Speeding is a crime, but when it leads to a car accident, we still help the victim out of the damaged car.
Drug use is a crime, but when we criminalize an addict we fill prisons instead of helping an individual in crisis.
Or so goes the basis behind a new Macomb County initiative known as “Hope Not Handcuffs,” a joint effort led by Families Against Narcotics in partnership with the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery program.
How It Works
Several safe points within Macomb County are the starting point: any police department, County Sheriff’s Office, the Michigan State Police North Post, the Harper Woods Police Department, the Ferndale Police Department, and more.
- Step 1: A drug abuser turns himself or herself into one of the safe places.
- Step 2: Instead of being arrested for drug use, even if currently “high,” that person will instead be offered help.
- Step 3: A volunteer “angel” is contacted by law enforcement officials.
- Step 4: If needed the “angel” will help that individual get medical care.
- Step 5: As soon as possible, that individual will be transported to a treatment facility.
Alternately, you can “turn yourself in” on the “Hope Not Handcuffs” website.
Angels in Our Midst
Volunteers in the “Hope Not Handcuffs” program are known as “angels” and are generally people who have some understanding of addiction themselves, either through first-hand experience or through that of a loved one. Angels recognize the need for treatment instead of incarceration and are willing to volunteer their time and efforts toward helping those who need to start the path to recovery.
Ideally, an individual will stay within the state of Michigan to receive care, but angels will do whatever is needed to find an appropriate treatment facility and get an addict there.
Thanks to these angels, Michigan addicts are getting a new lease on life.
Primarily an Opiate Problem
Drug overdoses have been on the rise for the past 10 years. The biggest culprit: opiates. Prescription opioid abuse has skyrocketed. Heroin addiction is on the rise. Four out of five new heroin users started out abusing prescription drugs.
Though relatively new to the drug abuse problem, opioid use began to rise in the later part of the 20th century and by 2002, “death certificates listed opioid analgesic poisoning as a cause of death more commonly than heroin or cocaine” (according to the National Institute of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse).
Law enforcement officials and “drug court” personnel, including members of the judicial system themselves, are recognizing the need for a change in the approach to addiction. Rather than to prosecute users, efforts can be focused on targeting traffickers: the criminals financially leaching off of the illness of addiction.
Interestingly, the “cure” for an overdose of opioids already exists, the opioid antagonist naloxone (brand name Narcan). If administered in sufficient quantity and quickly enough, naloxone interferes immediately and stops an overdose from opioids. Emergency responders in Michigan (ambulance personnel, hospital personnel, police officers, etc.) are all trained to administer life-saving naloxone. What’s more, it’s not possible to get high on naloxone itself, making it universally acknowledged as the safest, most effective immediate care action.
Naloxone, however, is not a cure. An overdose may not even be the “rock bottom” needed to make an individual decide to seek addiction treatment.
That’s where the “angels” come in, offering hope when an addict asks for help.
Addicts need many advocates, who believe in them even when they do not believe in themselves. Volunteer angels, loved ones who stage an interference, and caring treatment staff are all part of the team.