Lessons from Intervention

I am a fan of the A&E show Intervention. It has a car wreck allure to it. The human misery, suffering, and (sometimes) redemption makes for great television.

Intervention shows the daily lives of drug addicts. At the end of the show the addict is suprised by an intervention and offered a chance to go to rehab. Most go to rehab and then we get a nice follow up to see if they kicked drugs.

Intervention is a great view into the drug subculture.

Intervention Lessons-
Lesson One- Drug laws have done very little to impact the supply and availability of drugs. The ease at which addicts can procure the most illegal substances (heroin, meth, crack) shows that our War on Drugs has made no progress in limiting supply. Addicts never quit using drugs because they are hard to get.

Lesson Two- Tough drug laws have no detterent effect on addicts. Drug addicts never stop and think about the multiple felonious acts they are commiting. Law enforcement and the threat of incarceration is an overhanging nemesis, but not much of an immediate threat.

Lesson Three- Jail does not “cure” addicts. Some of the addicts on the show are on probation and facing jail or have spent time in jail. The addicts are bothered by failing drug tests on probation, but not enough to quit using.

Lesson Four- It’s ultimately the family unit, not the State, that has the most influence on addicts. It is the family that seems to cause and cure these addicts. Most of the addicts are the product of a bad childhood and enabling parents. Besides being a cause for addictive behavior the family is also the solution. The intervention at the end, which includes many family members, provides the motivation to enter treatment.

Lesson Five- Rehab can work, even if earlier treatment has failed. A lot of the addicts go to treatment and learn to deal with their addiction. Some have even gone to rehab before and failed. I am assuming that A&E provides top notch (ie expensive) treatment.

Suggestions for policy makers-
1. Quit incarcerating addicts. It is a waste of resources. Addicts get out of jail and are still addicts. The laws are not a detterent to addicts.

2. Expanding the role of treatment in the criminal justice system. I hate spending my tax dollars on anything. But warehousing addicts in jail is not effective, at least treatment/rehab has a chance to change behavior.

3. Government can not replace families. Families are what convince these addicts to get help.

4. Attack the black market. We must provide legitimate supplies for the drugs addicts want. Quit giving organized crime a monopoly on this market. It’s a failed policy.

The Drug War was built on fear and propaganda. Hopefully shows like Intervention will lead to a rational drug policy debate that values human dignity above “tough on crime” posturing.


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