Are Law Enforcement Attitudes Changing on Addiction and Alcoholism?

When people who work around those with substance use disorder think about the justice system and the involvement of law enforcement in addiction medicine, it can be frustrating. It can often feel like some people in law enforcement simply do not understand the disease of addiction. Something that I was thinking about recently could partly explain the lack of understanding between substance use disorder professionals and law enforcement professionals. Let us think about alcoholism first. When people like me think of alcoholism, we mainly think about a horribly insidious disease that takes thousands of lives every day, and often it has affected people close to us. For me personally, two of my grandparents struggled with addiction to alcohol, and I know from my time talking to people involved in treatment the damage that it has done in people lives. Many people in law enforcement might actually think about addiction the same way, but let us now imagine how a person in law enforcement might think about the same issue in a different way. The first thing that comes to mind for a police officer when alcohol or alcoholism is mentioned might be the horrible accidents that they have seen on roads all over the country that were caused by alcohol use, or even the victims of those terrible tragic circumstances. One can imagine that alcoholism has a more personal negative connotation for someone who has worked around auto accidents caused by drinking. We can also imagine the different outlook of a person treating a parent with alcoholism versus a person who has grown up and missed out on time with a parent because that parent had an alcohol problem. The child might not immediately forgive everything that has happened just because they learn about the disease of addiction. If this is a more constructive way to think about the disconnect between those who treat addiction and law enforcement, a similar thought experiment can be done with drugs other than alcohol.

Drugs and Law Enforcement

I am hopeful that things start to change around the issue of drugs and law enforcement, and we have seen different ideas implemented, including drug courts. It is important for people like me to understand that, for decades now, people in law enforcement have been tasked with getting drugs out of communities. For most of that time people did not realize that you can only rid communities of drugs by treating addiction. As we start to see these changes slowly taking hold, it will be easier to work with each other if we understand where attitudes have been shaped in the past. Research suggests that as many as 40% of all arrestees have one or multiple drugs in their system. With that said, now understand that with any difficult circumstance that is faced by an officer on the job, there is a high likelihood that drugs and alcohol played a role in that circumstance. I personally believe that we will be helping police if we get more Americans into drug and alcohol treatment, but it is understandable that some officers have faced circumstances that make them not want to be “soft” on drugs. The important point becomes education, because we all want a better world and a better community for our children to live in, and treatment has been the only way that people with substance use disorder have historically been able to achieve a better future for themselves. Each person that receives treatment is one less person that will be causing problems for their own families and law enforcement personnel. If treatment becomes a high priority for both people like me and people who work in law enforcement, then it becomes much easier to imagine real positive change taking place in the substance use disorder treatment field. The great people at Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery work to help people with addiction and alcoholism every day, and if you or a loved one needs more information on the best drug rehabs in Florida, this website has more information for you on the programs page. You can also use the phone number on this website to reach the best drug and alcohol treatment facility in the Panama City, Florida area.

By T.A. Cannon (Contact me at