Criminalization can be viewed as a process which is deployed by the society as a “pre-emptive harm reduction device” while using punishments as a tool to deter anyone intending to engage in behaviour causing harm. People using drugs engage in harmful behaviour. The government supports harm reduction as it funds the exchange of syringes and needles, provides education on proper filtering before injection, safe disposal, provision of steri-cups and sterile water ampules and tourniquets to prevent the use of show belts or laces. This harm reduction process is an attempt to decrease the harm that can be caused by the use of various types of drugs irrespective of illegal or legal. This social advocacy group aims to influence the policy with the aim of decriminalisation of responsible drug use and promote harm reduction.
Currently, drug use is a serious issue due to increasing incidence of crimes. However, the social advocacy groups envision a society in which the drug regulations are grounded in compassion, science, health, and human rights. Society is needed where an individual is punished for committing the crime against others and not for putting the drug into his or her body. The evidence used for analysis in response to this issue is based on multiple peer-reviewed articles in online databases.
It is evident from the literature that multiple stereotypes are surrounding the issue. According to Nikolopoulos and Fotiou (2015), people believe that harm reduction is the source of promoting the legalisation of drugs. Further, drug users lack the understanding about the nature and risks of varying drugs. Overdose and death in most cases are considered a criminal issue rather than a medical priority. This stereotype reduces focus on the drug overdose reduction (Schomerus et al., 2014). Another common stereotype is the belief of criminal history existing for every drug users irrespective of the purpose of the drug (medical or criminal use). For instance, medical marijuana is essential for severely ill patients but is rarely known to people (Freij & Germov 2014). Another stereotype surrounding the issue is the assumption that drug users mostly spend their time on the wrong side of the town, fail to hold a job, fail in relationships, and are meant for criminal activities. These stereotypes do not fit for drug users who are high functioning and handle outcomes responsibly or do not engage in harmful or antisocial activities. This stigma prevents them from seeking protection even while using for the medical purpose (Heine, 2016).). Homeless adults who crack cocaine for personal reasons are discriminated or disrespected by the health care providers considering them as dangerous and hard to control (Moyle & Coomber, 2015).
Severely ill patients should be educated to use drugs responsibly so as to prevent them from accessing drugs in an illegal manner or through criminal activities. There is a need for mental health services for drug addicts to achieve the goal of the society and advance through realistic opportunities.
Various ethical challenges are surrounding the issue of decriminalisation of the responsible drug use. The challenges are due to the stakeholders associated with the legal and justice system, patients of drug abuse, mental health institutions, and communities. Therefore, it is recommended to involve them in the process of developing the solution to the problem. Involving them will give them a feeling of fair treatment. Thus, change of policy is recommended considering the health and well-being of these people as a priority. It is also recommended to the government to address the stereotypes in this area by promoting various education programs and campaign on the responsible drug use. It will aid in reducing the harm caused by drug misuse and prohibition and assist in promoting the sovereignty of the individual over their mind and body.
Freij, M., & Germov, J. (2014). A sociology of licit and illicit drugs.
Heine, T. (2016). US Federal decriminalisation of marijuana in the 1970s: Policy window or pipedream?.
Moyle, L., & Coomber, R. (2015). Earning a score: An exploration of the nature and roles of heroin and crack cocaine ‘user-dealers’. British Journal of Criminology, azu087.
Nikolopoulos, G. K., & Fotiou, A. (2015). “Integrated interventions are dead. Long live sustainable integrated interventions!”—Austerity Challenges the Continuation of Effective Interventions in the Field of Drug Use-Related Harm Reduction. Substance use & misuse, 50(8-9), 1220-1222.
Schomerus, G., Matschinger, H., & Angermeyer, M. C. (2014). Attitudes towards alcohol dependence and affected individuals: persistence of negative stereotypes and illness beliefs between 1990 and 2011. European addiction research, 20(6), 293-299.
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