Addiction is a compulsive craving for drugs and it is uncontrollable which also leads to an individual to the point of doing anything, whether it is stealing, committing murder or whatever it takes to be able to access drugs.
These drug cravings push people to do things they would not normally do. Their life becomes focused on how to get the drugs and how to keep their drug supply continually replenished. All types of crimes are committed by people simply trying to get drugs.
Residential property theft is high due to drug addiction. The addict will steal anything they can, such as TV sets, microwaves, VCRs, anything that can be turned into quick money in order to buy their drugs. They even resort to stealing from family and friends. Drugs are expensive to buy, so it takes a constant flow of cash to supply their addiction.
The argument goes on as to whether drug addiction is an illness or a crime and whether addicts should be punished or treatment given them to rehabilitate. Since 1914, after the Harrison Act was passed through Congress making it illegal to buy drugs, drug abuse has not slowed down, only risen to the point where there are more addicts today than ever before. In addition, there have been several other laws passed both on the federal, state and local level making drugs illegal, but laws have not deterred drug usage.
Mandatory prison sentences have been implemented to cover first time offenders and also any who offend for the second, third time or more. It was felt that by having tougher penalties in place for offenders this would deter the drug problem, but the stringent laws have not worked, as drug usage continues to escalate.
Federal prisons have around two million inmates with a large percentage of this number convicted of drug abuse crimes. These prisons are already overcrowded, so imprisoning drug addicts only adds to the population count. If all drug offenders were imprisoned, as there are many who are called recreational drug users and these people usually are never arrested, the cost to the country would be astronomical. The estimated cost of putting one drug offender in prison is around $450,000. That figure includes the arrest, cost of the trial and cost to house an inmate. If that $450,000 were used for rehabilitation costs, about 200 people could receive treatment.
By treating drug addiction as an illness and requiring the individual to undergo treatment, this would save society from those who are released from prison, who go back to the streets and resume their former life of abusing drugs and committing crimes. This system only creates a danger for other citizens who are subjected to being victims of their crimes.
The argument for rehabilitation over punishment does show good merit and possibly needs to be seriously considered. It is estimated that approximately 20% of drug addicts in prison could be rehabilitated positively through proper treatment.