Our society has been conditioned to think of drug addiction as a legal problem. Every year thousands of people in Florida and throughout the United States are charged with drug crimes ranging from possession of banned substances to prescription drug fraud. But in our political rush to judge and condemn drug users, we often forget they are suffering from a serious mental health disorder–namely, drug addiction.
Drug Addiction Is a Brain Disease, Not a Lack of “Willpower”
Obviously, drug addiction covers a wide variety of substances. Some are legal, such as alcohol or nicotine, while others are classified as “controlled substances” like cocaine and heroin. But whatever the drug involved, addiction manifests itself in the same way. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction is “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.”
The critical thing to understand here is that addiction is a disease. It is not a reflection of the victim’s willpower or personal ethics. Many people with no criminal backgrounds or history of violent behavior become drug addicts.
Yet there is still a strong social stigma attached to drug addiction because many addicts initially take drugs “to feel good.” It is true that many drugs–especially stimulants such as cocaine–produce euphoria and a sense of relaxation in the user. But the problem is that addiction slowly alters the brain chemistry of the user, to the point where they become unable to function without a steady supply of the drug.
It is then no longer a question of taking the drug to feel good–it is now a matter of avoiding the pain of withdrawal if the brain’s addiction is not fed. This leads many people to take any steps necessary to obtain a “fix,” without regard to the potential consequences for themselves and their loved ones. So even when an addiction started out as a voluntary behavior, at a certain point the addict may objective lose self-control and routinely engage in self-destructive behavior.
Are You at Greater Risk for Drug Addiction–and Possible Legal Problems?
Not everyone who uses alcohol or drugs will develop an addiction. Indeed, there is no 100 percent reliable way to know in advance who will (or won’t) become an addict. But public health professionals and scientists have identified a number of risk factors that increase a person’s chances of becoming an addict. According to the NIDA, many of these factors are social rather than biological. For instance, children who are exposed to drugs from an early age at school or in the home are at greater risk for addiction. Similarly, a child who grows up in poverty or lacking parental supervision may turn to drugs to cope with their situation.
Unfortunately, by the time a young person develops a drug addiction, they may already find themselves in trouble with the law. Drug possession is still a crime under federal and state law regardless of the defendant’s mental health status. That is why it is important to work with a qualified Orlando criminal defense attorney if you are facing any kind of drug charge. Contact Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, at (407) 377-0150 today.