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Drug Abuse In The United States: A Public Health Issue Or A Criminal Justice Issue?

1615 words - 6 pages

Everyday Americans are arrested for illegal drug abuse, making it difficult for them to receive employment and maintain a financially stable lifestyle. If all illegal drugs were decriminalized entirely, drug abuse would drop dramatically. Drug abuse in the United States is seen as a criminal justice issue and, millions of individuals are incarcerated each year. Instead of criminalizing the use of drugs, abuse should solely be seen as a health concern. Drug abusers and addicts direly deserve support and treatment, in lieu of imprisoning them and convicting them of a felony that will trail them for the rest of their lives.
The “war on drugs” is not a new topic in today’s society, although it is an exceedingly controversial one. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, drug laws have a lot to do with who is associated with these drugs. Many of the anti-drug laws were directed toward numerous races, including the Chinese, African Americans, and Mexicans. Drugs became symbols of youthful rebellion, social mayhem, and political rebellion in the 1960’s. Because of this, the government made an effort to investigate the safety and health factors of drug use.
The “war on drugs” originated from President Nixon, who amplified the size and presence of federal drug control agencies. In 1981, Ronald Reagan’s first lady, Nancy Reagan, stated an anti-drug campaign, containing the slogan “just say no”. This slogan helped put the pressing issue of drug abuse in full view, with zero tolerance policies for these illegal substances. Drug use has been a constant battle many presidents and their first ladies have tried to deal with; nonetheless, the problem still remains.
The Drug Policy Alliance sheds light that even politicians have admitted to using marijuana and even cocaine. The United States president, Barack Obama, admitted to using marijuana and cocaine as well, stating, “when I was a kid, I inhaled frequently – that was the point.” This makes the United States hypocritical, if the individuals who are governing this nation use the drugs that they deem criminal to use. People everyday are incarcerated for the same exact offenses that Obama took part of in his young life.
Illegal drug abuse can ruin an individual’s life, making it problematic for them to support a family or themselves. According to the Washington Post, 51% of inmates in federal prisons and 20% of inmates in state prison are imprisoned for drug offenses. Drug offense charges are larger than any other single classification of criminal offense. Drug offenses and abuse is at an all time high. According to Drug Free, only 1/2 to 2/3 of the convicts in jail and state and federal prison meet the standard diagnostic criteria for alcohol or drug dependence or abuse. Along with their findings, only 7% to 17% of these inmates receive the needed treatment and care in jail or prison. Many of these prisoners are not getting the rehabilitation that they deserve to help end...

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