Dr. Sally L. Satel is a psychiatrist who works in a methadone clinic in Washington and specializes in drug-addiction. She wrote an article, For Addicts, Force is the Best Medicine, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal on January 6, 1998. In the article she claims that legal sanctions either imposed or threatened may provide the leverage needed to keep addicts alive and in treatment.
Dr. Satel does not believe that a drug addict is someone who suffers from a chronic illness or a brain disease, rather it is someone whose behavior can be influenced by meaningful consequences. I agree that the consequences can highly influence someone to think of what would be the outcome, but not in every case. Her opinion on chronic illness in relation to drug use contradicts what many doctors and experts have mentioned in the past. She does not provide any data that would support this statement, and in most cases people who are addicted to drugs are not easily intimidated.
She writes that drug use is a matter of personal responsibility. On the contrary, I feel that statement is not entirely correct. There are many cases when drug addiction can be hereditary. One example are the unfortunate children born to addicted parents. Women who choose to take drugs while pregnant cause the fetus to be dependent on prior drug use. These innocent children did not choose their fate, yet they are victims.
Dr. Satel does not believe that we should wait until a drug user is “motivated” to get help, or wait until he or she is in denial. Instead, she feels that addicts should be arrested or forced into a treatment program. I think that a person may benefit from a drug treatment
program if he or she went willingly. I understand her concern for individual accountability but to demand someone to get therapy is wrong. Dr. Satel should leave that decision up to a person that is experiencing the ordeal. They ultimately know what works for them!
Dr. Satel and I did share some views. We agreed that the longer a patient stays in treatment, the more likely he is to avoid future criminal activity and drug use. Drug programs instead of incarceration can save a substantial amount of money for taxpayers that are usually burdened with the final cost. Numerous large-scale cost analyses reveal that every dollar spent on drug treatment saves between two dollars and seven dollars on law enforcement, corrections, health care, lost productivity, and welfare.
In conclusion, Dr. Satel’s views are interesting to read but not realistic. She is not sympathetic to the problem of drug addiction. She fails to realize that our country is based on laws that protect our individual rights, even drug addicts. We cannot threaten or place addicts in jail just because it may benefit them in the future.