Should We Be Decriminalizing Drugs to Decrease Addiction Rates?
It’s no secret that drug addiction is a problem, especially in the United States. From alcohol to prescription drugs to illegal drugs, drug abuse is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States. With about 1 in 10 Americans polled by the CDC admitting to using an illegal substance within the last 30 days of the poll, the prevalence of abuse cannot be underestimated.
Recently, there has been an increase in the prevalence of opioids – heroin, oxycodone, and more – that has led to what is being described as an “opioid epidemic”. This spawned as a result of pain relievers being over-prescribed due to a lack of understanding about their addictive qualities. With 21-29% of users abusing opioids and 4-6% of abusers turning to heroin to continue their addiction, opioid abuse and addiction is at a higher rate than ever before – and rising.
Addiction is a problem that needs to be dealt with before the epidemic gets even worse. Unfortunately, there is no definitive way to stop people from abusing illegal substances. However, there is some reason to believe that turning illegal drugs into legal drugs – decriminalizing drugs – can help to decrease addiction rates.
How Decriminalizing Drugs Can Decrease Addiction Rates
While the idea of turning these harmful drugs legal seems like pouring gasoline on the fire, there is more to illegal drug abuse than just legality. You’ll often find that people make the transition from prescription drugs to illegal drugs – especially opioids – without much hesitation at all despite a large difference in legality.
Below are two significant ways decriminalizing drugs can help to fight against the dangers that drug use and addiction pose:
Safer Use and Easier Help
In many cases, whether the substances are criminal or not plays little to no role in the addiction other than making usage more dangerous. This is because users are forced to get the drugs from shady dealers and unknown sources. This opens them up to the dangers of laced drugs (substances mixed with other drugs) which can be dangerously dosed, increasing the chances of overdose. They also end up taking them in secrecy or seclusion to avoid detection, leaving themselves isolated in case something goes wrong. Finally, when it comes to inject-able drugs there is a huge risk of transferring disease by sharing needles, something that is unfortunately common among the worst of the abusers.
While you won’t find opioid dispensaries any time soon, decriminalization would help to take away the stigma from those who are suffering. Rather than pretending it doesn’t exist, the government could work towards making it easier for those who are suffering to get help, wean off their addictions, and seek addiction rehab without feeling ashamed.
Better Drug Addiction Treatment Resources
In addition to posing a threat to the general health of American citizens, drug addiction has extensive economic repercussions. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that about $600 billion per year is lost as a result of addiction and substance abuse. This money is spent on preventing, treating, representing, and incarcerating those addicted to drugs while also accounting for financial aid to support the users through unemployment, disability, and more.
On average, it costs between $30,000 – $60,000 per year to support an inmate (vera.org) in a prison. While this may not seem like much to some (and is well worth it for some offenders), adding in the sheer volume of inmates imprisoned for drug charges makes it harder to swallow as a nation.
At the end of 2016, 2.2 million people were incarcerated in the United States (pewresearch.org). According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, about 46% of inmates are incarcerated for drug charges, leaving over 1 million inmates to be supported by American citizens and the government. Using the average cost per inmate, this amounts to between $30-60 billion (5-10% of the total cost of drug abuse nationwide) on just incarceration alone.
Decriminalizing drugs would allow for more money to go towards addiction treatment rather than punishment. At an estimated $12 in value per $1 spent on treatment rather than incarceration (National Institute on Drug Abuse), you could be looking at a potential $360-720 billion in value by reinvesting the money spent yearly on supporting substance abusers in jail. This would allow for funding to go further, allowing for more comprehensive and affordable help to be readily available to those who need it.
Use Addiction Treatment in Scottsdale to Combat Addiction in Arizona
Regardless of whether the drugs are legal or illegal, Arizona rehabilitation facilities are one of the very best resources available to those who are struggling with addiction. Addiction treatment Scottsdale can help abusers to wean off of their addiction, detox from the substance, manage withdrawal symptoms, and provide resources for continued help after completing the program.
If you’re suffering from drug addiction in Arizona, consider visiting SpringBoard Recovery. They offer effective, judgement-free, affordable addiction treatment in Scottsdale and the surrounding areas. With their help, you can start the road to recovery and take your life back from addiction.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/monitoring-future/monitoring-future-study-trends-in-prevalence-various-drugs
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
- United States Drug Enforcement Administration: https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/oxycodone
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/index.html
- Drug Policy Alliance: https://drugpolicy.org/issues/drug-decriminalization
- The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/oregon-just-decriminalized-all-drugs-heres-why-voters-passed-this-groundbreaking-reform-150806
- WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/index
- The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/02/learning/should-the-united-states-decriminalize-the-possession-of-drugs.html
- WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/drug-overdose#1
- Vera Institute of Justice: https://www.vera.org/publications/price-of-prisons-what-incarceration-costs-taxpayers