Is Decriminalizing Drug Use the Answer to the Opioid Crisis?
Finding the answer to the opioid crisis can bring with it many ideas about how to tackle this complex problem. Governments attempt to address the issue by passing laws that criminalize the possession of drugs. This tactic punishes those who are using harmful substances. Unfortunately, this can have the effect of unfairly targeting those who are in desperate need of active rehabilitation. Drug abuse is a multifaceted issue, one that can be made worse by punitive measures that penalize individuals struggling with addiction. It’s worth considering whether the answer to substance abuse is to decriminalize drugs instead of turning those addicted to drugs into criminals.
The Case For Decriminalizing Drug Abuse
For decades, America has fought the “War on Drugs,” tackling the problem by treating it as a criminal issue instead of a public health issue. Since the inception of this war, drug use has not decreased in any significant way. Having a deterrent of making drug use and possession a crime has not stopped individuals from using illicit drugs. Instead, it has had a profoundly negative impact on those afflicted with addiction. Individuals who are found to have drugs go to prison instead of receiving the drug rehabilitation they needed. An individual who is struggling with addiction now has to deal with this compounding effect. Not only are they dealing with the ramifications of their drug use but now their criminal history as well.
Individuals with drug convictions can have a more difficult time finding stable employment, which can make the idea of using again more appealing.
Defelonization is a step towards decriminalization. In 2014, California attempted to reduce the number of individuals going to prison as a result of drug possession with defelonization. Reducing the number of prisoners is providing savings for California budgets, freeing up money to use for drug rehabilitation programs. Opioid addiction treatment in California can showcase a more compassionate approach and can have measurable benefits.
Portugal’s Method of Dealing with Opioid Addiction
To determine whether decriminalization can be an answer to the opioid crisis, a notable example worth looking into is that of Portugal. In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drug possession as a way to treat problematic drug use. Since making this policy change, arrests, disease, and overdoses have decreased while the number of individuals in drug treatment programs has increased by more than 60%.
Decriminalization has reduced the number of HIV diagnoses significantly. In addition, there has been a reduction in the cases of overdoses as well. These statistics are strong evidence that decriminalization may be a component in combating the drug abuse epidemic facing our country.
Opioid Addiction Treatment in California Instead of Punishment
For decades, the United States and many other western nations have treated drug abuse as a criminal issue. Unfortunately, this tactic overlooks the public health problem, which is inherent in the disease.
According to Columbia University, approximately 65 percent of prisoners have some form of addiction, yet only 11 percent receive any intervention while incarcerated. Directly tackling drug abuse from a policing perspective without offering appropriate and effective treatment options can leave affected individuals vulnerable to relapse.
Addiction is Not a Moral Failing
Government policies have taken the perspective that drug abuse is a moral failing, one that can be made right by putting in place harsh punishments. But this view can overlook the human component and can make a complex problem into an overly-simplistic one. Substance abuse disorder can be the result of many factors, including incidents of trauma, environment, genetics, and social factors.
Effective treatment modalities are ones that take all relevant factors into account to address the problem holistically. Often, substance abuse disorders can be the result of a variety of co-occurring issues. It is essential to tackle these causes with an effective treatment plan.
Opioid Addiction – Getting Help
If you are struggling with an addiction to opioids and are looking for answers, contact Ocean Hills Recovery for help. We offer a solution-focused approach to opioid addiction treatment in California, which is structured according to each person’s particular situation. We believe in compassionate solutions that work to empower and uplift individuals afflicted with this condition. Our programs offer practical options to help you achieve the life you deserve. Let the caring clinicians of Ocean Hills Recovery help you jumpstart the recovery process and keep you on the road to sobriety.
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About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.