Is Compulsory Rehabilitation The Way To Defeat Drug Crime?

Millions of words have been written and thousands of hours of discussion have taken place in relation to drug crime, drug use, drug addiction such as ice addiction and the solutions to them. Within those, there will subjects raised such as drug rehab, decriminalisation, legalisation, drug therapies and countless others which all seem a way of reducing dependency on drugs and the crimes which are committed both in regard to selling drugs and as a result of someone taking drugs.

As you will no doubt be aware, as yet no one solution has been put into action in any part of the world which has successfully eradicated the use and the supply of illegal drugs. That includes both those countries where the penalty for breaking drug laws is extreme, and also those where the attitude to drugs is one where decriminalisation is the norm. It seems neither the hard-line approach nor the softer approach is entirely effective.

When looking at some of the specific solutions that have been tried, one has received considerable attention, and for which there are multiple studies relating to it, is forced rehabilitation. This is a bit of a hybrid approach which combines giving an individual the opportunity to go into drug rehabilitation, but instead of them doing it voluntarily, they are forced to do so, with the alternative being them sent to prison.

In jurisdictions where forced rehabilitation has been introduced, it has sometimes been accompanied by a relaxation of some drug laws. In particular it has seen places moving the possession of small amounts of so-called softer drugs, such as cannabis, to a point where it is decriminalised.

What this decriminalisation has done is given courts greater discretion with regards to the punishment given to those caught in possession of some drugs. Before, the judge would have little choice but to pass a sentence that involved a large fine or imprisonment. Now, however, with these offences downgraded, a judge can now oblige the person into forced rehabilitation. This is not without its problems though.

One of the first problems which occur is that the costs of providing new treatment centres and drug rehab facilities of drug users is high. Whereas before when many drugs offenders were simply sent to prison where the facilities and the staff where already in place, creating a whole new level within the legal framework has proved to be economically, administratively, and logistically difficult to see the least.

Other problems with forced rehabilitation which have been documented include poor health amongst those within them, including greater instances of HIV and Covid infections. Much of this is due to poor infrastructure and poor management in ensuring that the rehabilitation facilities, at the very least, remain safe and healthy environments for those who are held there.

There have also been examples of extreme overcrowding and violation of peoples human rights in these facilities which often receive less scrutiny than might otherwise occur within the penal system and in particular in prisons.

Perhaps the most damning fact about forced rehabilitation, and the answer to the question posed in the title of this article, is that there is little evidence to show that it reduces drug dependence nor is it likely to ensure that, once released, an individual will not relapse and return to using drugs.

In almost all studies done around the world, the instances of drug rehabilitation working most effectively are when it is done voluntarily or in an environment where the individual is encouraged into drug rehab, rather than being forced into it.