A new report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse classifies drug addiction as a brain disease that affects behavior. Former users say it drove them to commit other crimes, anything to get money for their next fix.
"It's rotten, it's like a monster living inside your head that focuses completely on the substance," said Sheila Foerster, a former drug addict.
The Winnebago County Justice System is working with treatment programs such as TASC to help stop criminals' drug addictions.
"Just locking people up doesn't address the underlying problem, which is the addiction," TASC's Chris Council said. "If they get help for their addiction then potentially they won't be committing crimes."
Winnebago County Sheriff Dick Meyers agrees. People who are locked up with a drug addiction don't just detox in jail, they also get treatment. But most of the drug users who end up in jail are there for different charges. "A lot of people think someone had three marijuana cigarettes so they're sitting in jail for 60 days," Meyers said. "Those days are long gone. We're keeping people in there that are on more serious charges."
Once many users get out of jail, they often return to their old habits. Winnebago County judges often assign addicts to programs like TASC to make sure someone follows up with them.
"Whatever it was I just wanted to escape. Instead of escaping to the substance i came up here," Foerster said.
But funding is short for programs like TASC. Meyers admits there should be more treatment available. Many criminals who commit the most serious crimes don't get any help.