Despite its inception almost 45 years ago, many citizens have labeled our current war on drugs as a failure. U.S. prison populations continue to rise while drug offenders and Opiate overdoses increase across the nation.
As these epidemics continue, there are four new drug policies that may change how our nation approaches drug abuse.
1. Treating addiction as a disease and not a crime. Many states have begun to decriminalize Marijuana, and many are even refusing to prosecute other low-level, nonviolent drug crimes from Heroin or Cocaine. This decision comes on the heels of advocates calling for treatment for addicts instead of jail time. Proponents say that incarceration does not deter drug abuse and only leads to recidivism and prison overcrowding. Others say that decriminalization can also lead to a decrease in overdoses and disease.
2. The Obama Administration is Changing Drug Control Policy. Under the 2014 Drug Control Strategy, more emphasis will now be placed on prevention and education in schools, training doctors to effectively identify and treat addiction, increasing treatment options, taking the shame and stigma off of addiction, and changing the way law enforcement approaches addiction and drug crimes.
3. Changing Sentencing for Drug Crimes. Studies show that federal prisons are over populated by approximately 36%. The Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015 calls for cutting mandatory minimum sentencing and putting the decision back into the hands of judges. This change may ameliorate the prison overcrowding issue and save taxpayer’s money, as the average federal prisoner now costs about $79.00 per day.
4. Increasing availability of Naloxone. Naloxone, or Narcan, is the antidote to an Opiate overdose. Police officers and medics in many states are equipped with the drug for administration when they are called to the scene of an overdose. Some states, however, have gone a step further, and provided Naloxone kits to area residents, including friends and families of known drug abusers. In many of these states, the individual who administers Naloxone is immune to criminal liability. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Heroin deaths increased 39% from 2012 to 2013. Such widespread availability of Naloxone has the ability to reverse the increasing trend in lethal Opiate overdoses.
While the full effect of these policies and proposals remains to be seen, they may perpetuate a change in the tide of the failing war on drugs.