For decades, governments around the world have struggled with drug prevention. Unfortunately, the criminalization and drug classification practices have made the issue worse. Much of the problem lies in the classification of drugs.
In addition to dictating the laws connected to certain drugs and drug crimes, drug classifications also work to marginalize particular social groups. As Richard Branson points out in his article Time to Review How Drugs Are Classified, the drug scheduling system “is more a reflection of varying understandings of good and evil, often rooted in racism, social control.”
For countries to get a better foothold on the drug problem, they need to start seeing it as a health issue rather than a legal one. Until that happens, countries like the United States will continue to see high overdose rates and millions of nonviolent criminals behind bars.
To get a birds-eye-view of the problem, it may help to break down how the classification of drugs works along with decriminalization measures.
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United States Classification of Drugs
In the early 20th century, the U.S. government created a loose system for the classification of drugs. This system is primarily focused on drugs sold for medicinal purposes. Now, the classification system is much different.
Over the years, the United Nations has imposed several regulations that have helped classify certain drugs based on their potential dangers. The United States drug policy is highly dependent on the UN’s regulations.
These laws seek to reduce illegal drug trade along with drug manufacturing and trafficking. They’re purpose is also to cut down on drug fatalities, addiction, and illness.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration has defined five distinct drug schedules. These schedules are directly related to penalties for drug crimes and pharmacology regulations. The U.S. drug scheduling system is as follows:
1 Schedule 1 drugs with no current medical use and a high potential for addiction. This includes Heroin, LSD, and cannabis.
2 Schedule 2 drugs with a high potential for abuse and psychological dependence. Including Hydrocodone, meth, and fentanyl.
3 Schedule 3 drugs with a moderate to low potential for abuse and dependence. This includes Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, and testosterone.
4 Schedule 4 drugs with a low potential for abuse and dependence such as Xanax, Valium, and Ambien.
5 Schedule 5 drugs with a low risk of abuse and with small quantities of narcotics. This includes certain types of cough medication.
Schedule 1 drugs are seen as the most dangerous and are thus treated with more aggression by the criminal justice system. Let’s take a closer look at this classification.
Schedule 1 Drug Means What?
Crimes involving schedule 1 drugs carry much stricter penalties. Depending on the volume of a drug a person is posesses, there’s a chance they will serve a long prison sentence or face years of probation.
Decisions made by the federal drug enforcement agency determine which illegal substances to consider schedule 1 in their drug classification system. However, it’s not hard to see a flaw in this classification. The inconsistency starts and ends with cannabis.
In recent years, the legality of cannabis has been a huge issue in America. Eleven states have legalized marijuana, and many others have decriminalized it. This change in drug policy is directly related to evidence that cannabis has a number of health benefits.
Furthermore, the effects of cannabis are far less debilitating than other drugs. In fact, alcohol causes far more problems than marijuana. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 10,497 people died in alcohol-related crashes in 2016 alone.
Cannabis use, on the other hand, rarely leads to injury or death. There’s also no risk of physical dependence. However, many are still given harsh prison sentences for possession of marijuana.
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Decriminalization of Drug Use
To make positive strides in the drug war, drug decriminalization must occur. When searching for a decriminalize meaning concerning drugs, it would involve removing strict penalties for things such as possessing cannabis for recreational drug use.
Now, many Americans are treated as violent offenders when charged with this harmless crime. This issue brings to light a serious problem in the U.S. criminal justice system. All you need to do is look at how many people are in prison in the United States and you’ll understand somethings not working properly.
Right now, there are approximately 2.3 million people in incarceration in the U.S. This overpopulation puts a huge financial strain on individual states. There’s also the humanitarian issue of poor conditions, violence, and illness in prison facilities.
The decriminalization of drug use would lead to a drastic reduction of the national incarceration rates. But this is only the first step in gaining the upper hand in the war on drugs. There need to be more forward-thinking initiatives to combat drug addiction and fatalities resulting from overdose.
Image Source: Drug Policy Alliance
Harm Reduction Drug Policy
Instead of throwing every drug offender behind bars, America must start introducing harm reduction policies into their social services. These programs would help decrease overdoses and make preventative healthcare a bigger part of drug rehabilitation.
One method of curbing the public health issues surrounding drug use is the implementation of supervised injection sites. Injection sites are designated areas where people can inject drugs under the supervision of medical professionals. These sites have proven successful at festivals where people are knowingly consuming drugs.
By embracing supervised injection sites, the United States would see a drop in overdose deaths and the transmission of disease. In addition to injection sites, public drug safety testing would protect drug users from unknowingly consuming substances that contain unsafe materials.
While adjusting the way we approach the classification of drugs will help with decriminalization, harm reduction policies will put healthcare at the forefront of the drug issue.
There’s no denying that drug use has both a positive and negative impact on our society. However, we need to change the way the criminal justice and healthcare system treats users. Without change, we’ll never be able to treat addiction and reduce negative trends such as the opioid crisis. It’s time for a revision to the classification of drugs so decriminalization and harm reduction can begin.
If you or someone close to you is dealing with drug use and addiction support is available. Are you unsure of what to do or where to go for help? Contact us at (866) 578-7471.