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Special Focus:  Mental Health, Substance Abuse, & Terrorism

Could Addicts Be Legally Defined As Terrorists?

GORSKI-CENAPS Web Publications
Updated On: February 06, 2002
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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<Read the Patriot Act On The US Department Of Justice (USDOJ) Website>

Analysis of the USA PATRIOT ACT
By Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Presidential Order On Military Tribunals 

Could Addicts 
Be Legally Defined As Terrorists?
By Terence T. Gorski
December 05, 2001

This article was originally posted on December 5, 2001.  It was updated on January 12, 2002.  The article presents an effective way to conceptualize the relationship between the illegal drug trade, drug  treatment, and terrorism.  It presents the erroneous reasoning that could be used to define people who are addicted to illegal drugs as terrorist and proposes a science-based alternative based upon a Public Health Addiction Policy.  The article uses the definition of terrorist that is used in both President Bush's Executive Order Authorizing Military Tribunals and the USA PATRIOT Act.   Links to both are provided. 

Read Terry Gorski's Article On The Relationship Of
Terrorism To Addiction & Mental Health Problems

The new war in terrorism is forcing a reevaluation of relationships among addiction, illegal drug use, and terrorism.  The majority of policy makers take a scientifically supportable position that can be summarized as follows:  

(1)  Addiction is a brain disease that causes serious biopsychosocial symptoms that impair judgment and impulse control and can lead to the inability to abstain or limit the quantities of mind altering drug that are used;  

(2)  Once people become addicted, most are unable to stop using using drugs without treatment;  

(3)   The sale of illicit drugs provide financial resources to many terrorist groups;  

(4)   It is important to diminish the economic support that the illegal drug trade provides to terrorist organizations;  

(5)   Lowering the demand for drugs through appropriately public health approaches will significantly reduce funding available to potential terrorist organizations and should therefore be viewed as a critical element in homeland defense.  

(6)   Therefore, a priority should be placed upon increasing the funding of drug abuse prevention, early intervention, treatment, and relapse prevention for people addicted to illegal drugs;  

(7)   Since  many drug addicted will not seek treatment without coercion, the funding of drug courts, addiction treatment within jails and prisons, and community-based treatment for addicted people on parole or probation should be expanded.  

A small group of policy makers mistaken believe that the best approach to reducing drug revenues to terrorist organizations is to treat drug dealers and drug addicts who buy sell or use illicit drugs as terrorists.  Here is their reasoning.

On November 13. 2001 President Bush Issued a military order pertaining to the detention, treatment, and trial of certain non-citizens in the war against terrorism.  Although this act applies strictly to non-citizens, several of its provisions, including its definition of terrorism and terrorist can set a precedent that could be harmful to addicted people, their families, and those who provide treatment.

According to this act a "terrorist" is  "any person who has engaged in, aided or abetted, or conspired to commit, acts of international terrorism, or acts in preparation thereof, that have caused, threaten to cause, or have as their aim to cause, injury to or adverse effects on the United States, its citizens, national security, foreign policy, or economy; or has knowingly harbored one or more individuals" defined as terrorists by this order.

The FBI definition of terrorism is as follows:  Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

If the activities of buying, selling and using illegal drugs are deemed to be an activity in support of terrorism, this definition could have serious consequences to the rights of both actively using and recovering addicts and those who attempt to help them.  Here's the erroneous reasoning process that could lead to this conclusion:

(1)   Most terrorist organizations are supported, at least in part, by the drug trade;  

(2)  Therefore, anyone who participates in the drug trade is aiding and abetting terrorist organizations.  By the above definition this legally makes them terrorists;  

(3)   All people addicted to illegal drugs buy and use them.  A large percentage of the people addicted to illegal drugs support their addiction by selling drugs to others;

(4)  Therefore, any drug addicted person who sells, buys, or uses illegal drugs is actively supporting terrorist organizations and therefore deserves to be treated as a terrorist; and

(5)  Anyone attempting to provide addiction treatment or any other form of assistance outside of the context of the criminal or military justice systems to people who are known to have bought or sold illicit drugs could be considered to be "aiding and abetting" terrorists. 

It's difficult to believe that this erroneous line of reasoning could ever influence the development of national policy.  Unfortunately, unless advocates for addicted people and their families speak out, it could happen.  We currently have over two million Americans incarcerated, 25% for non-violent drug-related offenses.  Less than 20% of those individuals receive treatment.  The majority are become more psychologically dysfunctional and more prone to violence and crime after being released from prison than before.  In spite of this, funding for drug treatment program is being cut to contain costs in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks while the long, expensive, and ineffective periods of incarceration remain unaffected.    

Its important that we work actively to keep this focused upon a Public health Addiction Policy that supports the effective integration of treatment and enforcement for non-violent drug offenders.

<Read the Patriot Act On The US Department Of Justice (USDOJ) Website>

Analysis of the USA PATRIOT ACT
By Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Presidential Order On Military Tribunals 

Terry Gorski's Article On The Relationship Of
Terrorism To Addiction & Mental Health Problems

Check Out Other Articles On
Addiction, Mental Health, & Terrorism


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