America used to engage in wars that had a clear beginning, end, and most importantly, purpose. Remember that? Then there was Vietnam. Then there was Iraq. The war on terror. I can’t begin to identify the familiar components of something linear in these examples. Even more befuddling is the almost century long War on Drugs.
We have heard the declaration from Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II. War on Drugs. War on Drugs. War on Drugs. War on Drugs. (yawn).
By now, we should recognize that this is a war that we cannot win. Drug abusers are crowding our courts, hospitals, and prisons. They should be in the care of treatment experts. Learning. Understanding their disease. However to no avail, we have spent years and billions of dollars incarcerating the user. We have focused most of the effort on criminalizing drug use. This blogger is NOT in favor of legalization of drugs. This blogger is in favor of focusing more effort and more funding on treatment, rehabilitation, education, prevention and reinsertion of the user into society. Our efforts to eradicate the supply of drugs have failed. Drugs are still readily available. In fact, many would argue the only beneficiaries of our longstanding war on drugs are members of organized crime, traffickers, and drug dealers.
Let’s examine at another approach… The Portuguese Plan.
The following is an excerpt from an online New York Times article from March 17th, 2014:
(read the article)
“In 2000, Portugal decriminalized the use of all illicit drugs, and developed new policies on prevention, treatment, harm reduction and reinsertion. Drug use is no longer a crime, but it is still prohibited. Possession of what a person would use in 10 days or less is no longer a matter for the courts. Users are referred to Commissions for Drug Addiction Dissuasion, which educate them, discourage them from consuming drugs and help them find treatment. The idea behind the new law is that drug addiction must be addressed as a health or social condition. While critics of the law warned that drug use would swell, it has not risen. We have seen significant reductions in H.I.V. infections and in overdoses, as well as a substantial increase in new patients seeking drug treatment. Much of this reduction in the harm suffered by drug users, I believe, is due to the commissions’ outreach, treatment programs and measures to protect users’ health. Police and customs authorities continue to suppress trafficking, but they now have added resources that were once allocated to pursuing users.”
Again, this blogger is NOT in favor of legalization. Decriminalization as you have just read, is NOT legalization. However is it necessary to have such stiff penalties for the user? Drug trafficking and drug dealing should remain a serious criminal offense, but going to jail for a small amount of marijuana is excessive. And costly. The punishment does not match the crime.
It’s time America stops looking at the drug user as sinful and morally defective. The government has publicly acknowledged that addiction is a disease, so it’s time to implement a drug policy which reflects this concept. Focus on the demand side. This war may have no clear beginning or end – but it’s time we focus our purpose. To help our addicts get well again. We can only better our society through the prevention, education, and treatment of the user.
Take the First Step. Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website. Hemet Valley Recovery Center Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.