, Research Paper
The Case For Not Medicalizing
America?s War on Drugs was initiated by President Nixon in 1968, a time of extreme political and social unrest. The mission of the war was to enforce the country?s drug laws and educate citizens on the dangers of drug use. Needless to say, there has been no victory in the War on Drugs; illegal drug activities are just as popular as twenty or thirty years ago despite the millions of dollars and the efforts of our citizens, police, and educators. While drug dealers and abusers are constantly being punished, the perpetuation of the problem is not slowing down. Realizing the failure of this civil war, some people are looking for alternative resolutions. Alan Dershowitz, an established Harvard Law Professor, supports the absurd idea of drug medicalization, and possibly decriminalization.
Dershowitz claims that offering ?medicalized? doses of drugs to addicts would satisfy their cravings and prevent many of the problems associated with drugs. Supposedly, the public would not be so hurt by the addicts? struggle for a fix. The ?poor? addicts would not have to steal from us in order to afford drugs, and there would be less death from overdoses. While this approach may benefit America in some positive aspects, isn?t it a disappointment to everything our great country has ever stood for? We would be surrendering ourselves to an intangible enemy which can?t even be seen or touched: chemical dependence.
Dershowitz is familiar with public disapproval of medicalization, noting that supporters are considered soft. He points out that politics hinders the success of alternative attempts, since our leaders want to appeal to us as being strong and uncompromising with criminals. But our politicians are right for the most part. Bending or changing the laws will not make drug problems go away. Abusers would enjoy knowing that the law supports their habits, and would feel no shame or fear as junkies.
One who agrees with Alan Dershowitz may defend the alternative system by proposing the use of mobile drug units, with professionals who keep track of addicts? needs and allow only sufficient doses of poisons such as heroin. The medicalized catering would also prevent harm by street drug impurities and the spread of AIDS. However, this ?drug catering service? seems more appealing to an addict than to a tax paying citizen.
Dershowitz also claims that medicalization would prevent the addition of new addicts, since only people with a known addiction would be ?prescribed? a fix. Realistically, few junkies would allow professional drug administration in order to feed an addiction, and ?street pharmacists? would remain in business. Dershowitz is ignoring the underlying problem: addicts don?t just want to have a dependence satisfied, they usually want to get high.
Would a true warrior in the drug battles actually care about overdose or AIDS spread from unsterile needles? After all the education and prevention measures (aimed especially towards those people most likely to become addicts) it?s hard to be sympathetic to someone who knowingly makes the foolish choice of injecting himself with an illegal, habit-forming, toxin. Supporting that decision, by medicalization, should be even more disappointing to the voter, the politician, and the rest of those who are responsible for fighting the War on Drugs.
Dershowitz attempts to be comparative by reminding the reader of a once prohibited substance, alcohol. He implies that the decriminalization of alcohol, which is still a great burden on society, has led to less problems than its prohibition. But just because something is justified by the law, the problems accompanying alcoholism are not. The use of alcohol and nicotine, while both are potentially addictive and dangerous, does not even offer a realistic comparison to hard-core drugs like heroin.
It is easy to see that the War on Drugs is not over, and no one is winning. America does need alternative drug abuse prevention programs and stronger retaliation toward those who take part in illegal drug activities. There should be no tolerance of drug addictions. People whose solutions accept the problems, such as Alan Dershowitz, are looking for an easy alternative to a dilemma which requires hard work with a hands on approach. To rid a country of its drug problems it must first be rid of its abundance of drugs and addicts, not the riddance of the ideals and laws the country was founded on.