To read the latest US Drug Policy click on the headline above. Here are some intial reflections:
For the past two decades this abstinence and zero tolerance approach to drugs has benefitted the prisons and other law enforcement agencies -but not the general population or drug users themselves.
The new policy for the 21st century offers little change, it continue to be against all (illicit) ‘drug’ use (not just problematic use) and continues to pursue a ‘drug’ free America. In its pursuit of a ‘drug free’ US the drug policy excludes big pharma drugs, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine – somehow despite the serious dangers they pose, they are not seen as drugs …although alcohol is now on the radar as addictive [to those who have the gene?].
The US Drug policy is explicit – it will educate young people to say no to all illegal drugs, and those that are caught in possession will continue to be criminalised, but the new beneficiaries of catching these ‘addicts’ will be the legal professions, drug testing companies and drug rehab and treatment providers as people are placed on Abstinence Drug Court Orders. The business generated by the mass of drug users caught up in the criminal justice system will now have to be shared by Legal Agencies with drug treatment and drug detection agencies. These are the new beneficiaries not the general population or drug users themselves.
But the medicalisation of ‘drug’ use and addiction is pushed hard in the US policy – but to use drugs is neither a criminal matter nor a health issue. Whether you choose enjoy a coffee to start the day, have a few shots to have a good night out, enjoy a glass of wine with your meal, a spliff with a few friends or some viagra later on … this use of drugs cannot be framed as essentially a criminal nor a medical matters – they are social choices and cultural patterns of behavior. Those that choose to use illicit drugs don’t need treatment or drug testing and more than those who enjoy a Budweiser.
When the use of legal or illegal substances get out of control -which happens for a very small proportion of people (legal or illegal) – the matter can become a social, medical and possibly criminal concern. But it’s not a disease, just like gambling, speeding, texting, over eating, violence and abuse are not diseases.
With law enforcement agencies tasked to arrest those that possess drugs and then through the criminal courts subject these ‘sick’ offenders are coerced towards compulsory treatment overseen by the judiciary with the threat of punishment and incarceration for failure to comply, this behaviour modification approach at the heart of US Drug Policy 2013 can hardly be described as offering and drug policy reform.
Those of us who have long to see an end to the war on drugs, who are aghast at the damage of criminalisation and prohibition, might be tempted to embrace the apparent enlightenment that ‘drugs are a health problem’ – but it’d be a serious mistake. Drug taking is not a health issues, addiction is not a disease, and the medicalisation of drug use will like prohibition and criminalisation prove a dangerous path to travel down.
26th April 2013
Understanding Problematic Drug Use: A Medical Matter or a Social Issue?
See on www.whitehouse.gov