Treating Drug Abuse as a Healthcare Problem – Yes

Drug abuse has become more common and widespread with the advance of technology and the quick and constant transport of drugs worldwide. The availability of a great variety of drugs has made it easy for anyone who wants drugs to obtain them. In spite of this easy access, it is not the reason that people abuse drugs. Drug abuse is caused by a multiplicity of reasons including peer pressure, child abuse and domestic abuse, depression and mental-health illness. There are also those who become addicted to drugs after long-term use of pain killers prescribed for illnesses or pain management. For these reasons drug abuse should be treated as a health problem, just as we treat diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Prisons are filled with people who have been convicted of drug offenses and even when they are released the majority can never assimilate back into society. Many of these people originally had no criminal records but become criminalized in order to survive in prison. Their lives are forever damaged and many are forced to continue with illegal activities because of the difficulties in obtaining employment with a criminal record. The lives of former inmates become revolving doors of illegal drug activity, violence and incarceration.

Our drug laws create many criminals but do nothing to help the addicted. Those who are addicted to drugs continue to be so, while many wait in line to replace dealers who are incarcerated or killed in violent drug encounters. The current laws and policies that make drugs illegal are what fuel the desire for many to sell drugs in spite of the dangers. Because there is so much money to be made in the illegal drug trade there will never be a shortage of those who will happily jump in.

There must be an end to the so-called ‘drug war’ and a realization that the solution to treating drug abuse lies in the legalization and control of certain drugs together with a combination of social programs to treat the underlying reasons of addiction. The millions of dollars spent to investigate, capture, try in court, incarcerate and rehabilitate drug dealers are all wasted. No matter how many people are imprisoned for drug convictions, it will not stop drug abuse.

Instead of fighting illegal drugs, funds should be used for education in schools much like is done in Australia and other countries. Social programs could be used to investigate, prevent, and help victims of child abuse and domestic abuse. Schools could design programs that offer counseling to teach children how to deal with peer pressure at a young age thereby preventing many from turning to drugs. Depression and mental illness are a big cause of substance abuse and should be treated as such with diagnosis, treatment and therapy. So many people who suffer from depression turn to alcohol and drugs in search of relief from their medical condition.

Until we start dealing with drug abuse correctly it will continue. Some drugs, like alcohol, will always be used. For instance, people will always smoke marijuana no matter what the law says. The notion that those who smoke marijuana will go on to stronger drugs and become addicted is nonsensical, as many people smoke marijuana and live normal lives. In fact, alcohol abuse is the cause of many deadly automobile accidents, violent shootings and destroyed lives and yet it is legal to advertise, buy, sell and consume alcohol.

Legalizing and controlling certain drugs will not cause addiction, as addiction is not determined by the legality of a drug. Additionally, because we live in an imperfect world there will always be some people who become drug abusers no matter how much help they get. However, legalizing drugs would eliminate the criminal element associated with drugs being illegal and it would make available money that can be used to treat drug addiction. The violence and killing that we see today would immediately decline and virtually end. If laws were changed in order to help those who struggle with addiction, perhaps we would start to see a decrease in arrests, convictions and in the prison population.