Is Harm Reduction a Desirable National Drug Control Policy Goal?
There are many differing viewpoints in the United States when dealing with drug policy. Within the political arena, drug policy is a platform that many politicians base their entire campaigns upon, thus showing its importance to our society in general. Some of these modes within which drug policy is studied are in terms of harm reduction, and supply reduction. When studying the harmful effects of drugs, we must first to attempt to determine if drug abuse harms on an individual level of if it is a major cause of many societal problems that we face today. In drawing a preliminary conclusion to this question we are then able to outline the avenues of approach in dealing with this problem. Harm reduction is one of these avenues that has come under scrutiny from both sides of the debate.
Simply stated, harm reduction is a method used to lessen the dangers of drug use. Proponents of this policy realize that drug abuse continues to plague our society and strict programs need to be put in place to limit and eventually eliminate the use of drugs, however, it is also believed that in the mean time it would be beneficial to first reduce the risks and potential damages caused by drug use. Some of the dangers that harm reduction attempts to eliminate are drug trade related violence, deaths where drugs are an influencing or attributing factor, infectious diseases and the negative affects that drugs have on families. Supporters of harm reduction feel that the current policies aimed at the enforcement, prosecution and interdiction have not proven to be successful and that there need to be alternate methods in dealing with drug related issues in our society.
Opponents of this policy feel that the policies that are currently in place act as effective deterrents. They are skeptical as to whether or not harm reduction would possibly lead to a greater number of drug related deaths and disabilities. Those that are opposed to harm reduction feel that its advocates are hypocrites that call for tougher policies in dealing with alcohol and tobacco yet in the same breath call for reductions in the penalties for illegal drug use. Opponents also believe that initiating a harm reduction policy may in fact increase the use of illegal drugs as well as the people that are seeking drug treatment.
Robert J. MacCoun, is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Public policy at the University of California and author of Toward a Psychology of Harm Reduction. Professor MacCoun also supports the movement towards a harm reduction approach to drugs. He explains how the harm reduction movement emerged in Amsterdam in the 1980's in response to mounting heath issues directly related to the use of drugs. Professor MacCoun illustrates that harm reduction is not a program that has been proven effective in the war on drugs, being constantly rejected as a viable option to present drug enforcement...