Help addicts back to drug-free lives

Hardcore drug pushers ought to be put behind bars – the longer, the better. Their victims, often those caught and charged with drug offenses, may be a different story.

As drug abuse expands in Ohio, more and more people are becoming addicts to heroin, prescription pills or other controlled substances. It happens almost by accident to some who get hooked on pain relievers they needed at one time. Many others become dependent because they thought they could try illegal drugs and stop when they chose.

Too often, sending drug addicts to jail or prison accomplishes little. Those who have made mistakes deserve second chances.

For that to happen, treatment programs and facilities are needed. Our state does not have enough of them.

The need in Ohio was emphasized earlier this month when the state Mental Health and Addiction Services agency announced it will use $10 million to establish “recovery houses” in 44 of the state’s 88 counties. The money should be enough to fund beds for 657 patients.

The program is not basic treatment for addicts. Rather, it offers them a bridge between treatment and merging back into drug-free lives.

Such help is critical. Many addicts complete treatment programs, then walk away and slip back into drug abuse.

In both our states, more thought needs to be given to treating addicts, then ensuring they do not relapse.

Legislators also should be building the war on drugs into state budgets. One-time grant initiatives make headlines – but so do addicts who are re-arrested when they fall off the wagon.

Continuing streams of funding for basic treatment if addictions and follow-up programs such as Ohio’s “recovery houses” will be essential. While neither state has money to burn, this should be considered a priority in Columbus.