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Coerced Drug Addiction Treatment – Is It Right?

drug overdose in the ERIn most states, an addict who’s overdosed or experienced some other mishap that lands them in the ER is treated and then sent back out into the life that nearly killed them. They often wind up back in the ER and, of course, some of them don’t even make it to the ER the next time. They just die. In Massachusetts, more than 1,200 people died from overdoses of heroin or prescription painkillers last year and Governor Charlie Baker is filing a bill this week that will give hospitals the right to hold addicts who come to the ER for 72 hours so the doctors can assess their condition and determine whether they should be forced to get treatment.

Massachusetts already has laws in place that enable family members, doctors or police to go to court to force treatment – 3,250 have been ‘committed’ to treatment so far, and it may well have saved a lot of lives – but the proposed new law takes things one step further. There’s no court for the hospitals; they can just keep the patients there for the 72 hour evaluation period. Baker is hoping this will open another avenue to prevent more deaths.
Of course, many people are up in arms about this because of the obvious ‘deprivation of liberty’ – although it’s hard to think of being chained to a needle or pills, ruining, shortening and even losing your life, endangering the lives of others, and taking many of the people who love you down with you as liberty.

That kind of freedom also destroys societies and places a huge burden on, frankly, everyone in the country when you consider that we’re shelling out billions of taxpayer dollars on trying to handle the drug scene. That money could be used to do something beneficial for the taxpayers who aren’t addicts. And there are many things needed – perhaps a better public school system, for example.

Looking at this from the aspect of ‘freedom of choice’ you have to ask yourself is there really a choice there? Addicts are actually in a state of mental incompetence. Some people think of taking drugs or not as a personal choice but is it really? For an addict, there’s only one ‘choice’ – take the drugs.

Ask any parent who’s lost a son or daughter to drugs. Would they rather have ‘coerced’ their child into drug rehab and allegedly violated their right to choose, or would they rather have them alive and well?

Joanne Peterson, founder and executive director of parent support network Learn to Cope in Taunton, used the legal route of commitment twice to get her heroin-addicted son into treatment. She recently told the Boston Globe:

“No matter what we did, we weren’t able to reach him as a family, and we knew he was going to die,” she said. “You have to make the choice between buying a casket and a suit for him to wear in his casket, or standing in front of a judge and asking for help.”

And her son has now been sober for seven years.

It would be great to hear your opinion about this. Do you think coercing someone into treatment is right?

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