To The President of the United States,
The drug epidemic in the united states continues to evolve faster than we, as a nation, can evolve to fight it. I have seen those who come from prison resort straight back to their old ways and I have witnessed students‒some even my best friends‒self medicate with prescription painkillers that I know could eventually lead to much worse. For years, as I watched my cousin go to prison for nonviolent drug offences while only knowing him as kind-hearted, as I asked my mother why good people who needed help got locked up I was always greeted by the same short answer. That this is simply the way it is. I received similar answers when I asked why my two cousins who died within months of each other due to heroin overdoses couldn’t receive help and their death was treated as a dark secret and a taboo. I refuse to accept this. Often times the offenders who are arrested and charged with possession, or numerous other charges, are addicts who without the help they need will most likely end up in a continuing cycle of prisons, being supported by family members, and being on the street. They have an endless number of legal and court fee’s that pile up while they are unable to find work. By treating the illness of addiction this way, the epidemic continues to spread not only through our inner cities like many are aware of but also through our suburbs where children of the middle class and wealthy families are becoming victims that are incredibly ignored.
As the rate of young people who abuse prescription painkillers increases dramatically, and over 2,500 youth abuse pills for the first time every day, as does young people’s risk of turning to harder drugs increase (foundation for a drug-free world, 2014). I go to an upper-middle class high school and all around me I see teenagers fall into these addictions and it scares me. My closest friend lives in a lower class area and he see’s it even more. He’s lived through it. It scares me so much to see these kids who have hardly even started living do these tragically dangerous drugs. Drugs that often times can lead to the use of Heroin amongst other hard drugs because Heroin is cheaper, stronger and to many addicts seems like the best option. As drug rates rise, so does the number of overdoses and how many we have incarcerated. It is my strong belief that drug addiction should not be treated as a crime, but instead as a public health issue and mental illness. This would allow those who suffer from drug addiction to get help that they desperately need instead of being put into a prison where it is likely that upon their exit they would most likely just be unable to get a job and lead a life out of poverty, simply restarting the cycle of drugs and then prison. This is using so much of our taxpayer money that could be going towards education, which is one way to end this poverty cycle and the so called “prison pipeline” that is profiting off the imprisonment of masses. The decriminalization, not necessarily the legalization, of all drugs is the only correct way to approach this growing problem. Not only will this work, but there is solid proof and examples of it working. In Portugal a law was passed in 2001 decriminalizing all of its drugs and they chose to treat the possession of small amounts and use of all drugs as a public health issue. The results were absolutely incredible. Use in both youth and adults is down, as well as the cases of HIV. Another outcome of this was that Portugal now has some of the lowest rates of drug related deaths in the world (Branch, 2015).
I have seen addiction ruin and end people’s lives so many times that sometimes I fear I will someday become numb to it, and that is a world I never want to live in, and that I don’t want my children or anyone else’s children to live in. A future that continues like the world we live in now. So I call on you, in your position of incredible power, please understand how someone in my position feels about this tragic cycle and epidemic. Take action and stand for the future of this nation, I don’t want to have to wait until I myself become a politician to see change and to get stop seeing whole schools being shaken by overdoses due to a heroin epidemic, and to watch seventeen year olds getting their lives permanently damaged due to the illness of addiction. Let’s get them help and help these young people build lives and careers to end the cycle of tragedy that plagues our nation.
Sincerely, Meghan Forshey