Biden Admin Signals Shift To Harm Reduction
William Henken ❘
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra has outlined a vision for the Biden administration's drug policy, but there are obstacles.
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Many have noticed a trend of rising drug cases despite America’s 50-year War on Drugs campaign. According to drugpolicy.org, the War on Drugs started in the 1970s when President Nixon increased the size and number of federal drug control agencies. The intention was to inform the public on the danger of drugs, and reduce drug abuse and drug access in attempts to unite communities torn by drugs. Nixon also made Marijuana a Schedule One drug, which criminalized the drug. Despite the intent, many feel the War on Drugs campaign has not been effective.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the War on Drugs often targeted Black neighborhoods and those part of the hippie subculture that opposed the war. This shaped stereotypes that impacted both social groups. Presently, because of drug-related social associations, Black and LatinX populations still suffer discrimination, while many believe the War on Drugs has done little in controlling nationwide drug abuse. In recent years, officials have commented on the lack of fulfilled promises that drug policies were supposed to correct.
As of 1971, a trillion of taxpayer dollars have been spent to support America’s War on drugs, according to research from the University of Pennsylvania. While numbers of drug abuse have generally decreased between then and now, recent research has shown rises in drug abuse. The prevalence of the Opioid Epidemic has caused patients seeking care for chronic pain and ailments to become addicted to prescription Opioids. When their supply of medications end, or they crave stronger chemicals, some seek illicit alternatives like Heroin or Fentanyl. In some cases, some seeking Heroin get bad batches that can be laced with Fentanyl without their knowledge, creating a more intense addiction and increasing their risk for overdose.
CNBC notes that in 2019, the number of Americans age 12 and older who use illicit drugs rose to 13%. This number nearly reaches the highest it has been in 40 years. Many high schoolers find it easy to get drugs, and the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged higher numbers of substance abuse and mental health challenges, worsening co-occurring disorders. Research from The Commonwealth Fund estimates that there were 90,000 overdose deaths during 2020, revealing an alarming amount of substance abuse in the nation. Many predict the budget to control drug use an estimated $41 billion in the next year, compared to a little over 1 billion in 1981. Furthermore, the costs of inmates who are imprisoned for drug-related offenses amounts to $182 billion yearly.
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Several challenges surround drug policies. Some of these range from the rise in drug abuse to discrimination Black and LatinX inmates face for drug-related prison sentences. Factors like racial discrimination, incarceration, and racial profiling shed light on racial disparities related to drug-related themes in the prison system. Ultimately, the ongoing drug problem in America tells of the need to heal addiction at its core, which is often complex. Many are considering solutions to ongoing drug challenges.
Treatment programs have been a focus for rehabilitating individuals battling addiction providing counseling, medication, and support groups. Additionally, education including Prescription Drug Overdose Programs are in effect. The program helps states purchase drugs like Naloxone for overdose prevention and reversal. Many officials have discussed approaching America’s drug abuse with compassion for reform. Lastly, the legalization of Marijuana has been a step to reduce drug-related incarceration, reducing related drug arrests.
Krystina Murray has received a B.A. in English at Georgia State University, has over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience, and over 15 years of overall writing experience. She enjoys traveling, fitness, crafting, and spreading awareness of addiction recovery to help people transform their lives.