“I was born with drugs in my system,” she said speaking about her childhood in a family with addiction. Dressed in an orange prison uniform, 28-year-old Sarah Jefferson (name changed), an African-American drug offender from Chesterfield Square in South Los Angeles, is fighting a raging battle within as she experiences the throes of withdrawal. One by one as she is stripped of her dignity, freedom, privacy and most heart-rending of all her 6-year-old daughter, Jefferson finds it extremely hard to suppress the overwhelming feelings of dejection and loneliness. She has been behind bars for three years and will remain in prison for another seven years. In the absence of a concrete means to self-medicate, she is in the midst of an excruciating mental crisis in the women’s wing of the California State Prison in Lancaster, Los Angeles County.
Jefferson breaks down as she narrates how she was molested at the tender age of seven by a local drug-dealer. Exposed to methamphetamine at the age of 11, she moved in with a Jamaican gangster when she turned 14, only to feed her addiction. Like several female offenders from crime-ridden neighborhoods, Jefferson insists that her partner coaxed her into committing a string of drug crimes, which cost her an initial two-year prison time. On being released, he again manipulated her into committing robberies and bigger drug distribution crimes in exchange for meth. In fact, he even ensured that her drug urges remain alive so that he could exploit them to his advantage.
If Jefferson refused, he would assault her brutally and even threaten to separate her from her infant daughter. Eventually, a surprise bust by the local drug detection task force, while she was transacting a cocaine deal, landed her with a 10-year-long incarceration in the state prison. These three years have taken a toll on her physical and mental health.
Losing the custody of her daughter and devastated by the profound despondency and desolation of her cell, she continues to go through unceasing bouts of depression. Besides, her formidable drug-seeking behavior further exacerbated her anguish compelling her to look for an easy escape to find relief from mental agony and misery. Eventually, she opened the door to the twin monsters of depression and addiction and allowed them to have a firm footing in her life.
The number of female inmates in jail/prison or on probation/parole across the United States has seen a dramatic spike in the past few decades. According to The Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy center based out of Washington D.C. working to reduce incarceration nationwide, the number of incarcerated women rose from a total of 26,378 in 1980 to 215,332 in 2014, showing a jump of more than 700 percent.
Studies show that the number of Hispanic women ending up in prisons is nearly twice that of their white counterparts, whereas black women are four times more likely to be incarcerated than the average white woman. Such a phenomenal rise in the numbers of female inmates is linked to increasing prosecutions and convictions resulting from recreational drug-related offenses, escalating the severity of offenses and inadequate community sanctions and treatment for women who violate drug laws.
Female inmates are highly vulnerable to dual diagnosis
Research shows that the average American in prison is more likely than the general population to have been diagnosed with a mental health problem, and women inmates, in particular, are known to suffer higher rates of mental illness than their male counterparts. Furthermore, women in prisons are three times more likely than the general population to report poor physical and mental health, which heightens their vulnerability to substance abuse.
Therefore, the need of the hour is to ensure early diagnosis and mental health screening facilities for female felons with a heinous criminal background, as they are the ones are at higher risk of succumbing to both depression and substance abuse. Additionally, authorities should strive to encourage alternatives to imprisonment for non-violent inmates struggling with dual disorders.
Dual diagnosis calls for a comprehensive approach to treatment, which can identify and evaluate each disorder concurrently. Thus, it becomes imperative for a patient seeking treatment for psychiatric illnesses to get screened for substance use disorders and vice versa. In a rehab center, a patient is likely to undergo the following four phases of treatment:
- Detoxification: It involves 24/7 monitoring of withdrawal from alcohol and drugs by trained medical staff.
- Inpatient rehabilitation: It involves a comprehensive and close observation of patients with chronic mental health conditions and dangerous drug-seeking behaviors in an inpatient rehabilitation center.
- Psychotherapy: It involves training patients to take control of their minds and destructive thought processes by imbibing new coping strategies.
- Continuing care: It offers a continuous, comprehensive support to patients after discharge.
Research reveals that dual diagnosis in most female prisoners is the outcome of interpersonal victimization. Unfortunately, America’s prisons are bursting at the seams with narcotic offenders who are turning out to be a burden on the state’s coffers. Nevertheless, they desperately need professional treatment and correctional mental health services.
Seeking treatment for co-occurring disorders
The hand-in-glove association between mental illness and addiction is nothing unfamiliar. On the surface, they might appear very distinct but in reality, they feed on each other and often victims find themselves sucked into the whirlpool of dual diagnosis without any clue of what is happening. The need of the hour is regular care from trained physicians and customized therapies to help a comorbid patient avail the benefits of top dual diagnosis treatment centers in California.
Sovereign Health of San Clemente, California offers a variety of customized dual diagnosis treatment options at its residential treatment centers to treat the person holistically. These programs are specifically designed to help addicts recover from the dual conditions through integrated interventions after a rigorous examination of the underlying health conditions. Patients can opt for individual and group psychotherapy, or alternative therapeutic activities to regain control of their lives.
If you or your loved one is suffering from dual diagnosis, it is imperative to take the necessary medical help before matters go out of control. For more information on dual diagnosis or the best dual diagnosis treatment options closest to the Los Angeles area, get in touch with us. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know about the causes of dual diagnosis and most effective dual diagnosis treatment programs in the vicinity of Los Angeles. We have facilities in all major places in the country. Our dual diagnosis residential treatment centers in California are among the best in the nation.