De-criminalize drugs and prioritize public health

In a society where all drugs are decriminalized, a common picture that might come to mind is an increase of drug addicts, young, old and in between. One might imagine crime seeping into to the alleyways of good communities or substances becoming more accessible to the younger population. Although, the term ‘decriminalized’ does not automatically mean that everyone will be more inclined to go on drug filled crime sprees. In fact, I believe that it will have quite the opposite effect on the community.

The stigma associated with drugs is something that I think attracts certain types of youth. Especially those who are more prone to one’s natal temptation to go against authority and make their own path, even if it’s downhill. If the “culture” of drug use is less glorified by society and the issue gets tackled in a completely different way, it will be easier to dissuade people from getting into the drug scene.

Arrests for nonviolent drug offences in the United States is higher than any other country. With prisons overcrowding and costing taxpayer’s money, it makes more sense to approach these nonviolent crimes, which typically involve people who need help, in a whole different manner. When someone is addicted to drugs and in a poor position, why make their life and struggles more complicated. Locking people up doesn’t make them want to do drugs any less, in fact I believe it has quite the opposite effect.

The war on drugs is an endless, fruitless campaign. Prohibition just doesn’t work, and it never will. People will find a way even if it raises the risk, no matter what the law tells them they can’t do. The amount of money that is put into this “war” is absurd, with the U.S. spending on average $51 billion annually.

The best example of decriminalization in effect is Portugal. It’s been 14 years since they decriminalized all drugs. Not only has continual drug use itself dropped on an average of 17percent but drug induced deaths are at an all-time low of only three per million.

The way Portugal’s decriminalization laws work is it treats small drug offences as a public health issue, and offer support through various rehab programs or charges a fine with no further action.  After decriminalization, more people began to seek treatment and became less likely to relapse. When the objective of anti-drug campaigns is to focus on harm reduction it improves the mental and physical well-being of people.

What’s more, if drugs aren’t illegal then that opens the door to vital research pertaining to the medical properties of certain drugs. One drug that is often misunderstood is psilocybin mushrooms. These psychoactive fungi have been discovered to have a vast array of benefits. While one may feel as if their brain is melting during a magic mushroom “trip” it was shown by a study published by the Lieber Institute for Brain Development in 2013, that moderate doses actually have the opposite effect. Instead of destroying brain cells it can repair them and promote growth.

Despite there having been tons of studies finding that psilocybin has the ability to treat depression, anxiety and other mental disorders such as PTSD with significantly less side effects than pharmaceuticals, it’s a difficult avenue of research to pursue since it is a Schedule I substance.

Why fear what we don’t know. Simple research into these things only has the potential to prove or disprove, which seems more than worth it when it could likely improve many peoples’ lives. There are solutions to hardships that lay right in front of us, and yet they are ignored.

The world isn’t black and white. You can always find good in the bad and vice versa. Not all drugs are purely harmful, while others should be avoided. Many prescription drugs are inspired by illegal drugs or plants to, in my mind, keep people from self-medicated: a patient lost or cured is profit lost. I would much rather trust medication in its natural state with research to back it up rather than pharmaceuticals which in many cases are there to keep you coming back.

We need a nation that prioritizes public health over profit. There are millions of people out there that could benefit from this change.

Whether it be through receiving guidance from rehab, or astonishing medical breakthroughs. When a government is less feared, and the people feel love instead of neglect, their faith in the nation will be stronger.