Practically 50 years just 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 lowering the harms related with drug use for decades, with verified results. Switzerland was the first country to open an overdose prevention web page more than 30 years ago, saving numerous lives and without the need of recording a single fatal overdose. Certainly, considering the fact that 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 considering the fact that then, overdose deaths have decreased by additional than 80%. As a group of U.S. prosecutors learned during a recent trip to Portugal, decriminalization worked in huge aspect mainly because it helped cut down the stigma of drug use and replaced a justice program response with a public overall health beginning point.
It is time for all nations to stick to this lead and embrace a new international vision for drug policy primarily based on principles of harm reduction and respect of basic human rights, like the ideal to overall health care. Harm reduction is a public overall health philosophy that posits governments can additional properly and humanely address substance use by aiming efforts at lowering the unfavorable consequences of drug use. These tactics involve needle exchanges and overdose prevention web-sites, exactly where individuals can use drugs below the supervision of people educated to reverse overdoses.
Some elected prosecutors are currently major this charge and implementing reforms that recognize the ineffectiveness of criminalizing drug use and the want 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 named for the opening of a supervised consumption web page.
Ahead of additional lives are lost to jails or overdose deaths, leaders ought to stick to 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 more harms to communities: an explosion in incarceration that fractured households and disparately impacted communities of colour, the spread of infectious illnesses 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 additional efficient than jail. Harsh approaches don’t reduce drug provide or use. They merely drive individuals who use drugs into the margins of society. Additional, overly punitive tactics that concentrate on prohibition are enormously expensive and take very important sources away from efforts that cut down overdoses and limit the spread of illnesses. Criminalizing individuals who use drugs does not just fail to make individuals safer and healthier, it tends to make them sicker and additional most likely to overdose in the shadows.
This shift from punishment to harm reduction demands a fundamental adjust 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 through court-mandated therapy, the thought of drug use as a moral failing is deeply embedded in also numerous of our justice program policies. Accurate adjust will call for us to finish our counterproductive use of criminal penalties for individuals who use drugs, cease demonizing them, and as an alternative treat them as people deserving of compassion and care.
Worldwide leaders, researchers and overall health care providers have currently completed the essential perform 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 tactics, its justice program ought to do its aspect 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.