"War on drugs" is a term used for the United States' policy on drugs. The basic principal of the policy is to fight drugs on every level starting from the people that grow the plants that are then turned into drugs, to the people simply using them. The main statement that politicians and leaders use is that we have to arrest every single person even slightly involved with drugs because they are the "enemy". This could not be further from the truth. This policy has been a complete and utter failure. We have spent one trillion dollars on the war on drugs and there has not been one positive change. The statistic of people using drugs is just as high as it has always been, drugs are the easiest and cheapest they have ever been, and the starting age for using drugs is lowering. While following this policy the United States has managed to become number one in the world for imprisonment. We have five percent of the world's population and twenty five percent of its prisoners. More than half of the people in prison are there for nonviolent drug crimes. In 2014, of all of the people arrested for drugs 83.1 percent were charged with only possession with no selling or manufacturing. This is hurting the people that are just using. People that have a disease. The war on drugs has been a disaster and the United States would do better by decriminalizing drugs, thus making addict's lives better.
The media has made drug addicts out to be monsters. The make it seem like they are people that steal, lie, rob, and kill. Drug addicts are dehumanized in America. They have a disease comparable to diabetes. Here is why I say this; they are both genetic and they are both caused by using something pleasurable over and over again. Yet there are organization and 5k walks to raise money for diabetes. There is nothing for drug addicts. They are the cast outs of society that nobody wants anymore. People say terrible things about them when the subject gets brought I do not know how many times I have heard someone say "drug addicts are so stupid". Although sometimes that is how it may seem, this statement is very incorrect. There was a study in the U.K. that proved that more intelligent people, people with an IQ of 125 or more, are more likely to use drugs, including heroin and cocaine, then any other IQ group (Kanazawa). This should be proof enough that these are not the scum of the Earth but in fact regular human beings. Who would have thought? People seem also forget that drug addicts and users are our family members, our friends, our coworkers, and our neighbors. They are people with families that love and care for them from every background, race, and religion. Yes, drug addicts do participate in crime which hurts other people sometimes. But this would not be the case if drugs were legal. Since drugs are illegal these people cannot hold jobs, therefore they have no money, and therefore they commit crimes. In other countries where it is acceptable to use them there is almost no drug related crime because these people are able to lead normal lives with normal jobs. For example, in Sweden there are heroin clinics where heroin addicts who are unable to get clean are able to use every day in a medical facility. The drugs are administered by a doctor in a very safe medical environment. The people who participate in these facilities are able to have jobs, travel, be with family, and do everything else a normal person can do. Finally, a lot of people question drug addict's morals because they are not able to stop. So many people wonder and ask me questions as to why drug addicts cannot stop. I always tell them the same thing. They have rewired their brains in a way that anyone who is not an addict could never understand. This can take up to 2 years to even begin to be rewired in positive ways (Bourzac). This leaves the addict wide open for relapse and using, which is often the case. The only way a person can get away from drugs is by rewiring their brains. To do this they must have long term abstinence, learn how to cope on their own without the help of drugs, and start leading their daily routine in a completely new healthy way. This is how you rewire your brain, but it takes time. Sometimes the addict comes into situations or problems along the way that they cannot handle because their brain is still wired to be an addict. This is where the relapsing comes in. So no they do not have terrible morals, they have a brain that needs to be healed. There is nothing wrong with them other than they used something that made them feel good too much.
The reason there is so much negativity around drug addiction is United States government and leaders. They have the media portraying drug addicts in a certain light so that is what believe they are really like. Other countries do not have the same ridiculous views that we have because they are led by people that actually know what they are talking about. There is a reason they want us to feel like that. The reason is the more we vote in favor of mandatory minimums and arresting people for petty drug crimes the more money law enforcement gets, meaning they make more. Treating drugs addicts like this does absolutely nothing positive for us as citizens but this is what we have been told to believe so of course we are not questioning it. Of course one of them ever mentioned that they have plugged one trillion dollars over the past 30 years into arresting everybody but it has absolutely no effect. No one has stopped using, and no lives have been saved.
Our policy does not give drug addict treatment of any kind most of the time. In fact I can tell you personally what they get once they are arrested. First, they get a felony charge. From there they go to prison. After this most cannot get out of the criminal cycle because their felony makes it almost impossible for them to have a normal life. Therefore these people stay in our prison systems their whole lives. If we had a policy of drug decriminalization then when people got caught they could get drug treatment and drug counseling instead, like other countries do. This would raise the chance of these people becoming sober and clean, thus making them cheaper on the taxpayers because they would not have to pay for them to be housed in prison. The cost of someone to be in prison for a year is around $20,000 dollars and the cost to give someone drug treatment is $4,000 dollars. On top of the financial plus, there is the humanitarian plus which is you are giving someone the opportunity to have a full life instead of be locked away for being unable to stop something they may have even started as a child.
A lot of people and politicians think that it would crazy to allow drugs to be semi-legal or legal because it is such a taboo topic but there are some things that they do not understand. The first thing is that even if you arrest someone for using drugs they most likely cannot help you get their dealer caught, which is the whole goal. Law enforcement thinks if you can get the little guy it will lead you all the way to the top. If they do happen to help you, and you catch the dealer not only is someone going to replace him and continue the work for him but he will most likely not give information up on his dealer because most people at this point are involved with organized crime or will get murdered for telling. So basically arresting these two level kinds of people does nothing, therefore arresting anyone for drugs is almost pointless. There will always be a new dealer and more people using drugs. They also do not look at this from a disease point of view because they are uneducated on the topic. Majority of the people I meet know nothing about addiction except for the outlandish things they have heard from others. The drug war has already proved itself to be a failure I do not understand why we are even participating in it anymore. We clearly have to change our policies if we want to get anything done.
The United States needs to take a hint from other countries. For example in Portugal they decided to decriminalize drugs. Now if someone is found with a 10 day or less supply of any drug they are sent to a three person commission for Dissuasion of Drug Addiction which is made of a lawyer, doctor, and social worker. Most the time the people have no penalty and if there is one it is a small fine. Rates of continuous use have dropped from 44 percent to 34 percent in the past decade. Overdoses have dropped from 78 percent to 18 percent and there is almost no new AIDS cases anymore (Aleem). They are doing much better than the United States because they are doing the opposite of what we are doing. In the Netherlands they consider substance abuse a health issue and not a criminal issue (Laws Around the World). The country invests a lot of money into prevention and treatment rather than incarceration. Switzerland has the most liberal drug laws in the world. They provide drug addicts with free methadone and clean needles which greatly reduces deaths. Instead of incarceration they also provide very in depth drug treatment (Nebehay). Both these countries have the same thing in common which is they have cut the amount of overdoses, people in prison, and people getting AIDS and hepatitis C so low that they are almost not statistics. In both countries the rate of drug users have gone down and they have many people surviving this awful disease. Many other European and South American countries are following in the same footsteps.
Drug decriminalization is working for other countries and I believe it could work for us too. Sure this is not one of the most important issues to most people but it is important to me. By handling our drug policy in this way we could save millions of lives. We could save us as Americans so much money annually. But most importantly we could save families from losing their love ones and from falling apart. All this could be possible with real addiction education for the public. We need to look at addiction from a medical perspective and then we can begin to progress. I happy to say that New York City is getting it first place where people are able to go and use their drugs safely. The day our policy changes will be a day that I am actually proud to be called an American.