Drug Abuse, Parenting and CPS: Where Do We Go From Here? (Part 4)

Drug abuse can lead to CPS removing children from parents. But is there another way?


Welcome back, and thanks for joining us again as we continue this discussion about drug abuse among parents, and how CPS involvement may make the situation even worse. In the previous articles we’ve been talking about the four items that Dr Mark Calarco, national medical director of American Addiction Centers, says we need to change in order to address the issue of drug abuse. Having discussed the first three key items already, we’re going to dig into the final one here and discuss how this has framed our perspective on drug abuse for decades.


The Media:

Of all four of the key elements that Dr. Calarco named, this one is probably the biggest. Primarily because it has such a major influence on the former three. The media, by definition, includes movies, TV, books, newspapers, social media, websites, blogs and any other format in which information, ideas and social perspectives are shared among people. As such, the media has a huge influence on how we perceive situations, circumstances, and even other people.


With regards to how the media frames the issue of drug addiction, it’s usually presented in the format of criminal justice. People who use drugs are depicted as criminals. As law breakers who deserve to go to jail, and bad parents who deserve to have their children taken away. That view, while it lines up with today’s legal stance, does not even begin to address the real problem, according to Calarco.


When the focus is placed squarely on criminal justice, it makes people struggling with addiction look like the “bad guys.” This is unfortunate, because according to Calarco’s thoughts, it pits people against those who wrestle with substance abuse, instead of presenting them as people who need help. A better perspective would be to address the issue from a medical standpoint, which would illuminate the brain disease that drug use causes, and the way it changes and controls people’s minds.


A similar issue, that was incorrectly perceived by the public for decades, is mental health. People with schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder were viewed for a long time as “crazy” or “disturbed.” Only in recent years has the public perspective begun to shift towards a better understanding of mental illness, and behavioral and mood disorders. This growing awareness has resulted in more and more people receiving the help they need, and a lessening of the stigma that was once so firmly rooted in the issue. Calarco thinks this is exactly what we need for drug abuse.


Awareness of what the brain disease caused by drug use does to the mind might go a long way towards helping us overcome the stigma. In addition, it would ensure that a much greater number of addicts receive the help and care that they need. In this, the media would do a great service to society if there was a push towards presenting drug addiction in a more truthful light.
Many have long claimed that incarcerating people struggling with substance abuse does nothing to help them overcome their problem. In the same way, stripping parents of their families and taking away their children because they’re struggling with a problem, doesn’t make the problem go away.


Calarco says addiction is not a “criminal choice.” The brain of a person who is getting high no longer operates the way it was originally wired to, which means that they are no longer able to think clearly about the consequences of their actions. For this reason, sending them to jail to punish them for what they have done does nothing at all to help their brains heal and overcome the “faulty wiring.” In the same way, taking away children from an addicted parent won’t help them overcome their addiction. If anything, it gives them less incentive to get clean.


Calarco thinks that as soon as people come to realize that addiction has nothing to do with “right and wrong”, we will be able to start making strides towards overcoming it. Until then, we have to hope that the media will catch on to what many expert are already realizing, and will begin to present a different, more compassionate, and certainly more accurate view of addiction.


We hope that this series has given you something to consider, and shed some light on the difficult subject of addiction. As experienced CPS defense attorneys, we’ve spent decades defending parents against an overzealous child welfare system. Some of our clients have struggled with substance abuse, and we’ve seen firsthand how CPS can use child removal as a threat and a tool to manipulate parents who are struggling with addiction. If you or a loved one need help in dealing with CPS, please call us immediately at 866 766 5245. We are here to help you.