Magazine article The Nation's Health

Drugs: The Longest U.S. War

Magazine article The Nation's Health

Drugs: The Longest U.S. War

Article excerpt

From public health workers, emergency response personnel and hospital technicians to school teachers, clergy and our neighbors, many Americans share a common dream: winning the 30-year war on drugs.

By bringing an end to the public health hazard of drug use and abuse, we hope to protect our children, reduce crime and lessen public disorder. We also hope to reduce the demand for emergency services and make wiser use of our scarce health resources. Maybe the answer to the problem of drug use lies in the unthinkable: a change in American drug policy.

Interrupting the supply of illegal drugs and reducing their demand has not stopped the quest for intoxication. Perhaps it's time we take a public health approach to the problem.

For more than four years, the King County Bar Association in Washington state has been studying the implications of meaningful drug policy reform. Why lawyers? Because drug cases are overwhelming our judicial system and a solution is needed. The King County Bar Association suggests that treatment is one answer to the problem, advocating better identification of those needing care for drug addiction and more comprehensive case management. The group also advocates broadening treatment opportunities to include mental health care, vocational training, literacy efforts and housing.

Imagine that: Instead of spending our money to punish and incarcerate drug users, we could redirect funding toward helping those who are suffering from addiction.

For a well-rounded public health approach, we could supplement our treatment efforts with drug education and drug prevention. …

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