Practically 50 years right 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 connected with drug use for decades, with confirmed achievement. Switzerland was the first country to open an overdose prevention web-site more than 30 years ago, saving numerous lives and with out recording a single fatal overdose. Certainly, due to the fact the 1990s, the quantity of opioid-connected deaths has fallen by more than 60%. Portugal decriminalized the private use of all drugs in 2001, and due to the fact then, overdose deaths have decreased by a lot more than 80%. As a group of U.S. prosecutors learned during a recent trip to Portugal, decriminalization worked in massive component since it helped lower 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 stick to this lead and embrace a new worldwide vision for drug policy primarily based on principles of harm reduction and respect of basic human rights, which includes the correct to well being care. Harm reduction is a public well being philosophy that posits governments can a lot more correctly and humanely address substance use by aiming efforts at minimizing the damaging consequences of drug use. These approaches contain needle exchanges and overdose prevention web-sites, exactly where folks can use drugs below the supervision of men and women 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 require 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 remedy buprenorphine and has named for the opening of a supervised consumption web-site.
Just before a lot more lives are lost to jails or overdose deaths, leaders need to stick to the instance of these pioneers and other nations about the globe. Criminalizing and incarcerating folks for drug-connected offenses not only hasn’t worked but has led to added 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-connected overdoses. We know now that most folks who use drugs do not create a substance use disorder, but for these who do, remedy is far a lot more successful than jail. Harsh approaches don’t reduce drug provide or use. They just drive folks 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 lower overdoses and limit the spread of ailments. Criminalizing folks who use drugs does not just fail to make folks safer and healthier, it tends to make them sicker and a lot more probably to overdose in the shadows.
This shift from punishment to harm reduction calls for a fundamental transform in attitudes around drug use and the nature of addiction. From criminalizing folks who sell drugs to fund their addiction, to jailing folks who relapse in the course of court-mandated remedy, the thought of drug use as a moral failing is deeply embedded in as well several of our justice method policies. Correct transform will call for us to finish our counterproductive use of criminal penalties for folks who use drugs, cease demonizing them, and as an alternative treat them as men and women deserving of compassion and care.
Worldwide leaders, researchers and well being care providers have currently performed the important operate of displaying that harm reduction combined with the decriminalization of drug use and possession operates in communities about the globe. 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 folks who use drugs deserve dignity and respect, not isolation, jailing and death.