In recent years, alcoholism has received an abundance of attention by mental health professionals because of its frequent linkage to psychiatric disorders. In a 2014 article published in the Mental Health and Substance Use Journal, the link between these two categories was, once again, reaffirmed. Patients suffering from psychiatric disorders and alcohol addiction were referred to as a unique population and were said to need specialized treatment. This professional opinion should have many individuals questioning how it is then that repeat DUI offenders can be seen as criminals rather than potential victims of mental illness.

The compound threat of psychiatric disorders and alcohol addiction should create a push to examine and reform our public health system. Instead, steeper and more severe penalties are being considered for repeat DUI offenders. Criminalizing and penalizing members of our society based on their offenses rather than the underlying cause of those offenses, may not only work against those individuals but society at large.

According to the Mental Health and Substance Use Journal, an estimated 6.8 million adults suffer from a combination of substance abuse issues and mental illness. Considering the fact that individuals with a history of alcoholism are three to four times more likely to also suffer from a mental illness such as anxiety and depression, it should come as no surprise that many individuals use substance abuse as a way to cope with mental illness. Taking a new approach to the identification and treatment of these individuals may be the most beneficial course of action for individuals suffering from substance abuse or mental illness.

There is an unquestionable link between substance abuse and mental illness. For individuals that find themselves criminalized for repeat DUI offenses related to their inability to cope with a mental illness, speaking to an experienced DUI defense attorney may be beneficial. With their help, attention can be drawn to the obvious and significant problem of mental illness related substance abuse.