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Justice and Treatment: Trauma is the Root Cause of Addiction: New Study

New research suggests that addiction is only a symptom of a larger fundamental problem. The real cause of addiction is trauma according to a new study presented by Dr. Gabor Mate at the sixth International Training Symposium on Innovative Approaches to Justice: Where Justice and Treatment Meet. The conference was held in July in Canada. Judges, lawyers and professionals who work in drug courts from Canada and the United States attended.

“A lot of issues that people have are related to a trauma in their life … so we’re bringing in professionals to talk about the nuts and bolts of how you deal with that population in courts,” said Canadian Judge Clifford Toth, one of the organizers of the conference.

The conference focused on how drug courts view trauma as it relates to those accused of a drug-related crime. “There is recognition in the courts that there is no justice without health,” Dr. Mate said. Courts are recognizing that people are acting out because of their trauma.

“When we understand that people who are addicted are traumatized people, now we have to take an approach that will help them heal that trauma, rather than make it worse by locking them up,” Dr. Mate said.

Incarceration vs Treatment

Everyone suffering from the disease of addiction deserves treatment, just as a patient with heart disease would be entitled to cardiac care. By understanding addiction as a disease and acknowledging that treatment is the most effective way for those suffering to recover, the solution to have addiction treatment incorporated into the criminal justice system is clear. 

Treatment can be a condition of probation but more and more drug courts are blending judicial monitoring with treatment. These relatively new options take into consideration that incarceration may not be the right solution for addicts who have engaged in criminal behavior, but are not a threat to society. In many cases, an addict in a non-prison residential treatment facility will thrive in a way that would never happen in prison.

The Facts of the Case

Most inmates who need treatment don’t receive it. Only 11 percent of all addicted inmates receive any treatment during their incarceration, according to CASAColumbia. 65 percent of inmates incarcerated in our prisons and jails meet the medical criteria for trauma-related addiction. More than half of juvenile or youthful offenders incarcerated in state prisons and local jails also meet medical criteria for trauma and addiction involving alcohol or other drugs.

Linking Trauma and Addiction to Criminal Justice

While some individuals are fortunate enough to have a judge who understands the benefits of treatment, not all judges do. This is why drug courts are important. Drug courts are seeing firsthand the impact treatment can make in the lives of addicts. In particular, those affected by trauma and other co-occurring mental health disorders stemming from painful life experiences seem to thrive in an in-patient treatment setting.  

If you or a loved one is affected by trauma-related addiction and facing legal consequences, recovery has significant benefits for you. Your options may widen as you consider investing in the solution of transforming your life through treatment and therapy. Often, the judge and prosecutors in your case will agree.


About Niznik Behavioral Health

Niznik Behavioral Health is a national provider of behavioral health services for adolescents and  adults with Joint Commission accredited facilities specializing in a full continuum of care including safe and comfortable medical detox programs, residential treatment, partial hospitalization programs (PHP), intensive outpatient programs (IOP) and outpatient (OP) services, as well as assistance with aftercare through our Alumni programs.