Alcoholism and drug addiction have long been seen by the medical community as a mental health issue. Most doctors agree that addiction is a disease. Addiction may not show up on an x-ray or a brain scan, but it is there in a physical form, just as surely.

Therefore, the best way to treat alcoholism and drug addiction is to address the underlying medical and psychological factors that cause addiction. Unfortunately, addicts and alcoholics often find themselves in prison rather than drug treatment centers, unable to get the help they need to truly become rehabilitated.

This has been true for many decades, but thankfully, political and community leaders–particularly in South Florida–have recently enacted new policies and new legislation, creating better systems to fight addiction in Florida communities.

New Hope For Those Suffering From Drug Addiction

In March 2016, Florida lawmakers agreed to make substantial reforms to the state’s mental health and drug abuse treatment systems. House members agreed almost unanimously to approve SB 12 (by a vote of 118-1), which effectively unites the Baker Act and the Marchman Act into one cohesive policy to treat drug addiction in Florida.

The Baker Act is aimed at helping those with mental illnesses. According to the Department of Children and Families for the State of Florida, “The Baker Act provides legal procedures for mental health examination and treatment, including voluntary admission, involuntary examination, involuntary inpatient placement, and involuntary outpatient placement.” A person can be Baker Acted if a judge, law enforcement official, physician, or mental health professional believes that they may be a threat to themselves or others. The Marchman Act allows the same process to be available to those who are suffering from drug addiction. By combining these two legislative acts, Florida lawmakers are allowing addicts to get treatment for their illness, rather than treating them as criminals.

Executive Director of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association, Mark Fontaine, declared that policymakers “are beginning to really understand the impact of mental health and substance abuse on the entire system. They’re understanding the impact on the courts…the child welfare system…and the health care system.”

Regardless of the factors involved, it is clear that treatment of alcoholism and addiction as a medical illness is the only logical course of action.

Remove The Substance, and The Behavior Often Follows

This is very welcome news for those in South Florida who are suffering from drug addiction. The very worst option is prison time for non-violent addicts, because they often do not get the help they need while incarcerated. Even worse, they often become more ensconced in criminal culture while in prison.

However, there is still a percentage of the U.S. population that feels as if addiction is a matter of willpower alone, and that if you commit a crime, you should do the time. Many assume that those who become addicted to drugs are simply weak-willed individuals who don’t need drug rehab; they just need to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and deal with their problem, or get thrown in jail.

This is the old ‘war on drugs’ mentality, which didn’t work. Hopefully, the new legislation enacted by Florida’s lawmakers will lead to a new era in the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction.

A multi-faceted approach to addiction treatment is the key. If you or a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, contact our admissions department or call 888-711-0354 to start on the road to recovery.