Dear Future President,
Imagine a world where we imprison someone for getting cancer, breaking a leg, or having a heart attack. It sounds silly to imprison someone for a having some kind of medical disorder that they have little control over, but this is exactly what our War on Drugs has been doing to our affected citizens.
Currently, our nation has the wrong approach when it comes to drug policy. Our war on drugs is too focused on getting rid of the drugs that we forget about the drug addicts. We simply incarcerate people suffering from the mental disease of addiction and don’t treat them. As opposed to incarcerating these individuals, we should be working to rehabilitate these people.
In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drugs, everything from marijuana to heroin. Instead, those caught with these substances were given the equivalent of a traffic ticket. Additionally, the individual would have to meet with a panel that usually consists of a medical professional, a social worker, and a lawyer. Most importantly, there is no law enforcement involved. If this panel finds that the individual doesn’t have any drug related health issues, that person will usually just have to pay the ticket. However, if the person is found to be addicted to drugs, they will be recommended to experts for treatment (Hart).
Since Portugal decriminalized drugs, drug-overdose deaths have dropped to just 3 deaths per one million people. In contrast, the UK, a country with stricter drug regulation, has about 44 overdose deaths per million (Ingraham). Additionally, reported usage has gone down in past-year and past-month time frames. HIV cases among drug users, spread by the sharing of needles, has also gone down (Ingraham). In Switzerland, the government actually supplies heroin and clean needles to addicts being rehabilitated. This helps wean a patient off heroin use slowly to avoid risk of withdrawal, as well as cut down the spread of HIV transmitted through dirty needles (Nebehay). Much like Portugal, this approach cut down on drug use as well (Nebehay). But this doesn’t mean that Switzerland thinks heroin is okay - rather, their focus is on helping citizens suffering from addiction.
Sure, these people made a conscious decision to use that drug for the first time, but what happens afterwards, their subsequent addiction, is something not easily controlled. Addiction is a severe mental disorder that affects an individual for life. Their addiction takes control of their life and are rendered slaves to their addiction.
The problem with drugs isn’t the substance itself, it’s what it does to people. Our War on Drugs is like any other war fought - leaving people on the sidelines needing help. We can’t just get rid of drugs to help addicts, we have to help addicts to get rid of drugs. In the end, it isn’t about drugs, it’s about people. It’s time to end this war and shift our focus off of drugs and to those people - our people - that need your help.