Opinion: Policymakers need solution to drug problem

Lucas Misera

In light of The Kent Stater’s week-long look into heroin addiction, one national shortcoming concerning drug abuse needs confronted: public policy.

One stunning number sheds light on both the dysfunctional state of the American justice system and its treatment of addicts: the recidivism rate for drug offenders is nearly 77 percent, meaning nearly three out of four people arrested for drug-related crimes will be rearrested at some point.

Clearly, the current system is complacent with criminalizing addiction rather than taking the longer — but more effective — route in seeking out help for these individuals.

While President Barack Obama has taken a stance on the issue by pardoning non-violent drug offenders, the gesture is a small step in tackling an ever-growing epidemic.

In a 2015 edition of The Economist, the authors highlight that 20 percent of American prisons are comprised of drug offenders, while housing any given prisoner costs $68,000 annually. Considering this, and the fact that the U.S. houses approximately 25 percent of the world’s prison population, it’s clear that the war on drugs has been an economically and socially devastating one.

So what may serve as a solution to a rampant problem? The answer may lie in confronting addiction, without criminalizing it.

Referring non-violent drug users to rehabilitation clinics for first-time offenses — rather than immediately labeling them society’s worst — could minimize recidivism. This policy adjustment would create jobs for psychologists, avoid tearing families apart and affirm an important point that addiction isn’t a crime, but rather, a disease.

With Election Day only a few weeks away, it’s important that the candidates seriously consider methods by which the United States can approach its looming drug problem. Continuous inaction fails to take seriously a costly issue with deep-seated societal implications.

Lucas Misera is the opinion editor, contact him at [email protected].