Letter to the editor: Addiction needs different treatment
I agree with Rebecca Lyn Phillips in her letter to the editor titled “Stop Cruel Punishment for Addiction” that there should be a better way.
I am a recovering alcoholic with almost 45 years of sobriety. I worked for years as an addiction’s therapist and an executive of a community mental health center.
The core belief of our present prison system that people can be punished into giving up criminal activities is antiquated and ineffective. The majority of violent crimes are committed by people who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Understanding these addictions is obviously critical to reducing the amount of crime in America.
Alcohol and other mood-altering drugs stimulate the reward pathway within the brain and release dopamine causing a feeling of pleasure. If this pathway is repeatedly stimulated, the pleasure or reward of using the substance becomes greater than punishment or threat of punishment. It is an obsessive addiction.
It would make much more sense to create a very secure Vo-tech like structure for first offenders who were using either alcohol or drugs at the time of the offense. Addictions counseling with regular Alcoholic Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings should be mandatory, along with training in some form of skilled labor and assisting with job placement at the end of the period of incarceration.
Our current prison systems do not foster rehabilitation. Rather, they foster anger, resentment and stigmatize incarcerated people for the rest of their lives. Let’s offer treatment, job training and education and build hope for the possibility of a future without crime.
Don McCullough, Manhattan