Weed Addicts Get It from Both Sides
But how does a person who struggles with quitting weed feel when everyone and everything tells him that weed isn’t addictive? Ashamed, frightened, and weak, likely. Sheff says that “addiction is a disease,” and that “serious illness is always frightening, but it’s a relief to understand that it’s not a person’s fault if she is addicted. The evidence clearly proves that addicts aren’t morally bereft or weak-willed. They’re ill.” In reality, some people struggle with an addiction to weed. On top of feeling lame for being addicted to something that’s supposedly non-addictive, they also feel ashamed for being an addict. Partakers and abstainers alike scorn the weed addict.
The Stigma of Addiction Can Be Deadly
Dr. Richard Juman, a licensed clinical psychologist who has worked in the field of addiction for over 25 years, suggests that society’s vilification of addiction is even deadly. Juman says that the stigma placed on addicts impacts them “both consciously and unconsciously, and is perhaps the single largest contributor to the mortality rate.” It is for this reason, Juman argues, we should “try to separate the disease of addiction from the stigma.” Stigmatization, according to Juman, causes a host of problems ranging from the addict shying away from treatment to the disproportionately smaller amounts of funding being allocated to the medical community for addiction treatment. Like Sheff, Juman’s take on the dominant perception of addiction is somber: “The idea that those with addictive disorders are weak, deserving of their fate and less worthy of care is so inextricably tied to our zeitgeist that it’s impossible to separate addiction from shame and guilt.”
Addiction: Disease or Behavior?
Though Juman feels stigmatization is a major problem, we are seeing changes in society that remove morality from addiction. Specifically, sentencing reforms such as California’s AB 109 are proof that our government is changing its attitude toward addiction. Realignment, or AB 109, means that non-violent offenders, most of whom have addiction issues, are now being offered alternatives to prison. Prison overcrowding and the price of incarceration are the driving forces behind AB 109, but experts are also looking hard at what really lowers crime. Hint: it isn’t the threat of imprisonment.
Sentencing and Prison Reforms Reduce Crime
Jan Casteel, a program administrator whose facility is assigned realignment inmates, speaks plainly about the situation: “Unless we see drug treatment, AB 109 is not going to be successful. The underlying problem is drug abuse. We have job training, but if you have a drug problem, all of that is for naught.” Each county in California is allowed to approach realignment autonomously, and in those counties that aren’t emphasizing addiction treatment, there is public outcry. The demand for emphasis on addiction treatment stems from the idea that removing drug addiction removes the motivation for drug-motivated crime. It has taken too long for the judicial system to realize that treating addiction lowers crime. Plus, current reforms are motivated more by monetary gain than helping people overcome addiction, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. Reforms insure that marijuana-related offenses will not prevent someone from getting a student loan or job.
Is marijuana a gateway drug? Getting sent to prison for it makes that a distinct possibility!