Drug Abuse and Illicit Use

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Following all of the years that illegal drug use has been in the limelight, people are finally beginning to get the message that has been trying to reach them for so long. Just a decade ago there were many people that believed that the criminal justice system could and would correct drug crimes on the streets, they actually expected it but it didn’t happen, because it can’t happen. People are now more aware that this problem must be combated from multiple arenas and while the police and the courts can do their job of eliminating drug dealers and such, they can not rehabilitate the addict.

From May 16 to 19, 2000, Peter D. Hart Research conducted a nationwide telephone survey among a representative sample of 1,003 adults. The survey explored Americans’ attitudes toward drug abuse and drug policy. The margin of error for the survey is +/-3.2. For several of the questions, findings include responses from Peter D. Hart Research surveys conducted for Drug Strategies in June 1997, February 1995 and February 1994.

Here are some of Hart’s findings. When asked in 1994, if you were in charge of deciding how to spend an extra ten million dollars to fight the drug problem in your community. In which one of the following ways would you spend that extra ten million dollars, most answered that they would fund it to law enforcement? However in 2000 that was no longer the case. Most people in 2000 would spend that money on prevention, education, and treatment.

When asked, "Do you feel that drug use is more of a crime problem better handled by the criminal justice system, or more of a public health problem better handled by prevention and treatment programs?" Again, the numbers were significantly different from 1995 to 2000, with the majority feeling that drug use is a public health problem.

Where Hart’s findings were a bit shocking was when the people were asked if they knew someone who became addicted to illegal drugs, as opposed to alcohol or prescription drugs. The numbers did not change much at all from 1994-2000. Taking into consideration that from 2000 to 2008 there has been a significant rise in prescription drug abuse, maybe those numbers are fair. However, it is likely that if asked again the answers would be significantly different now.

Hart’s findings just validate in some ways that it is possible that people are seeing drug abuse for what it really is, finally. This is a step in the right direction because until that happens it is impossible to battle it in an efficient manner. Drug abuse is not just a public health problem, it is a public health epidemic and it is going to only get much worse until funds are funneled into prevention, education, and treatment as opposed to looking at law enforcement as a way of treatment. Law officials and court systems can incarcerate the addict but those attempts are doing nothing to correct the problem.

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