Should Drugs Be Legalized Essay

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Table of contents

  1. Understanding Substance Abuse and Addiction
  2. Decriminalization: A Potential Solution?
  3. Economic and Societal Impacts of Decriminalization
  4. Programs and Initiatives to Combat Drug Abuse
  5. Personal Reflections on Drug Use and Society
  6. Conclusion: The Need for Comprehensive Drug Policies
  7. References

Understanding Substance Abuse and Addiction

There is an increasing evidence that legalization of illicit drugs is essential to lessen the danger of substance abuse. Substance abuse is a mental health disorder that includes physical, mental and spiritual problem or worse could also lead to death if left untreated. There are several state or conditions an individual could experience while taking drugs such as addiction, dependence, tolerance and withdrawal. The term addiction is complex, and the meaning can vary according to different individuals. Addiction is not an act of immorality rather an illness. Dependence is the use of drugs more frequently while it is hard to halt the usage when withdrawal is apparent. Tolerance is a state where a person needs larger dose of the drugs to get the intended effect. A person who abruptly stop taking drugs may show physical and psychological symptom such as cravings, tremors, diarrhea and irritability or in acute cases respiratory depression (Hart, et al., 2019). It is important to educate not just the society as well as the law maker or prosecutors about why addiction and substance abuse exist. This literature review will present various opinions and approaches in understanding why people are in or not favour of decriminalization or legalization of illegal drugs as well as a few positive and possible consequences. Decriminalization means there is no criminal liability and penalty to individual who will possess a small number of controlled drugs (Jesseman; Payer., 2018). It may sound like a threat to public safety and drug policy or worse an opportunity to future generation to try such drugs if there is no education provided to the public on how decriminalization works. Despite the circumstances, decriminalization nor legalization is the only solution we could get to address other drug related problems.

Decriminalization: A Potential Solution?

The reasons and concerns on both side of the arguments are critical and carefully analyses the impact to society, health and the sectors of criminal justice. Several evidences show as to why decriminalization is an option. First, it eliminates arrest and penalties for simple possession of drugs. It also saves judicial, prosecutorial, and incarceration expenses because the government are spending thousands of dollars each year by housing and feeding those who are in federal prison. Police diversion is an example approach that offers alternative options such as informal warnings, to attend an education course or referrals for treatment instead of prison. The United Kingdom uses this approach called Drugs Education Programme, the program accepts individuals with existing criminal records and can only attend once. Their charges will be dropped if the course is finished. “A pilot evaluation of the program indicated high rates of program uptake and an 80% completion rate among those offered participation” (Luckwell, 2017). “DEP partners also reported improved relationships among police, people who use drugs and community service agencies. However, the evaluation found some officers hesitated to apply the DEP to individuals using heroin or crack who are in fact program targets for the greatest impact in reducing criminal activity. It also found discrepancies in determining quantities for personal use versus intent to traffic” (Luckwell, 2017).

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Economic and Societal Impacts of Decriminalization

Police diversion program is also available in Australia which applicable to an individual who possess cannabis and illegal drugs. This diversion offers therapeutic assessment, education, treatments and penalties. “The Council of Australian Government-Illicit Drug Diversion Initiative, announced in 1999, supported evaluations of program development. This initiative provided a national framework, best practices to guide program development and federal funding for the expansion of treatment services” (Hughes & Ritter, 2008).

Programs and Initiatives to Combat Drug Abuse

Second, it allows taxation of sale and production of drugs by billions of dollars annually. This evidence listed above are for economic benefits that will surely help government financially. Lastly, decriminalization was proposed to lessen the harm related to substance abuse and recognizing this approach in a variety of policies and practices. There are several supported programs that can reduce harms amongst group of individuals as follows:

1. “Supervised consumption site it provides a location where people can use drugs in a clean environment under the supervision of health professionals trained to provide emergency intervention. Attendees at legally sanctioned sites are not prosecuted for possessing or using a controlled substance within or in the immediate vicinity of the facility” (Jesseman; Payer, 2018. p. 4)

2. Another program is drug checking services which has a legal condition comparable to “supervised consumption site. According to recent evidence summaries suggest those who use drug checking services find them useful and that they can:

  • Influence drug use risk behaviours (discarding drugs after unfavourable results, reducing the dose, using with others);
  • Provide opportunities for brief intervention, education and referral to services; Help monitor the local drug supply and inform public health initiatives;
  • Decrease the presence of contaminated drugs in the local market;
  • and Be a key component of a comprehensive harm reduction strategy” (Leece, 2017; Kerr & Tupper, 2017; Brunt, 2017)

3. “Another one is the prescription maintenance program provide individuals with medically supervised access to controlled substances. Results associated with participation in these programs include increased treatment retention for individuals who have not remained in methadone maintenance programs; Decreased illicit opioid use; Improved social function (e.g., reduced illegal sources of income, increased family engagement, housing stability); Decreased involvement in criminal activity; and Increased frequency of adverse events (i.e., overdose) in comparison with methadone” (Ferri, Davoli, & Perucci, 2011; Strang, Groshkova, & Metrebian, 2012; Oviedo-Joekes, et al., 2016).

The proposed programs mentioned to lessen the problem are not enough reasons to decriminalize illegal drugs. Legalization will always come with a risk in health and threat to society. Decriminalization could lead to an increase drug users and deaths by overdosing without seeking proper treatment. The danger to youth while alcohol and marijuana are legal, could also give an opportunity to experiment and try illegal drugs. “People say to try legalizing illegal drugs for a while and see what the outcome will be. The problem of this statement is that the society is not a laboratory where you can experiment and produce irreversible outcome”. (Will, 2009). What the government must do is to establish and provide an intensive training to health care sectors from the community to provide education and information about substance abuse.

Personal Reflections on Drug Use and Society

I grew up in a community were illegal drugs are the only answer to poverty, an easy money what my friend used to say. My parents say that we should stay away from our friends who sell and used illegal drugs because this could ruin our future. Some of them who used illegal drugs say we shouldn’t try it because once you experience that kind of feeling as they say, it’s hard to stop. I asked one of my closest friends why is she using drugs. First, her parents are drug pushers too. Second, she can’t find jobs and needed the money. Lastly, even though she wants to stop, there’s a part of her doesn’t want to stop. She tried to go in a rehabilitation facility to seek treatment (more like a prison), after a year of being sober she went back on using again. The only advice she gave us is we should never try drugs no matter how hard life can be. I lost contact with her when my family migrated to the City, as my parents wants us to have a successful life. I studied nursing and finished with a bachelor’s degree. Now, my friend is a wife and a mother to two beautiful children. At the end, we are the one who holds our own future no matter how rough the road is. If you choose to stay in dark or search that little light of hope to pursue the purpose of life. I chose this topic because it is also the problem my country has been trying to eradicate for years and decriminalization or legalization was never an option. While reading and understanding some of the literature review about the positive outcomes of legalization it makes me want to change my perspective, the possibility and hope that it may end the war on drugs. However, I held into my past experienced with my friend while she did live in a dark past it never stops her from having a wonderful family and pursue her purpose in life. The power to overcome trials is within you.

Conclusion: The Need for Comprehensive Drug Policies

Overall, both side of the arguments are rational, even so it doesn’t mean legalization is the solution to illicit drug problem. What the society need is not just a solid law of enforcement against illegal drugs rather the solutions on how to implement and educate the importance of drug policies to the society. Action plans must be focused on harm reduction, effective treatment and prevention of drug dependency or overdose. It must as well be emphasized that drug dependency and abuse are mental health disorder just like any other disease. At the end, government and society must work together not to end illegal drugs rather on how to implement drug policies.


  1. Hauge, R. (2003). Legalization of illicit drugs: Two sides to the coin. Addiction, 98(6), 717-178.
  2. Jesseman, R., and Payer, R. (2018). Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. Decriminalization: Options and Evidence. Retrieved from
  3. Brunt, T. (2017). Drug-checking/pill-testing as a harm reduction tool for recreational drug users: opportunities and challenges. Lisbon, Portugal: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
  4. Kerr, T., & Tupper, K. (2017). Drug checking as a harm reduction intervention: evidence review report. Retrieved from
  5. Leece, P. (2017). Evidence brief: evidence on drug checking services as a harm reduction intervention. Toronto, Ont.: Public Health Ontario. Retrieved from
  6. Ferri, M., Davoli, M., & Perucci, C. A. (2011). Heroin maintenance for chronic heroin-dependent individuals. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 12. Art. No.: CD003410. Retrieved from
  7. Strang, J., Groshkova, T., & Metrebian, N. (2012). New heroin-assisted treatment: recent evidence and current practices of supervised injectable heroin treatment in Europe and beyond. EMCDDA Insights, 11. Lisbon, Portugal: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Retrieved from
  8. Oviedo-Joekes, E., Guh, D., Brissette, S., Marchand, K., MacDonald, S., Lock, K., Harrison, S., . . . Schechter, M. T. (2016). Hydromorphone compared with diacetylmorphine for long-term opioid dependence: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 73(5), 447–455.
  9. Will, G. (2012, April 4). Opinion: Would drug legalization do more harm than good? The Washington Post. Retrieved from
  10. Hauge, R. (2003). Legalization of illicit drugs: Two sides to the coin. Addiction, 98(6), 717-178.
  11. Way, A. (2014, December 30). Colorado and Marijuana Legalization One Year Later: What Has Changed? Huffington Post. Retrieved from
  12. Hauge, R. (2003). Legalization of illicit drugs: Two sides to the coin. Addiction, 98(6), 717-178.
  13. Way, A. (2014, December 30). Colorado and Marijuana Legalization One Year Later: What Has Changed? Huffington Post. Retrieved from
  14. Hauge, R. (2003). Legalization of illicit drugs: Two sides to the coin. Addiction, 98(6), 717-178.
  15. Way, A. (2014, December 30). Colorado and Marijuana Legalization One Year Later: What Has Changed? Huffington Post. Retrieved from
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