Compulsory Drug Treatment Gets Extreme
Imagine being snatched up off the street and thrown into a recovery center. That’s right. Grabbed by surprise, thrown into a van, and carted off to some random treatment facility. Well, that seems to be the latest twist in Compulsory Drug Treatment. And yes, the practice takes punitive to a whole new level.
That’s where it begins though – by being punitive. Punitive enough to feel in the very marrow of your being. In fact, one addiction treatment center director even said as much.
“Here we find it’s a lot more effective for patients to feel they have fully atoned and paid for their wrong-doings.”
Ultra Extreme Compulsory Drug Treatment
We got a lot of the story from Fox News Latino reporter Alasdair Baverstock, who was on to the questionable trend a full seven years ago. Since then though, the practice has become a steady income source for the insatiable cartels, who now seem to be competing for “clients.” That means addicts don’t simply run the risk of being kidnapped; they now also run the risk of being killed by the competition.
According to The New York Times report from Natalie Kitroeff and Paulina Villegas, that’s exactly what happened in July of 2020.
Armed men stormed into a drug rehabilitation facility in central Mexico on Wednesday, killing 26 men and gravely wounding five others, in what the authorities said could be part of a fight over territory between rival criminal organizations.
The mass killing occurred at an Irapuato rehab in the state of Guanajuato. Guns were found at the scene. And so were bodies. Lots and lots of bodies. All laying in a pool of blood.
“There is a turf war in the state between the Santa Rosa cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel,” said spokesman Elihú Ojeda, as if it were just another day in the state prosecutor’s office.
Perhaps that’s because it was.
“We have had a series of events of this type,” said Ojeda.
You don’t say?
The Times report says so too. Indisputably. Guanajuato “averages 12 homicides a day, the highest murder rate in the country.”
Compulsory Drug Treatment – Mexico-style
Here’s how Baverstock broke down Mexico-style compulsory drug treatment:
The rehabs are “known as ‘anexos’ or ‘granjas’ (‘annexes’ or ‘barns’),” he wrote. They’re generally informal, and almost always “run by former addicts [who] favor hardline treatments and mental toughness over sympathy and submission to a higher power.”
Cuauhtémoc Avellano is one such former addict. The 56-year-old day manager now runs the Fundación Durango anexo. Eleven years ago though, he himself was kidnapped and forced into rehab.
“It was a real fight to get me in, but they eventually overpowered me,” he told Baverstock. “Looking back, it was the only way I was ever going to go into rehab.”
These days Avellano heads his own kidnapping team.
Kidnapping patients is a relatively easy operation, he explained. “We make sure their families take away any guns or weapons they might have and tell us where they will be at a specific time.”
“Six of us arrive and forcibly abduct them.”
Baverstock says Mexico’s authorities pay little attention to the anexos. After all not only are “the majority are based out of private properties in residential areas, [but] legal jurisdiction is more complicated than with public institutions.”
“The anexos are successful in giving patients a sense of the pain and suffering they have often caused others,” said Casa Recuperación Director Jesús Tapia. But “patients’ families must be very careful about which organization they choose.”
“A three-month stay can be very a long time if you’re in the wrong place.”
Or kidnapped by the wrong people.
A Place for Ransom…
These unlicensed addiction treatment centers have popped up all across Mexico. However, they’re largely located near the U.S. border. That’s no accident of course. First, because it’s close to the growing group of U.S. citizens who “believe that a tough-love treatment may succeed where 12-step programs have failed.” Second, because it’s thick with deportees. It’s especially think with people who’ve been forced out of the U.S. on drug-related pretexts.
Deportees like Shawn (not his real name), who “was detained by police in Mexicali back in October 2020.
“Shawn was born in Argentina, but [lived] in the United States from the age of two,” wrote his friend Matthew Bonn in Filter. “As you might expect, he regarded the U.S. as his country and his culture. But he was undocumented, and [after some drug arrests], he was deported.”
Harm prevention worker Pablo Gonzalez told Bonn that Shawn was near the border “awaiting permission to reenter” the States when he was picked up. He also said it happens all the time.
“Shawn’s abduction adds to the piling number of illicit detentions where people, especially those experiencing poverty and homelessness, get profiled as drug users and [then] get directly put into treatment centers,” said Gonzalez.
Or Just Plain Public Service?
Professor Jaime Arredondo from the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (Center for Research and Teaching in Economics), told Bonn the grab has a public service facade.
“The state government of Baja California is working with the mayors to clean the streets,” he said. That means “mandatory seclusion if you are considered a risk for you, the family or the community.”
Gonzalez agreed that “this is also part of a gentrification operation.” An effort by authorities “to ‘clean’ the downtown streets from unwanted populations.”
We don’t know whether or not Shawn’s predicament was one where rehabs are in cahoots with authorities. We do know though that this particular rehab tried very hard to get his mother to come down from Seattle to free her son in person. In fact, it was only after Professor Arredondo threatened to sue the treatment center for kidnapping that Shawn was finally allowed to leave – providing he first had a new shirt to wear “so he didn’t look like a drug user.”
Is Compulsory Drug Treatment Even Effective?
Despite Tijuana having one of the highest densities of rehabilitation centers in Mexico,” writes Baverstock, “the rate of patient regression [relapse] hangs at 95 percent.”
A former meth addict named Jason Norelli concurs.
“Of the hundred people that came in [to compulsory drug treatment] at the same time I did, only a few completed it,” the former Tenderloin denizen told Undoing Drugs author Maia Szalavitz. Norelli also said that ‘being forced into treatment can push people in the other direction if they are not ready to quit.’
There are exceptions of course. Exceptional exceptions. And Norelli just so happens to be one of them. In fact, when the former meth addict spoke with Szalavitz for the New York Times he was 22 years clean.
Nevertheless, wrote Szalavitz, “Norelli [still] opposes compulsory drug treatment.”
So does Szalavitz
“Criminalization and coercion have helped create a patchwork of addiction programs that is harsh, low quality, underfunded, understaffed and too often fraudulent,” wrote Szalavitz, addressing the U.S. forced rehab racket. “[And] since legally mandated care is often the only way to get immediate and free treatment, a damaging cycle continues.”
It just might keep continuing too.
When Szalavitz wrote the compulsory drug treatment Opinion piece, “at least 37 states had laws on the books that allow parents, police or concerned others to petition courts to compel rehab if a judge deems [a person to be] a threat to themselves or others.”
“Twenty-five such laws were passed or expanded between 2015 and 2018 alone,” Szalavitz continues.
Many folks (and judges) see compulsory drug treatment programs as being akin to civil commitment proceedings (i.e. Florida’s Baker Act). Unfortunately, rather than the standard 72 hours, people can be automatically held for six months to a year.
It gets even worse:
Massachusetts has one of the most frequently used civil commitment systems for addiction, wrote Szalavitz, “and the results are grim. Much of the treatment takes place in prisons, [amid] filthy conditions and lack of access to addiction medications proven to save lives.”
Worse still, “the state’s [own] statistics show that people who have been committed are twice as likely to die of an opioid-related overdose as those who seek help voluntarily.”
Is Compulsory Drug Treatment Even Ethical?
A decade ago, professors Adrian Carter (Monash University) and Wayne Denis Hall (University of Queensland) expressed their views on compulsory drug treatment in a book called Interventions for Addiction (Elsevier). Here’s what the two learned addiction specialists had to say:
Compulsory treatment – the unconditional, forced treatment of addicted individuals who have not committed a crime – does not offer a drug-dependent individual any choice. Coerced treatment of this type involves an extreme violation of an individual’s autonomy and liberty. Mandatory treatment has generally involved the confinement of individuals in specialized drug-treatment facilities or prison hospitals, usually with the goal of attaining abstinence. Failure to comply with any condition of the program usually results in being readmitted to a secure inpatient facility.
The professors also insist that “compulsory treatment programs override the autonomy of the individual and arguably constitute a violation of civil liberties in a manner that contravenes the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.”
Scary stuff. Then again, compulsory drug treatment can be a scary proposition. Granted, there are the (rare) occasions when a person needs outside intervention – for their sake, as well as ours. However, we need to be very careful that their rights aren’t violated in the process.