Drug addiction affects the lives of US veterans the same as anyone else, but at a higher percentage. And the amount of veterans with these problems who are incarcerated is staggering. It doesn’t need to be this way. If treatment instead of incarceration would be implemented, these veterans would get the help we owe them, and society would benefit from lower crime and an ease on resources.
It needs to be repeated over and over. Treatment instead of incarceration has been proven effective in rehabilitating non-violent drug offenders, and it saves money for the states where it is implemented. And treatment for the incarcerated also needs to be provided. Drug treatment helps addicts to stop using the drugs that lead them to commit crimes, where incarceration simply locks them away for a while before they return to drug use.
Treatment should come first for veterans no matter where they live in the United States, considering that we send them into harm’s way, and then give them drugs to overcome the physical and emotional pain of combat. It’s the least we could do for them when they come home. But, for now, those convicted of non-violent drug offenses are simply locked away.
Veterans who receive drug treatment upon returning home from Iraq or Afghanistan would have a better chance to resume a normal life, and to get the benefits they were promised during recruitment. Drug-free veterans would also be much less likely to commit crimes and more likely to focus on living a positive life. We need to give them the chance to do so.
Drug treatment will also lower health care costs provided to veterans. Drug abuse and addiction often leads to injuries, and there is a multitude of side effects and major organ damage that results from them. Not only are these ailments a burden to veterans, but they are a substantial drain on the US Veterans Administration budget.
The Drug Policy Alliance has released a report that details the need for treatment instead of incarceration for veterans suffering from drug addiction as well as for those with mental health disorders. It also makes a strong case for medication assisted treatment. The excerpt below shows the latest statistics on incarcerated veterans.
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Veterans in Prison, as of 2004*
- 140,000 veterans were incarcerated in state and federal prisons.
46 percent of veterans in federal prison were incarcerated for drug law violations.
15 percent of veterans in state prison were incarcerated for drug law violations, including
5.6 percent for simple possession.
More than 25 percent of veterans in prison were intoxicated at the time of their arrest.
61 percent of incarcerated veterans met the DSM-IV criteria for substance dependence or abuse.
More than half of veterans in federal (64 percent) and state prisons (54 percent) served during wartime.
26 percent of veterans in federal prison and 20 percent in state prison served in combat.
38 percent of veterans in state prison received less than an honorable discharge, which may disqualify them for VA benefits.
* Source: United States Department of Justice, Bureau of
Justice Statistics, “Veterans in State and Federal Prison,
2004” 1,4,5,6,11 (May 2007).
-- Source: http://www.drugpolicy.org/library/veterans2009.cfm --
Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles provides medical detoxification, medication assisted treatment, and mental health treatment for US veterans as part of our commitment to integrated behavioral healthcare in alcohol and drug treatment. If you or a loved one needs help with alcohol dependence or drug addiction, please call us now at 800-996-1051 or contact us here.
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