In recent years, there has been a call for offering treatment over jail for those who are arrested for possession of a narcotic. It is well understood that treatment is better than incarceration when it comes to helping people break the cycle of addiction.
Men and women who go to jail for drug offenses often stay clean during the length of their stay behind bars, but upon release many will turn back to drugs and ultimately end up back in jail. The reason for that is because they have not replaced their addiction with something else, like a program of recovery. Such people do not a have a support network in place who can help them when times are hard. By all accounts, treatment is more effective than jail when it comes to treating addiction.
The American opioid epidemic has created a huge demand for addiction treatment services across the country. But, as you might imagine, there simply are not enough facilities and beds to house the 2.5 million plus people struggling with an opioid use disorder—especially in rural America. While there has been an inter-agency governmental effort to provide greater access to addiction treatment, we are still falling short. Even if someone does manage to get into a program, it is often for too short a period of time for the treatment to be effective; which has led some people to take drastic measures to get help.
There are 38 states that allow civil commitment for substance abuse, NPR reports. Heroin addicts in Massachusetts have been utilizing the civil commitment law to get themselves admitted to a 90-day programs.
If someone is deemed to be “a danger to themselves or others" a family member can ask a judge to commit a loved one to treatment. Up until the opioid epidemic we face today, it was rare, if unheard of, for an addict to request to be committed. However, the deadly nature of opioid addiction has many addicts thinking that court ordered treatment is their only hope against not going to jail or overdosing.
"Basically, it's a good way to get clean," explained an opioid addict from Springfield, Mass. "Because, if you try getting into these five- or six-day [detoxification programs], it takes forever. It takes a month to get into the place, and if you don't have the right insurance, they don't want you."
To be clear, involuntary commitment laws require that a family member or doctor request a judge to order treatment, according to the article. As long as the addict does not object, a judge should have little problem appeasing the request. Opioid addiction is a life or death situation; opioid addicts are asking family members to help them get committed.