Abusing drugs appears to be a common problem in the modern world, and the overuse of drugs is getting unsafe and out of hand. There are numerous ways this dilemma can be handled or solved. The most popular solutions would be treating abuse of drugs as a crime, or alternatively, treating them as a health problem and providing treatment to the abuser. Currently, the United States’ policy considers drug abuse as a crime, but some European countries successfully treating drug abuse as a medical/health issue, there is a growing argument this approach should be changed in our country. According to the World Health Organization, there are currently 2,400 drug court cases underway throughout the United States. Many of these cases are due to drug abuse and addiction. So, should drug abuse be treated as a medical problem instead of a crime?
How drug abuse should be treated in any society is an important and interesting question to answer. Drug abuse is a common problem, a challenging issue, and researching the success and failure of past approaches can bring clarity to what may work in different populations. Drug users who are medically treated rather than jailed are given another chance at life free of their addiction and a chance to make better choices for their future. The current approach to treating drug use as a crime does nothing to benefit the individual user and very little for society at large. A different approach can help reduce the cost of the criminal justice and penal system, which supports the change. A treatment approach will also lead to a significant decrease in court cases in the United States. When someone is caught with drugs and has a drug addiction, they could be sent directly to a treatment center, rather than spending time in jail without the tools they need to get well again. Even if building treatment centers is initially more expensive, the cost is worth the outcome because of the opportunity to save lives and provide second chances.
On one website, Study.com, “Ethical Issues Related to Drug Abuse & Addiction”, Elizabeth Nyang talks about the impact ethics can have on the use of drugs and treatment of abuse. Nyang believes overdosing and becoming addicted to drugs is unacceptable, and people who do this need to be helped. She says, in 2016, the National Institute of Drug Abuse reported over 64,000 deaths from people overdosing on drugs. Nyang continues to talk about how governments have tried to prevent the abuse of drugs after 2016 by court ordering the abuser into treatment. She also says women abusers of drugs face different ethical problems than men. Women in treatment centers can receive birth control and reduce the likelihood of new babies being born with drug addiction problems. This is called Project Prevention, and even though people believe this agency strips poor addictive and vulnerable women of their reproductive rights, it may be a good idea in that it helps keep down the number of babies born with health problems.
A blog post on Inspire called “Economic Consequences of Drug Abuse” agrees with Nyang but also looks further into the financial and economic consequences of substance abuse. Inspire says having an addiction problem cannot only harm your health, but it can also financially harm the nation. If the National Institute on Drug Abuse is correct, then the economic cost of substance abuse is approximately $559 billion per year. Taking into account current economic conditions, the U.S. economy is in jeopardy and could suffer seriously bad consequences. So much money is spent on the war against drugs. Inspire mentions this money could be used in providing education or improving frameworks instead of enacting and enforcing laws to prevent drug abuse. This post also stresses the financial burden on taxpayers to provide additional facilities to treat drug abusers. However, money spent on improving productivity, and treating addiction of the individual is of urgent importance.
Time’s article “Want to Win the War on Drugs? Portugal Might Have the Answer”, states Portugal became the first country in the world to decriminalize drug abusers. Drug violations in Portugal have decreased twenty percent from 1999-2013. Drug addicts there are treated rather than arrested. These same people receive treatment and are finding meaning by living healthier, safer lifestyles without the disgrace of an arrest due to drug abuse. Portugal’s federal government is finding assistance with drug addiction problems. Even though the progress with treating drug addiction in Portugal has been slow, its outcome has proven to be positively effective. The U.S. should start taking steps towards treating drug addiction treatment instead of imprisonment. Knowing the progress could be slow as it was in Portugal, it is better to take these steps instead of doing nothing at all.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse answers the question of what role our criminal justice system plays in addressing addiction to drugs. This site estimates “that fifty percent of state and federal prisoners abuse or are addicted to drugs, but relatively few receive treatment while incarcerated.” This website also says that for many people with drug abuse issues, addiction treatment is recommended or commanded as a condition of probation. Research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse has proven those under legal influence have just as good results as those who do voluntary treatment. The website also proposes not only should treatment for jailed drug abusers be provided, but there should be continuing care, monitoring and supervision after the release from incarceration and during parole.
Northpoint Washington has this approach and says that among the approximately 200,000 people in the U.S federal prison system, almost half are there because of drug offenses. About sixteen percent of those 200,000 people do not have anything more serious than a drug addiction problem on their record.The site points out that punishment for addiction is not treatment for addiction. “Addicts don’t need to be shamed” and by punishing them for decisions involving their addiction, this can add to their vulnerabilities and drive them deeper into their vices.” So, the “solution” the United States has implemented in making drug abuse a crime is actually making the situation worse and is counterintuitive. Summing this up, the Northpoint Washington website thinks that because “addiction makes people ignore punishment and consequences”, punishment is not an effective way to fight addiction.
But the opposing side continues to remain: drug addiction is still in need of jail time in order to be treated.“If we acknowledge that drug addiction is a brain problem and not a criminal act, is it fair to incarcerate people who relapse?” Above The Law thinks that in these modern days, we have reached the top level of drug addiction. It also claims that drug use leads to criminal behavior, and is popularly viewed as an illness. This remains to be a popular idea, even though drug-courts are being made all over the U.S., and relapse is thought of as being punished rather than being treated.
Newsweek disagrees with Chris Christie and his talk where he claims “we need to start treating people in this country, not jailing them”. The site additionally claims that the “threat of jail is often what makes treatment work”. Newsweek also points out that nearly ninety percent of people over using drugs don’t believe they have a problem and refuse treatment. Many people will just fail the offered treatment and it will turn into a never ending cycle of drugs and treatment. Ed Gogek believes that people will get clean and sober when they are ready is a misconception. No one is ever ready to enter treatment, so jail is still needed for involuntary treatment. Gogek stated that he has had patients tell him, “getting arrested was the best that had ever happened to them”. He says that mandatory sentencing should be abolished. He continues to say that prohibition and parole officers who know the criminals flexibility to jail, and know when release is possible, should be given to judges.
Among the two solutions discussed, the abuse of drugs should be treated as a medical problem instead of a crime. The issue with incarceration is that it is not a treatment center, and does not have the necessary tools to treat addiction. It may be a good perspective to think of drug addiction as a long process. So in conclusion, the war against drugs in the US and many other places, could be helped by treating drug abuse as a medical problem. Like Christie said, everyone’s life is precious, and treating people of their addiction to drugs is important for them to live their life that God has planned for them. By helping people get over their addiction instead of putting them in jail is like giving them a second chance to have a better life.