January 01, 2018 Introduction

The Disease of Addiction: Looking for Answers Behind the Numbers

By Judge Mary-Margaret Anderson (Ret.)

The numbers are staggering. Recent studies estimate that between 8 and 16 percent of American adults are addicted to a harmful substance. Increasing numbers of addicts are found in depressed areas of the country and in wealthy enclaves alike. Because abuse of opioids has reached epidemic proportions in many areas, there is increased focus on this particular substance. Credible evidence, however, points to alcohol, a legal drug easily obtained (a pint of vodka can be bought for $2.37 at my local pharmacy), as the addictive substance more difficult to overcome and with the most devastating long-term health consequences. But whatever the substance, the effect on court systems is undeniable. Poor addicts often appear in criminal courts, whether for “drunk in public”-type offenses or theft crimes committed to support their habits. Impaired driving offenses are committed by all demographics. Drunk drivers may injure or kill others, leading not only to criminal but also civil liability.

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