Punishment Vs. Rehabilitation: Best Against Drug Addiction
Drug addiction has been a problem for decades all over the world for millions of people. It seems that a solution should have been found by now, yet this issue still continues to present itself regularly in today’s society. This problem affects the rich and the poor, the best solution that has been put in place so far is making drug use illegal. Although, this approach has been critiqued heavily in recent years due to the findings of the possible negative effects. It has been found that punishing drug users actually can lead to them remaining addicted for longer and causing further problems when facing criminal charges. This effect can be seen to be even worse in the poor, even showing to be one of the leading causes of poverty. Though it can be noted that by keeping illicit drugs illegal, society is more protected due to the decrease in potentially dangerous individuals among them. Someone who is kind usually could turn violent while using certain drugs. It also can be seen that by keeping drugs illegal you are also protecting the individual by physically preventing them from putting harmful substances into their body. Although it may seem that making drug use illegal is the best way to prevent drug addiction, it is clear that the current system of punishing drug users in the United States is actually contributing to drug addiction, the poverty cycle, and their inability to get help.
There are several arguments for the decriminalization of drugs. Decriminalization meaning the process by which the punishment associated with a particular crime is reduced or lessened to the extent that it is no longer addressed by the criminal justice system, however it continues to be a civil wrong. One that can be noted is seen in the article, “A Path to Peace in the U.S. Drug War: Why California Should Implement the Portuguese Model for Drug Decriminalization” where it discusses the alleviation of strain on law enforcement and the effectiveness of drug decriminalization on Portugal. It talks about how arrests linked to drugs, including assaults, robberies, and theft all decreased by as much as 60%. They also noted that drug user within prisons decreased 14%. This shows that decriminalizing drugs would decrease strain on law enforcement and taxpayers as a whole. They also described how Portuguese drug decriminalization decreased the rate of drug use in the country. This clearly shows that by decriminalizing drugs, it is allowing people to break the cycle of drug addiction sooner, therefore decreasing drug addiction as a whole.
When thinking of a drug addict, it is likely to see a homeless person getting high all the time, possibly doing absurd things for drugs, craving the drug nonstop like a zombie. Although, this view is actually incorrect in most cases. Some, when asked the same question, may think of a close relative, a businessman, or even a multi-millionaire. This is because the reality of drug addiction is that anyone can be an addict. Drug addiction is found widely across not only those in poverty but also among those considered rich, successful, or maybe even “perfect”. Though, while this is true, it can be seen that the negative effects of the punishment of drug users effects the poor more severely.
It is well known that treatment centers for drug addiction are expensive and sometimes highly selective. This contributes severely to the struggle of addicts due to the inability for addicts to get help without wealth. It can also be noted that the current model of punishing drug users is almost counterintuitive to wanting to help them. With fines, jail time, and the cost of treatment adding up, those who actually want help have to not only change their mental state but also come up with sometimes tens of thousands of dollars in order to actually get it. This topic is well explained in the article, “Prosecuting Poverty, Criminalizing Care”, by Wendy Bach, where it says, “For the majority … in the criminal system, there is no evidence in their court files that they were even offered or received care. Instead, the case files document what so many poor, low-level offenders face: jail, bail, fines, probation, and the everpresent threat of more punishment.” This shows that by punishing drug users, you are making treatment nearly impossible, therefore causing higher rates of addiction overall.
The shift of funds from criminalizing drug users to helping drug users find treatment can lead to many positive results. I have seen in personal experience that many drug users, when getting out of jail or prison, go right back to drug use. Sometimes this is due to not knowing where to go next or how to get help. It is likely that they feel worse than they did before their sentence, which can lead to the urge to use again. This is because the current system of incarcerating drug users focuses on punishment rather than rehabilitation. Many drug users use drugs to hide emotional pain, physical pain, or general dismay in their lives. By punishing them, you are not helping them with these underlying issues but rather making them worse in many cases. This is why many drug users go right back to using. If this shift was made from punishing them to helping them when they’re caught with drugs, it is just common sense that they would be much less likely to go back to using drugs when they get out. This concept can be seen well in the article, “Data show no relationship between prison terms and drug misuse” where it shows clear data stating that prison does nothing to stop drug users from using drugs. It also discusses the topic of treating drug addiction rather than punishing drug addiction, stating that, “ An estimated 22 million Americans needed substance use treatment in 2015, but only about 1 in 10 received it.”, then going on to describe some places’ use of rehabilitation and the effectiveness of it.
Overall, it can be seen that the current method of punishing drug users is not working. By punishing drug addicts rather than helping them to get treatment, it is overall contributing to the reoccurrence of drug use and the poverty cycle. It has been noted that drug use amongst the poor is a much larger issue because it is very difficult to find help when you do not have the money. It is also more likely that someone will be imprisoned when they are in poverty, due to their inability to find good lawyers, inability to pay bail or bonds, and lack of access to successful alternatives. This is a growing issue around the world and the current methods are not cutting it. It is clear that the shift from incarceration to rehabilitation needs to be made in order to help solve the problem. Drug addiction effects everyone, whether you know an addict personally or have seen them on the street, it is agreed that we need to find help for them, because the cycle of punishment and relapse is not one we need to continue.
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