June 19, 2021 -Under the drug war model that has shaped the country’s response to drug addiction since the 1970s, people who use illegal drugs are often treated as criminals. 

Many of the nation’s top drug addiction researchers say evidence is now clear that approach doesn’t work. 

“The best outcomes come when you treat the substance use disorder [as a medical condition] as opposed to criminalizing that person and putting them in jail or prison,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, who has been head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse since 2003. 

In parts of the world, including Australia, Canada and Portugal, communities are experimenting with public health approaches that include providing active drug users with a safe supply of their drug of choice. Some programs also offer supervised consumption sites where the risk of overdose is reduced. Patients have access to health care providers and counselors who can guide them toward treatment.

Vincent said it’s imperative now that the U.S. drug supply is so deadly that people with addiction be offered this kind of harm reduction service. 

“When we don’t allow anything other than black-or-white solutions, then we’re not meeting the needs of our community,” she said.

The U.S. saw more than 92,700 fatal overdoses in 2020, a 29% increase over the previous year, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week. If current trends continue, illicit drugs will soon kill more Americans every day than COVID-19.



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