Pot ‘Addicts’ Sentenced To Treatment

By: Gerri L. Elder

In recent years, various celebrities have made rehab a buzzword. Anyone with any degree of a substance abuse problem pops into rehab either to improve public image or to hopefully receive a lighter sentence in DUI or drug possession cases. Because of this, the whole idea of drug and alcohol treatment centers has become a bit of a joke. From the outside, it looks as though no one really takes them all that seriously.

However, wayward rock stars and Hollywood brats may not be completely to blame for rehab’s bad reputation. Some of the blame may actually fall on the criminal court system.

According to a recent The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) report, many people who enter rehab for treatment of a drug addiction are not really addicts. NORML cites statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services that show that the majority of people who enter rehab as marijuana addicts have not smoked pot in the month prior to their admission. These people only enter rehab because they were arrested and the treatment programs are ordered by a judge in lieu of jail time.

NORML recently reported that according to data published online in the journal BMC Public Health, almost 70 percent of people who seek treatment for marijuana addiction in Texas do so purely because they are ordered to do so by a judge or advised to do so by their defense attorneys prior to trial. Of the others who receive treatment for marijuana abuse, 6 percent report that friends or family members talked them into getting treatment. According to the data collected, very few people seek treatment in drug rehab programs for marijuana addiction without a legal motivation for doing so.

Most of the people with perceived marijuana addictions who are referred to drug treatment centers by the courts have been arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession. They enter treatment centers in order to avoid jail or as a condition of probation, not because they feel as though they have a problem. It has been reported that these people are more likely to complete the drug treatment programs than people who enter rehab for marijuana addiction on their own free will. It was also noted that people who are referred to drug treatment programs for marijuana abuse by the criminal justice system are less impaired than people who voluntarily admit themselves for treatment.

The Texas study seems to indicate that the wrong people are taking up space at drug treatment facilities. While it would seem to hold true that someone who uses illegal drugs or is caught in possession of marijuana has a problem, the problem appears to be a legal one rather than something that would require a drug treatment program.

Most people would rather go to rehab than to jail, but in the case of misdemeanor possession of marijuana, the question begs to be asked – is either option really necessary? It would seem that rehab at least is not.