Monday, January 30, 2017

Ithaca DWI Lawyer: Is a Drug or Alcohol Problem a Mental Health Problem?

Post traumatic Mental Health Disorders
From The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism 
I recently had a client who was upset with their healthcare providers. Their doctors and nurse practitioner were characterizing their drug/alcohol abuse, and the concomitant DWI as a mental health disorder. Many if not most healthcare providers now see alcoholism and drug addiction as a disease much like diabetes or a heart condition.

Is it wrong and/or dangerous to label people struggling with drugs or alcohol with a mental disorder versus a drug/alcohol problem?

All of the Problems and Diagnoses of Alcohol and/or Drug Misuse are Mental Health Disorders



All healthcare providers (doctors, nurses, therapists, evaluators, etc.) use the DSM 5 (diagnostic statistical manual) to place a label on a person's problems with alcohol or drug misuse. It is the bible of mental health labeling. The labeling is not always consistent but it does have a common ground in causation. This terminology is used by and familiar to most of the New York State probation departments, OASAS (The NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services), certified drug/alcohol evaluators, prosecutors, and judges


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM–5) The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) is the product of more than 10 years of effort by hundreds of international experts in all aspects of mental health. Their dedication and hard work have yielded an authoritative volume that defines and classifies mental disorders in order to improve diagnoses, treatment, and research.

What used to be called or known as alcohol dependence, and alcohol abuse the current DSM 5 labels as Use Disorders: alcohol, drugs, marijuana, etc. AUD is now mild, moderate, or severe along with the other USE DISORDERS. The terms addiction and abuse have given way to more broad terms like use disorder. It is stated that between 7% to 10% of the general population have some level of alcohol use disorder. To a lesser degree, there is a smaller percentage of the population with cannabis use disorder, stimulant use disorder, and opioid use disorder.   

Unfortunately Labels are Real

Does it help or hurt people dealing with a DWI or DWAI drugs charge to be labeled as having a mental problem or issue? 


I think it does both (help and hurt). This is because some judges and prosecutors using a mental disease model then feel as though a person needs treatment and rehabilitation and NOT punishment. 

Most New York State probation departments are not just in the business of the monitoring and supervision of people placed on years of probation. Their true interest lies (or I'd like to believe it does) in making or directing a needs based assessment, and then getting people the help that they need. Sometimes this is the case, when everything works as it should, and other times it is a recipe for failure.

Future Employers Want to Hire, Train, and Invest in People With Good Mental Health


With a disease based model for alcoholism and/or drug use disorders some people may stigmatize the label. They may mistakenly feel that it is a moral weakness and NOT a health problem. Some of these employers and those professional licensing bodies may feel it tends to support a victim model. In other words, it's not my fault that I have a mental problem, and my dangerous behavior to myself and others should be seen as something outside of my control. Remember that bad judgment is an outcome or symptom of dealing with an alcohol or drug use disorder. Having good judgment is required for most positions of responsibility. Showing or proving that a person is stable, balanced, and will likely not repeat a past error of judgment is the end goal.

All New York State DWI and DWAI Drugs Charges Must Be Defended Globally 


Issues with drugs and/or alcohol are still vilified in many circles. That is why the importance of how a person progresses through and handles each and every aspect of their DWI or DWAI drugs charges is as important as the final outcome of the case. 

Each step is a documented part of accepting responsibility as a person but also a balancing to distance the bad behavior from the person. In other words, on one occasion bad behavior or a mistake in judgment doesn't equal a bad person or a person always prone to bad judgement.