‘You will not be arrested for using drugs’

In America, we can only dream of this statement.  It is truly a model for a drug policy that focuses on the public health crisis that drugs pose, instead of making criminals out of sick people.  The Netherlands realize that drugs are abused by people who need help for their condition, not people who intend to harm anyone else.  Victimless drug use needs appropriate treatment.

Addiction affects virtually everyone in the US.  We all know someone who has struggled with untreated drug or alcohol abuse.  Unfortunately, many people still think this is a moral failing and not the disease that it really is.  That fact notwithstanding, why wouldn’t you want to help a person of “low” morals?  If you don’t want to help them get the help they need, isn’t that a reflection of your own substandard morals?

Yes, it is a conundrum that people ill with addiction don’t seek help on their own.  Some do if they live long enough, but most need to be guided toward treatment by family, courts or their own failing physical health.  The stigma of addiction makes this even worse: addicts are ashamed of their inability to stop, and their peers and loved ones condemn them after they do not seek or accept help that is offered.

We need more health care options for addicts, whether they are young kids experimenting; long-term users whose bodies are finally screaming for help; and, everyone in between.  Legislators, law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, health care professionals and the general public need to be educated on the disease of addiction and the importance of effective and available treatment.

We are seeing senseless deaths of minorities at the hands of law enforcement recently, and yet we still get angry at addicts who “just won’t stop.”  Something is seriously wrong with our priorities if we miss the senseless deaths of addicts, yet another marginalized group of people we would otherwise call mom, dad, sister, brother etc.  Stop taking addicts to jail and take them to the hospital instead.

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