Can Americans treat drug use as a disease?

Drugs. What are they? What do they do? Why do we need them? And how can we stop the problem we’re facing with them? They can come in many forms. Pills, herbs, powder, liquid. And on top of that there are so many different ways to get them into your body. You can inject with a needle, ingest, snort, and probably a lot of other ways I can’t even think of. Those are the most common ones at least.

Now the definition of drugs goes as follows. A medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body. So, as we all know drugs have their benefits in society. All of us have taken a drug at one point or another in our lives. Maybe it was an Advil pill for a headache, or maybe it was morphine in the hospital as a pain killer after surgery. Whatever it may have been, we all know they have their purpose and their uses for helping us as a society hopefully function at a more normal level when our bodies are acting out of sync.

Taking a bit of a dark turn on the topic though we all know all too well how, just like anything in life, good things can be used for bad. This is all too true for drugs. Guaranteed you either know someone or know someone who knows someone who has a drug addiction. It is the saddest thing to watch someone go through as they struggle to get over the nasty addiction, they have that is not only ruining their health, but ruining their lives and those around them.

This medium article written by Akhilesh Tumu paints a pretty picture on an important solution that America may need to try. His article is all on the decriminalization act that Portugal implemented back in 2001. What it entails is because of their increasing drug problem, where at one point 1% of the whole population of Portugal was addicted to heroin, they had to find a solution. So, after bringing in a panel of experts to find a solution, they came to the conclusion to, in a broad sense legalize all drugs. By doing this, they would use all the money they used to use criminalizing drug users, and put it towards ways of their recovery. What Akhilesh Tumu argues is whether America needs to implement this practice into their own country due to the major success of the experiment in Portugal.

Let’s take a look at some of the statistics here in America. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2013 over 24.6 million Americans, or 9.4% of the entire population of America, were abusing drugs of one form or another. So, it’s quite obvious that something needs to change here in America. Things aren’t necessarily getting better because all we do with drug users, is when they’re caught using instead of trying to help them with recovery and getting back into society, we throw them in prison and treat them like criminals.

It doesn’t help society either because when they are finally released from prison, unemployment for people who have ‘felon’ branded on their record is 75%. So due to imprisoning those with a drug addiction, we are creating a bigger problem of unemployment in America, which can lead to other problems like thievery, and other kinds of criminal acts because there is no way to integrate them back into society and they either return to old habits, or they have to turn criminal to pay for necessary living expenses.

So, while there are so many good things that could come from legalizing drugs in America ranging from decreased abuse rates, higher recovery rates, and less of the adverse effects of drug trafficking, there are things set in America that would keep that from happening which the article points out. Akhilesh Tumu talks about how Portugal is still only a quarter of a century away from their last revolution which means most people are still of a more liberal opinion which means that would make them more prone to accepting the idea of legalizing drugs.

Also, they have a government supported healthcare system which made the switch to focusing on addiction recovery much easier instead of starting fresh like America would have to do. America doesn’t have a free government healthcare system so that would likely have to change. To me, there would be many repercussions from that though. They would have to find some way to pay for free healthcare for a country as big as America and that would have to come out of taxes. Or they might save so much money from not having to provide for so many inmates incarcerated through drugs, that that would pay for a large portion of it. As the article states, on average it costs about $638 per week per inmate incarcerated. That’s a whopping $33,176 just to keep someone in jail with a drug addiction. And that’s the average. Then you get states like California where it’s upwards of $60,000 a year per inmate. With all the prisoners being released from prison who have been charged for drugs, that would save a substantial amount of money that could go towards rehabilitation to those in need of it.

Another problem with free healthcare, from what I could see when I spent a couple years in New Zealand who also has free healthcare, was the quality of care that you received from the clinics was lacking big time. With free healthcare people go to the clinic, and the doctor for every little thing, which makes for super long wait lines, and the doctors are just trying to fit in as many patients as they can so a lot of the time, they are just doing a quick examination of the patient instead of a quality thorough checkup.

So, we come to the end of the article. Would the decriminalization in the American society be more beneficial or more destructive than we could anticipate? The numbers speak for themselves in Portugal. Legalizing drugs has been beneficial to the country in a lot of ways. Many people would say it saved the country. But would that be the case in America? With how much bigger of a country it is, would it produce the same results? Could the government support such a radical change in policy by taking what’s always been seen as a crime, and looking at it as more of a disease? But we also come to the moral dilemma of is this right? Legalizing the use of so many substances that have proved the destruction of millions of lives worldwide? For me personally I don’t want to be in a conversation where I admit that I voted to legalize the use of all drugs knowing how harmful they are and just for the base fact that I wouldn’t want to raise kids in a place where it would be so easy to get drugs like that. But at the same time maybe it’ll fix that problem too. Only time will tell.

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