Our country is in the grips of an opioid epidemic. Beyond that, many individuals are addicted to both legal and illegal substances, which can have a negative impact on their lives and the choices they make. While addiction in itself is a mental health issue, it can often mask other mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and other mood and personality disorders. This can have serious implications for the criminal justice system and those who are funneled into it.
With more information about mental illnesses, the criminal justice system has worked to help those who would benefit from care rather than incarceration by placing them appropriately. For this to happen, however, it’s important for both the accused and the defense lawyer to understand the diagnosis and the legal requirements for a drug court diversion program.
To help rehabilitate first-time drug offenders with a substance use problem, Florida has established a drug court system. This system aims to give first-time offenders a second chance. In addition to individuals who are suffering from addiction, the Florida drug court system may also be helpful for those who have a dual diagnosis.
What is Dual Diagnosis?
Dual diagnosis means that an individual has co-occurring mental health and substance abuse issues. For example, an individual that has an addiction to oxycodone and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder would be considered to have dual diagnosis. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2014), there are 7.9 million people in the United States alone that have both a substance use disorder and a mental disorder.
Those who have dual diagnosis generally benefit from specialized treatment that takes both diagnoses into account. Otherwise, if one diagnosis is left untreated (for example, seeking addiction treatment but not treatment for an anxiety disorder), it makes the treatment less effective and may increase the chances of relapse.
Unfortunately, many people with substance use problems go undiagnosed. This may be because substance use masks the symptoms of another mental health disorder or because they fail to seek treatment. Regardless, for those seeking to rehabilitate or to make use of the Florida drug court system, diagnosis is essential.
Symptoms of Dual Diagnosis
If you believe that you or someone you love may have dual diagnosis but not have a diagnosis from a reputable mental health professional, it’s important that they seek help in order to gain a diagnosis. This can assist with implementing an integrated treatment plan which takes all diagnoses into account.
The symptoms of mental health conditions can vary widely, however, if you or a loved one are experiencing some of the following issues, seek medical attention:
- Extreme mood changes
- Changes in behavioral patterns
- Anxiety that is keeping you from acting
- No longer enjoy things you used to
- Suicidal thoughts
Substance abuse, regardless of whether it’s alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal drugs, can lead to:
- Erratic behavior
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Increasingly risky behaviors
- Inability to moderate use or quit
These are just some of the symptoms that an individual with a mental disorder or a substance use disorder may encounter. You can find more information regarding dual diagnosis at NAMI.org.
Using the Drug Court System
Individuals who have been charged with a crime and who have a substance use issue or a dual diagnosis may benefit from using Florida’s drug court system. With a less adversarial approach and the ability to participate in substance abuse programs, drug court provides a useful resource for those charged with purchase or possession of a drug.
In order to take advantage of this opportunity, an individual must be ready to take responsibility for their substance use and act. This voluntary program requires drug testing and treatment for a specified amount of time. Once the program is successfully completed, charges against the defendant are dropped. This is a great program for first-time offenders and individuals who understand they have a problem. It is certainly not easy and does require a commitment, however, it is a worthwhile alternative to jail time.
To better understand how the drug court system works and whether you or a loved one are eligible, contact Mike G Law as soon as possible.
Beyond the Drug Court System
Even if you are not eligible for drug court, a dual diagnosis may be used in your defense. It’s important to choose a Tampa defense lawyer who understands the needs of those with such a diagnosis and is skilled at helping defendants get their voices heard.
Mental health issues may be raised during a case to help a judge understand the needs of a defendant. In some cases, this may result in court-ordered treatment instead of incarceration. Currently, Florida is in the process of expanding its mental health courts. Similar to the drug courts, mental health courts aim to ensure that offenders with a history of mental health issues are provided with the treatment they need to manage their condition. As with drug courts, the goal is to provide alternatives to the traditional incarceration model. The only way to be considered for these types of programs, however, is to share your diagnosis or substance use issues with your lawyer.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, contact Mike G Law as soon as possible. When there’s a mitigating factor, such as dual diagnosis, a substance use disorder, or another mental illness, you may be able to avoid jail time depending on the offense with which you have been charged. The only way to make this happen, however, is to have someone with knowledge about the system on your team.
Whenever you are facing charges, the most important thing is to have a skilled defender on your side. Make sure you have the best representation—someone who is prepared to fight for your rights. At Mike G Law, we aggressively defend each of our clients and investigate all possible defenses. Don’t get waylaid by a smooth prosecutor, seek effective counsel today.