Practically 50 years immediately after the United States declared a “war on drugs” there is ample proof nowadays that a criminal justice and punitive response to drug use has failed. Meanwhile, nations like Portugal and Switzerland have embraced public health approaches to minimizing the harms related with drug use for decades, with verified results. Switzerland was the first country to open an overdose prevention web-site more than 30 years ago, saving numerous lives and devoid of recording a single fatal overdose. Certainly, because the 1990s, the quantity of opioid-associated deaths has fallen by more than 60%. Portugal decriminalized the private use of all drugs in 2001, and because then, overdose deaths have decreased by extra than 80%. As a group of U.S. prosecutors learned during a recent trip to Portugal, decriminalization worked in significant component for the reason that it helped decrease the stigma of drug use and replaced a justice method response with a public well being beginning point.
It is time for all nations to comply with this lead and embrace a new international vision for drug policy primarily based on principles of harm reduction and respect of basic human rights, such as the proper to well being care. Harm reduction is a public well being philosophy that posits governments can extra proficiently and humanely address substance use by aiming efforts at minimizing the damaging consequences of drug use. These approaches include things like needle exchanges and overdose prevention internet sites, exactly where individuals can use drugs below the supervision of folks educated to reverse overdoses.
Some elected prosecutors are currently top this charge and implementing reforms that recognize the ineffectiveness of criminalizing drug use and the will need for a paradigm shift. Seattle District Lawyer Dan Satterberg has stopped charging practically all private possession cases of compact amounts of drugs San Francisco District Lawyer George Gascon is wiping out more than 9.000 previous marijuana convictions Baltimore State’s Lawyer Marilyn Mosby recently decriminalized marijuana possession and is similarly operating to expunge previous marijuana convictions and Chittenden County, Vermont State’s Lawyer Sarah George has stopped prosecuting possession of the opioid therapy buprenorphine and has known as for the opening of a supervised consumption web-site.
Ahead of extra lives are lost to jails or overdose deaths, leaders really should comply with the instance of these pioneers and other nations about the planet. Criminalizing and incarcerating individuals for drug-associated offenses not only hasn’t worked but has led to extra harms to communities: an explosion in incarceration that fractured households and disparately impacted communities of colour, the spread of infectious ailments and thousands of drug-associated overdoses. We know now that most individuals who use drugs do not create a substance use disorder, but for these who do, therapy is far extra helpful than jail. Harsh approaches don’t reduce drug provide or use. They basically drive individuals who use drugs into the margins of society. Additional, overly punitive approaches that concentrate on prohibition are enormously expensive and take important sources away from efforts that decrease overdoses and limit the spread of ailments. Criminalizing individuals who use drugs does not just fail to make individuals safer and healthier, it tends to make them sicker and extra most likely to overdose in the shadows.
This shift from punishment to harm reduction demands a fundamental transform in attitudes around drug use and the nature of addiction. From criminalizing individuals who sell drugs to fund their addiction, to jailing individuals who relapse throughout court-mandated therapy, the concept of drug use as a moral failing is deeply embedded in also lots of of our justice method policies. Accurate transform will demand us to finish our counterproductive use of criminal penalties for individuals who use drugs, cease demonizing them, and alternatively treat them as folks deserving of compassion and care.
International leaders, researchers and well being care providers have currently performed the essential function of displaying that harm reduction combined with the decriminalization of drug use and possession operates in communities about the planet. If the U.S. seeks to joins other nations that have effectively implemented harm reduction approaches, its justice method ought to do its component to catch up and cease inflicting additional harms. It is time for leaders at all levels of government to affirm – through each words and action – that individuals who use drugs deserve dignity and respect, not isolation, jailing and death.