The United States has been struggling for decades to effectively deal with drug abuse, and the legal ramifications of substance abuse addiction. From the “crack attack” of the 1980’s and 90’s, to the current opioid epidemic plaguing this nation, are we doing all we can to help addicts reach treatment vs. the legal road more and more are finding themselves on? Other countries have gone before us in decreasing overall substance abuse by decriminalizing possession, and pushing harder for treatment.
- How placing public health over punishing addicts has positively affected other countries, and their battle with addiction:
- Communities are safer- with drugs being decriminalized addicts are able to seek treatment over continued criminal acts to support their habits. This looks like less addicts burglarizing, shoplifting, engaging in prostitution, and selling drugs, which helps the community as a whole.
- Stigma surrounding addiction decreases- the biggest barrier for addicts seeking help is shame. Addiction to drugs and alcohol is often associated with lack of moral, laziness, delinquency, and stupidity. None of which suggests understanding and support for the addict/ alcoholic who suffers. Lets join them in seeing addiction as a mental disease and, enforce treatment + recovery vs. prison + continues delinquency.
- Treatment becoming readily available as needed- start focusing on treatment, harm reduction programs such as needle exchanges, and specialized treatment focusing on and promoting prevention activities for teens and young adults.
Given the epidemic proportions at which this opioid crisis is affecting, and killing more and more Americans each day; we need to consider what other countries are doing, how it is helping, and follow suit. Decriminalize possession of all or most controlled substances on a federal level, is our best shot at turning this epidemic around, or at least leading it in a better direction. Currently many addicted individuals have zero access to treatment of any kind in their local areas. If America could begin to ensuring everyone’s ability to access addiction care, we could inherently improve treatment outcomes, and thus increase the amount of addicts/ alcoholics sustaining recovery. Decriminalizing drug possession, and providing greater funding for evidence-based treatment in all parts of our nation, will improve our nation’s communities, safety, and help decrease the number of preventable deaths. So as we fight this opioid epidemic, we hope that our nation’s policy makers at least begin to consider decriminalizing drug possession.