Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 – The Drug Crisis: What Can We Do?

Name: Jaelin Harmon

The Drug Crisis: What Can We Do?


in Malibu, Addiction Awareness Essay

Drug Crisis: What can we do?

talking about America’s addiction crisis, it’s easy to forget
that there are human lives being discussed. The crisis in the United
States exists as a product of failed plans, neglectful actions, and a
glorification of drug use found in entertainment and the media. The
remedy to this? A focus on helping those struggling with addiction
rather than punishing them.

people believe the way to counter drug use/involvement is through the
threat of prison time, yet the idea that longer prison sentences
leads to less drug related problems has long since been disproved. In
fact, it’s been proven to be even more harmful to those suffering.
According to the Skywood Recovery Research, “
95 percent of incarcerated addicts will return to substance abuse
after their release from prison”.

Addiction is a disease and should be treated as other diseases are,
with compassion and a focus on help. Instead, the United States
strictly focuses on punishment rather than helping or addressing the
underlying causes. This is why America continues to face an extreme
drug crisis, as they focus so little on helping those suffering that
4 million people received treatment, or about 19% of those who needed
it” (
Scot). With 81% of those needing help not receiving it, the problem
will only continue until America takes a different approach. Many
people are familiar with the failed “War on Drugs”, a policy most
famously put into place by Ronald Reagan. While the program aimed to
reduce drug usage, what it did instead was enable scenarios for
racial prejudice, waste taxpayer dollars, and deny opportunities for
education, housing, and jobs to addicts. In 2017 “Attorney General
Jeff Sessions has re-declared the
on Drugs
, a five-decade old boondoggle that civil-rights
organizations, economists and even some law-enforcement groups
believe to be discredited by years of failure” (
was not the solution America needed, and it’s time for the focus to
be on bettering the lives of those with addictions, not making their
lives harder.

much-needed remedy for the addiction crisis is found in
rehabilitation rather than strictly punishment. The best response
the world has seen to this crisis has been in Portugal, where all
drugs were decriminalized in 2001, becoming “
first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties
for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine,
heroin and methamphetamine” (Szalavitz, Maia). They implemented a
system where if one was found with less than a ten-day supply of any
drug, they were offered a therapy-type treatment or small fine
To many people’s surprise, this didn’t cause the country to face
any worse of a drug crisis than before. Not only did the amount of
drug induced deaths plummet, but so did Portugal’s HIV infection
rate- which before had been the highest in the world (
If the United States were to implement the same drug related
policies, not only would the percentage of people receiving proper
treatment increase, but survival rates for those with addictions
overall, which absolutely must be the focus of anyone trying to
challenge the addiction crisis.

no changes are made in America, the addiction crisis will only
continue to worsen. This is not only detrimental to the economy, but
more importantly to these individuals’ lives that are being toyed
with, with their fate in the hands of officials like pawns in a game
of chess. When one wants help for their addiction, it should be
available to them, regardless of race, gender, or salary. The harsh
ramifications of neglecting addicts will be seen in the upcoming
years, until one is bold enough to make changes to the way the system

things simply can’t be allowed to continue as they are. Our country
needs to stop thinking in the role of the punisher and start adopting
that of a healer. If the mindset and tactics are changed, thousands
upon thousands of lives will be bettered by access to support and
help from their addictions. If the bettering of lives for these
people isn’t the priority of our government, no change will be


Zeeshan. “14 Years After Decriminalizing All Drugs, Here’s What
Portugal Looks Like.”
Mic, 11 Feb. 2015,

Naina. “Want to Win the War on Drugs? Portugal Might Have the
Time, 1 Aug. 2018,

Scot. “Addiction Statistics: Drug & Substance Abuse
Addiction Centers

Nick. “America’s War on Drugs Was Designed to Fail. So Why Is It
Being Revived Now?”,
A&E Television Networks, 16 June 2017,

Maia. “Drugs in Portugal: Did Decriminalization Work?”
Time Inc., 26 Apr. 2009,,8599,1893946,00.html.