Legal Consequences - Addiction & The Law

The legal consequences of addiction are severe, and can't be ignored when discussing addiction, mental health issues, and treatment. Two things I’m really passionate about are addiction and the law. I have a lot of personal experience with addiction, not just in my own recovery process – I studied psychology in college and took a number of courses relating to addiction, and I spent numerous years working in an outpatient rehab facility for teens and young adults who were struggling with addiction and mental health issues. I’m also very passionate about the law; I am a practicing attorney at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, where we represent approximately 70% of all people arrested in Philadelphia. We represent these people for free; all of the people we represent are indigent and otherwise would not be able to afford an attorney. The number of drug and addiction related crimes is astounding.

Legal Consequences of Addiction

There is no question that addiction and the law go hand in hand – the legal consequences of addiction cannot be ignored. And I’m not just talking about people who get arrested for drug specific crimes; the issue is pervasive across all crimes. There are robberies, burglaries and domestic violence cases that are often directly related to a person’s addiction, as well as the obvious crime of driving under the influence. Instead of getting the help they need, a person with addiction issues often just ends up getting arrested and spending time in jail. While they may ‘deserve’ the time they spend in jail, it doesn’t actually solve the problem. People who are addicted to drugs don’t get much, if any, treatment in the prisons in Philadelphia or the surrounding areas. They may stay off drugs while they are in prison, but without any therapy or treatment, they are released from custody and go back to drugs, and ultimately, back to their criminal lifestyle. They aren’t bad people, but they need help, and the prison system just isn’t giving them the help they need, and they aren’t able to find the help they need once they’re released either. Whether it’s a lack of insurance or just an insurance company that doesn’t feel the need to pay for treatment, it’s really difficult for people to get treatment unless you have a lot of money. That’s really as simple as it gets. Without money, treatment is not easily accessible. It costs money to go to an inpatient treatment facility, it costs money to go to an outpatient facility, or to get access to therapy or medication.

The legal consequences of addiction can be lifelong, whether it’s a long period of incarceration , or a felony conviction that someone carries around with them, preventing them from getting certain jobs and even housing. It’s really not possible to thoroughly address addiction and treatment without addressing the major flaws that exist within the criminal justice system in the United States.


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