Concept of the Month -- August 2003

Drugs as Escape or as Facilitators?

When the offender who uses drugs explains why, he is likely to speak in terms of "escape". And the professional literature speaks of drugs as escape from a variety of situations -- e.g., the soul-searing environment in which the person lives, a dysfunctional family, and so forth. The fact is that many people would like to escape any number of adversities, but they do not use drugs. They deal with adversity in a variety of ways including meeting it head on and trying to surmount it. What is the drug-using criminal escaping? A hard day at the office? Studying four hours for an exam? When you probe, you find that what he is in fact "escaping" is facing the obligations and problems that exist in life. He uses drugs in search of something he wants, not escape. For the criminal who uses drugs, he seeks mainly more exciting crimes, sexual conquests, or an enhanced sense of power and control. Of course, if he is despondent, drugs may actually be an incentive to end that state of mind by taking his own life -- drugs as facilitators of suicide. More likely, however, if he is feeling down, relief is only a swallow, an injection, or a snort away and he goes in search of excitement through crime, sex, or exercising control over other people. The point, then, is that, rather than offering escape, drugs are facilitators of whatever the criminal wants. It is only after the fact, when held accountable by others, that he sounds the "escape" theme.

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