I am a person in long-term recovery who wrote a Sept. 14, 2016, letter in which I advocated for court-ordered mandatory treatment for persons with substance use disorder. Since then I’ve developed a more nuanced understanding of the issue, and I’ve come to understand that what worked for me (in Massachusetts) may not work for others. Data on coerced-treatment success rates are conflicting.

Furthermore, it would be unreasonable to mandate involuntary treatment when there isn’t enough access to voluntary treatment. The truth is that forced treatment, just like methadone or Alcoholics Anonymous, helps some and hurts others.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to correct my improper use of language in my last letter – numerous studies have shown that words like “addict” further stigmatize persons with substance use disorder and discourage help-seeking behavior. Among medical, law enforcement, media and other professionals, person-first language (where the person has a problem rather than is a problem) is the gold standard for treating individuals and increasing quality of recovery. How else will we save lives in Maine?

Better yet, how will we make them worth living? For starters, decriminalization of simple drug possession is shown to be the only sensible legal approach. Beyond that, many common-sense solutions exist at every point along the continuum of care: prevention, primary care, harm reduction, rehabilitation, sober living and opportunities for community integration (e.g., housing, employment and education).

The current system is not recovery-oriented but status quo-oriented. Much of the treatment industry is reliant on quasi-religious and non-evidence-based “therapies” and/or may withhold treatments that are shown to have higher rates of success.

Rather than place emphasis on the modality of treatment, or on adherence to abstinence or medication, we must place primacy on the individual and their continued wellness. We must look to science, logic and compassion, and we must abandon what has failed America for so long.

Jesse Harvey


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