Legal issues involving Addiction and Mental Health

Behaviours that are explicable due to mental health problems (impairment in ability to make a choice) are dealt with differently in the justice system than behaviours that are considered wilful (bad choices). For those who are facing legal charges for offences (e.g., DUI/impaired driving, drug charges, drug trafficking, assault, etc.), it is important to have an assessment to determine if there are underlying Addiction or Mental Health issues that are affecting an individual’s behaviour.

Understanding Addiction and Mental Health

All behaviour is the result of brain function. Problem or deviant behaviours can arise when one part of the brain is under or over functioning so the brain is not operating in a healthy way. Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Primary means it is not caused by something else and chronic means that it is lifelong in nature. Addiction is impacted by both genetics (heredity) and environment. Stress, exposure to substances, family, culture and other factors activate chemical switches in the brain that regulate how the Addiction genes are expressed, especially age of onset and the severity of the disease. The more severe the disease, the earlier it manifests and more dysfunctional the behaviour.

Some of the main characteristics of Addiction include:

  • The inability to consistently abstain (an overpowering feeling to keep drinking and/or using drugs and/or engaging in problem behaviours such as gambling or sexual acting out despite negative consequences and the desire to stop)
  • Impairment in behavioural control (drinking, using drugs, engaging in problem behaviours more often or in larger amounts than intended)
  • Craving or increased obsession for alcohol, drugs or rewarding experiences
  • Diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviours and relationships, feeling annoyed by others criticizing your drinking and/or drug use and/or problem behaviours
  • Hiding or lying about your alcohol and/or drug use and/or problem behaviours

Mental health problems, commonly referred to as mental illness, are common and personally experienced by at least 20% of Canadians during their lifetime. Although most mental health issues typically begin during adolescence and young adulthood, people of all ages, cultures, educational and income levels can experience mental health issues, which can have a serious impact on behaviour and one’s ability to function effectively. Mental health issues such as prolonged problems with anxiety and depression, together with problems in behaviour, can result in psychiatric or mental health diagnoses such as generalized anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, or bipolar disorder. It is necessary to do a thorough assessment, rule out intoxication and withdrawal symptoms to determine if these symptoms are a complication of Addiction or other underlying issues. If Addiction is treated properly, these complications go away; other times mental health problems can occur independently of Addiction.

Health Upwardly Mobile (HUM) is a health and wellness company based in Calgary, Alberta. We are an integrated team of healthcare professionals, which includes medical doctors, registered psychologists and registered nurses. Our clinic provides outpatient services (individual and group therapy, as well as a structured 18-day Intensive Outpatient Program spread out over 3 months) and treatment specific to Addiction, Mental Health, Chronic Pain and Occupational Health issues.

How to get started?

All new patients initially undergo our full comprehensive assessment. This includes a holistic, bio-psycho-social-spiritual assessment to create a comprehensive and individualized treatment plan. It is recommended that all 3 appointments be done on separate days to optimize the opportunity for the patient to talk openly and honestly with each professional and learn incrementally through each interaction. A comprehensive treatment plan will be developed throughout this process and shared with the patient as the assessment progresses. By the third and final assessment session, treatment recommendations will be discussed.

Legal reports

Following the comprehensive assessment, a medico-legal report can be provided at the request of the lawyer or individual to be used in court. The report will include criminal code requirements as outlined by the lawyer as well as treatment recommendations and objectives.

For more information about our services and associated costs, please call our clinic office.