Treatment Not Prison is the Answer for U.S. Drug Abuse
An article published in Reuters discusses the more balanced approach the U.S. is taking regarding drug users. Instead of fighting a “war on drugs” the new approach focuses more on law enforcement.
Citing new advances in medical science showing that drug abuse is a disorder and a chronic disease of the brain that can be treated and prevented, current U.S. Director of National Drug Control Policy and former police chief Gil Kerlikowske discussed a new plan of attack to curb drug use. Currently, the United States views drug abuse as both a public health problem and a crime. Learning from other countries about how they treat addiction could help the United States have more positive outcomes in their desire to reduce illegal drug use. Kerlikowske discussed the idea that the international community should cooperate on programs that seek to prevent and treat those who use drugs, help addicts with recovery as well as look at options for reforming the criminal justice system that right now is a revolving door that involves using drugs, engaging in criminal behavior, arrest, jail time and re-arrest.
It is estimated that there are currently more than 20 million Americans in need of drug treatment and recovery programs with only an estimated 4 million getting they help they need for recovery and treatment. The drug problem in the United States does not just involve illicit drugs. Prescription drug use is a serious issue as well.
Examining drug treatment policies in other countries may be useful to the United States to help with the drug addiction problem. By seeing what methods have been successful in other countries it may be possible to incorporate some of their elements into a successful program in the United States.
Treating drug addiction as only a crime does not seem to be the answer as it only leads to repeat use, arrests and time in jail. Finding prevention and treatment methods that work long term may have a good chance of breaking the cycle that so many addicts find themselves in.
Recognizing the scientific research that shows that addiction is a disease not just a personal weakness is also crucial for any successful treatment program.