Are We Fighting the “War on Drugs” with the Wrong Ammunition?

Should Addicts be Sent to Jail or Rehab?

Drug addiction is no longer a “inner city” issue. Addicts are now at your back door. They live in nice homes and hold reputable jobs. Anyone can succumb to the disease of addiction. Addiction does not discriminate. Just imagine that addict is your mother or your son. Would you want them to be treated like a criminal when they are suffering from a disease? Leonard Campanello, the police chief of Gloucester, Mass. may have a different idea.

Leonard Campanello, the police chief of Gloucester, Mass., took the microphone here in mid-December and opened with his usual warm-up line: I’m from Gloucester, he said in his heavy Boston accent. “That’s spelled ‘G-l-o-s-t-a-h.’”

A casually profane man with a philosophical bent, Chief Campanello, 48, first drew national attention last spring when he wrote on Facebook that the old war on drugs was lost and over. Convinced that addiction is a disease, not a crime or moral failing, he became the unusual law enforcement officer offering heroin users an alternative to prison.

“Any addict who walks into the police station with the remainder of their drug equipment (needles, etc.) or drugs and asks for help will NOT be charged,” he wrote. “Instead we will walk them through the system toward detox and recovery” and send them for treatment “on the spot.”

So Just How Effective has Chief Campanello’s Methods Been

As of August 14, 109 addicts had turned themselves in seeking help. About 70% are men, and about 16% are from Massachusetts. The police department has shelled out about $5,000 to place all of the individuals in drug treatment. Read more…

It’s only logical that once the clear line has been drawn establishing addiction to be a disease, then the obvious next step is treatment. Usually however, people who have no money for care only get help once they’re in legal trouble. The subconscious parallel becomes that treatment is a consequence.

We applaud Chief Campanello for doing the right thing, and allowing people to get addiction care with out having to first be arrested. Addicts are people in the grips of the disease called addiction, and his approach is a great example of the types of changes that need to occur to continue evolving in the war against addiction.

Big Think, a Youtube Channel that addresses tough issues such as this, posted the following video which will help you understand the historical reasons for prison, verses the actual application and resulting social economic impact.