Dear Future President,
In recent years America has seen its largest epidemic of heroin and prescription pills abuse. Addiction is taking over America. Drugs have been spreading like a disease, and now it has moved from our inner cities to American suburbs. Prescription drug & heroin abuse by American adolescents, ages 12 to 20, should not be criminalized because at these ages the brain is still developing. There should be plans for drug prevention and intervention to assist children, rather than prison sentences.
The number of teens abusing prescription drugs is growing at an alarming rate. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states “More than 1,700 young adults died from Rx drug overdose in 2014–a 4-fold increase from 1999, that’s nearly 5 persons per day()” Why are these rates rising? This is because Americans today tend to believe that prescription drugs are safer. According to a drug treatment counselor interviewed by KQED Learning, “Unlike street drugs more than three out of four people who abuse painkillers get them from someone who has a prescription from a doctor to take them().” Basically, the counselor is saying this leads people to believe they are safer because the first intention was for medical benefits, not a quick high. Once teens are addicted to painkillers or other prescription drugs some switch to heroin because it is cheaper and gives a stronger high.
Researchers argue that a child’s brain does not finish growing until almost 20 years old. This underdevelopment of the cortex region of the brain affects this age group's ability to make decisions, whether it be good or bad choices. Ken C. Winters and Amelia Arria stated in their article published in The National Institute of Health, “ risk taking during the teenage years may be normative and functionally adaptive as the adolescent strives for independence from adults, such behaviors may also contribute to an incentive to initiate drug use. Given the unique neurodevelopmental processes taking place during adolescence, trying out new experiences and taking risks (including drug use) is more likely among teenagers than among children and adults.” In other words, adolescents strive for new experiences which often leads them to engage in thrill seeking behavior, such as drug experimentation. This fact leads me to believe that youth ages 12 to 20 should not sent to jail, but instead admitted to a rehab facilitation.
People believe that engaging in drug use is a crime, and it would not be beneficial to American society to change that based on one's age group. The belief that children learn the difference between right and wrong before the age of 12, contradicts the still developing brain argument. Once a child learns right from wrong, and decides to engage in behavior that he or she knows is wrong- he or she should be punished.
In conclusion, I believe that the if the age group between ages 12 to 20 should not be criminally charged for use or possession of drugs. Instead of jail time they should be put in rehab or, another type of drug rehabilitation facility. This is due to the fact their brain is still developing.
Thank you for reading,