their prior drug use exist, they are likely to be triggered by strong cravings and suffer a relapse. And yet, the local agencies require defendants to stay in the community of their drug use and restrict contact with their family support system.

The defendants are destined to fail before they begin, and the recidivism rate remains high. Garfield County has an epidemic-level drug problem, exacerbated by an out-of-date and ineffective approach to those who suffer with SUD (substance use disorder) by our local criminal justice system. On the surface, Glenwood Springs and surrounding areas appear to possess a progressive vision for the future; however the criminal justice system is archaic and needs to be brought into the 21st century.

Janet B. Holley

Glenwood Springs

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