From Criminalization to Healthcare: Addressing America's Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis in America has reached alarming proportions, with drugs accounting for 85% of excess deaths in New York City. This startling statistic encompasses all causes of death, from homicide to suicide to car accidents, and highlights the severity of the drug problem in the country. Despite this, the article suggests that there is 0 idea of what to do to address the issue effectively.


However, Switzerland has implemented a successful strategy that treats drug addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal one. The “War on Drugs” tactic has proven ineffective against addiction, and the focus on treating drug addiction as a healthcare problem has produced positive results. In Toronto and East Hastings Vancouver, Suboxone is handed out to any addict who needs it, as part of long-term prescriptions.

While such solutions are sorely lacking in many US states, it is important to remember that this approach is not a catch-all solution to the drug crisis. It is critical to move beyond the prohibition drug war approach and invest in public initiatives that prioritize treating drug addicts as sick individuals, rather than as criminals. However, there are contradictions in voting patterns, where on one hand, voters are being asked to decriminalize drug use and dealing and, on the other hand, are being asked for billions of dollars to fund drug addiction treatment.

The article argues that the root of the drug addiction problem often extends far beyond the individual into society, and it is necessary to prioritize sick people over profiteers to address the issue. Instead of punishment for the sake of punishment, harsh reforms that address the problem head-on are necessary. At the core, this is a social issue that has been swept under the rug for decades, and the true motives behind public drug policy need to be questioned.

Moreover, it is crucial to prevent so many prescriptions for opioids being given out to people in pain and prosecute companies like Purdue, who target people in pain aggressively. It is also worth considering the success of policies such as state supply of heroin to heroin addicts, decriminalization of possession with referral to addiction services, and housing-first policies that have worked well in other countries.

The bottom line is that we must prioritize treating drug addiction as a healthcare problem and offer dignity and agency to those suffering from addiction by providing them with homelessness prevention services, clean supplies, access to treatment, and support in finding jobs to reintegrate them into society. This may require a public investment that we are not necessarily ready to accept, but it is necessary for the long-term health and prosperity of our communities.

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