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The issue of the war on drugs has been a big problem, especially after Nixon was elected in 1968. The drug control policies that were put in place and still are has done unfathomable damage to our society. There are so many things to consider when thinking about drug prohibition, legalization, and decriminalization policies. In addition to this, the drug treatment programs that are out there receive much criticism, but they could be better. This paper will further examine each of these problems and provide changes and ways to better the view and problem of drugs in our society.
To begin, there are two different types of drug policies that are out there. The first type is demand-side policies and the other is supply-side policies. Demand-side policies tend to focus more on reducing the need or demand that a user or a potential user have for drugs. This particular policy aims to educate and provide treatment to younger people before they start drugs or any person who is already doing drugs to recognize and become aware of the potential harm that they are subjecting themselves to.
An example of a demand-side policy would be organizations that work to inform the public and younger kids about drugs and the potential harm that it causes. One particular program is the DARE program that serves to deter younger kids from giving in to peer pressure and to drugs by using different fear tactics. This program has its pros and cons of its effectiveness, one significant con being that it only works for so long.
Supply-side policies focus more on trying to curtail or reduce the supplies of drugs that might otherwise be made available to users in the population. These types of policies work to change the legal definition by legalizing and decriminalizing any individual drug. An example of a supply-side policy would be to legalize a drug such as marijuana only for medical reasons. By changing the legal definition of this drug, it made it easier to get which then affects the supply of the drug. This is good because it cuts down on the amount of drug dealers in the country.
Some of the advantages of demand-side strategies include two approaches that were mentioned earlier which is drug treatment and drug education. The purpose of drug treatment is ultimately to step in and intervene in the lives of individuals who have already become addicted to drugs. The process of drug rehabilitation and drug treatment for one person can be totally different from that of another person. The ways in which a person achieves sobriety is different from person to person because what may work for one is not guaranteed to work for the next. Drug treatment program such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and others similar to it, has helped many people be successful in maintaining being sober. The advantages of drug education is very beneficial to younger audiences. Since programs like DARE do use fear tactics, it works better and shows a little more promise with young people. The disadvantage of this is that it doesn’t work for long since they do eventually get older and start experimenting with other things and meet certain people. This program has not been very effective in deterring people from using drugs. Another disadvantage is that these programs are not operating based on empirical data. These programs are also only happening every blue moon, so they are not being implemented enough for them to be remotely effective. Changing this to where it is incorporated into our school districts more will yield greater success rates in swaying young students away from drug use.
The advantages of supply-side policies are the strategies that they have such as source reduction, border interdiction, and curtailing domestic distribution. Source reduction aims to get rid of the people who manufacture and grow the drugs. This is good because it gets rid of the supply of the drug. Border interdiction serves as way to stop drug dealers from distributing their drugs in and out of the United States. By limiting the traffic between borders, it helps in decreasing the amount of product between countries. Curtailing domestic distribution stops the people that are at the head. This stops drug dealers from supplying their drugs out on the street to the public. This also helps the communities that have been falling apart due to the increase drug use, so it would make their communities better in that way. Although the main purpose of supply-side drug policies are to reduce the availability of drugs, it has not proven to be very effective.
There are many considerations that should be considered when forming policies on drug prohibition, legalization, and decriminalization. The advantages and disadvantages of each of these are ones that should be regarded heavily. With prohibition, there are two important advantages which are a few people would be using these harmful substances and it would serve in reinforcing the deep values and traditions that society holds. These are great things, except for the money costs that are associated with the prohibition policies. The costs that are associated with prohibition include taxpayers paying more money out of their pockets for public lawyers due to the expected increased in crime, the amount of police corruption will increase along with public health costs, and civil liberties.
When thinking of drug policies of legalization, there are three good benefits of it. Legalization can bring about economic benefits such as an increase in taxpayers dollars spent, the moral benefits of reducing the amount of police corruption, and the public health benefit of producing a safer and better-quality drug. The downside to legalization is that there isn’t any sufficient proposals that have been made and the use of these drugs would increase along with public health costs. With the insufficient proposals being made, this stalls lawmakers process of analyzing the pros and cons that may ensue and coming up with something that will benefit everyone and not cause so much damage. Decriminalization is a policy that is that is more difficult, but it serves as a meeting step between prohibition and legalization. The advantages of decriminalization are that the public favors it more since there are certain states that have went about decriminalizing certain drugs, it contains a stronger sentimental message instead of one that promotes harm, and it still manages to punish anyone who tries to heavily traffic these drugs. These are all very important in coming up with laws that could potentially do good.
However, there are many disadvantages of decriminalization than legalization. There will be public health disadvantages in which the government will not be able to monitor and provide a safer and a better quality of drugs, crime and corruption will pretty much remain the same, and there will not be any costs savings towards the government or taxpayers because instead of helping put money back into the government, it will ultimately feed off the government. Also, with it being a criminal justice model, it lacks in bringing attention to drug treatment for the users who are addicted and want and need help. There is also limited applicability which means that decriminalization may work for one drug, marijuana for instance and not other drugs like heroin or cocaine.
In response to all of the drug policies and the current efforts to treat drug addiction, the drug treatment programs that are in place today face a lot of criticism. Just as there are problems with everything else, there are some problems or issues within the drug treatment programs such as issues with drugs and the criminal justice system, gender issues in treatment, and community reintegration after treatment. In regard to drugs and the criminal justice system, one particular issue that they face is compulsory treatment which is when a judge orders someone to enter into a treatment program as one of their conditions of their probation or as an alternative to prison. This treatment is nonvoluntary, but they also treat voluntary patients too. There were many problems involving women and drug treatment. For a while, there was no awareness to women who were drug abusers and much of the research that was done back then, was only done on males. Researchers also became aware that women need other programs that help them successfully rehabilitate. Some of those programs provide things such as child-care facilities that helps them with their children, counseling programs that are ran by women because their counseling needs are usually not met if they are in an male facility or are overseen by males. Some others issues that women face in drug treatment is sexism. The services like job training skills that are offered to men to help them when they get out of their treatment program is not offered to the women.
These services serve to help the men get better offers while they exclude trying to offer women these same services. In addition to this, women have different needs that need to be met from men. Another issue that many drug treatment programs fail to solve are the follow up services with all of their patients. When the users are done with their treatment program, they usually have a hard time trying to get reacquainted in society because of the lack of follow up services that should be in place to help with their transition. Follow up programs extend further than reintegrating into society, but also to other factors such as their community, their employment environments, and with their families. The response made by proponents of these programs say that these programs are different for each person. Also, when talking about the effectiveness of any drug treatment program there are things to consider such as how results may vary depending the severity of the persons, what they aim to achieve while in the program, and what they do following them getting out of a drug treatment program. There are many other factors that play along in the treatment of a drug addict, but those are the major ones. Drug treatment has been shown to reduce drug use, but it is ridiculously underfunded by the federal government (Faupel, pg. 420).
In conclusion, there are many changes that need to be made within our system regarding our current drug policies and drug treatment programs. Starting with open communication with medical researchers, politicians, and criminal justice leaders to form a dialogue that will seek to form policies that work to better the system, the people within our society, and their overall growth of the economy. There is much work to be done, but it has to start from somewhere and this would be the appropriate way to do that.
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