The War on Drugs was a failure, even though it had seemingly good intentions. Regardless of what the actual reasons for starting such an offensive were, it definitely seemed like something everyone could agree with: get dangerous drugs off of our streets and disband the criminal networks circulating them.
While having laws that discourage the use of dangerous drugs such as cocaine or heroin are sensible, conservatives should be skeptical of the far too familiar idea of constricting supply to change the habits of the population. We rightfully argue that squeezing the supply of a type of gun, such as an AR-15, will simply lead to a spike in the usage of a very similar gun. We also argue that when someone really wants to do something, they will do it regardless of the law. We further argue that sin-taxes are immoral and outright ineffective at changing habits such as sugar consumption.
So, why, when it comes to drugs, do we conservatives suddenly think that we can stop the drug epidemic in this country by spending millions of dollars to cut off the supply without having any plan to decrease the demand?
Maybe we don’t understand addiction as well as we think we do. Maybe we don’t empathize with the millions of our brothers and sisters who struggle with drug addiction every day in the US.
A few months ago, I would have had the same opinion as many of you reading this: Drug addiction is a choice. Therefore, every person addicted to drugs deserves the consequences of their choice whether that is job loss, ostracization from society, or other horrible things. It was not until I looked deeper into myself and into the Opioid Epidemic that I realized how counterproductive this view on addiction is.
Addiction is a disease. While people do choose to use a drug that can be addictive, it is difficult to judge this decision given many circumstances that surround it and how they affect each of our brains differently which explains why some people have more severe substance abuse disorders than others. We should realize that everyday choices, such as diet and exercise, can alter our chances of falling ill to diseases like cancer, but this does not mean that cancer is not a disease just as exposure to a drug does not mean addiction is not a disease. Very few people go into drug use with the intention of ruining their own life and others’ lives. Furthermore, there is a growing body of research that shows opioid addiction stemming from prescription painkillers in the past two decades. I wouldn’t call taking a prescription your doctor writes for you a choice, given we have a high trust in doctors to give us the best advice and treatment.
Doctors and researchers still don’t fully understand the brain which leads to a lot of gray area on the topic of addiction. One thing is for sure though: no matter how people became addicted to drugs, it is our responsibility to help them.
How can we help them? One way is through harm reduction strategies that are becoming more popular and shining light upon the root of the problem.
One popular harm reduction strategy that has been implemented in the United States is Safe Needle Exchanges. Drug users turn in their used needles in return for new, sterile injection supplies which reduces the spread of viral infections such as HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. These programs work in practice, not just in theory. According to a CDC study, the prevalence of HIV decreased from 50% to 17% over three years in New York and an investment of $10 million dollars into Needle Exchange Programs would result in $75.8 million in lifetime savings.
Activists have even taken this idea a step further with Safe Injection Sites. These facilities allow for supervised use of pre-obtained drugs in order to enhance health and public order. Drug users are supplied with sterile equipment, infectious disease testing, first-aid, and referrals to drug treatment programs. Sites in Vancouver have been credited with reversing over 1,000 overdoses since they started.
That is the most important part. With over 70,000 deaths from drug overdose in the US in 2017, it is essential to focus on preventing these deaths before discussing how to prevent drug abuse disorder in the first place.
Drug addiction cannot be cured posthumously.
There isn’t going to be a quick or perfect solution to the Opioid Epidemic and yes, there are a lot of questions to be asked about Safe Injection Sites, but the most important part in solving this real national emergency is changing how everyday people view addiction and their fellow brothers and sisters. It is crucial that we find a balance between enforcing our laws and helping our debilitated citizens.
As we are reminded in Luke 6:37, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.