Decriminalization of drugs not the answer

Treatment should be the ultimate goal instead

Police have their hands full with drug offenders, but decriminalization will present a series of other problems. (Photo submitted)

More reports are making the rounds that decriminalizing drugs is the answer to alleviating the overdose crisis.

Renowned health professionals like Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, are touting it and her report entitled Stopping the Harm: Decriminalization of People Who Use Drugs in B.C. continues the trend.

The report provides evidence and information on how the decriminalization of people who possess illegal drugs for personal use could help turn the tide on the overdose crisis, which was declared a public health emergency three years ago. The PHO urges the provincial government to consider decriminalization of people who use drugs, which means possession of illegal drugs for personal use would not lead to incarceration or a criminal record.

“Experts, including people with lived experience, agree that our existing drug laws are further stigmatizing people living with addiction, a chronic, relapsing health condition,” noted Henry. “The decriminalization of people who are in possession of drugs for personal use is the next logical and responsible step we must take to keep people alive and connect them to the health and social supports they need.”

The problem with all this is people are still on drugs. What ultimately needs to happen is to get people off drugs entirely and taking away the criminal element won’t help.

The various means of facilitating people with drug problems, including safe injection sites where addicts might not have as much of a chance to overdose but are still taking drugs, just continue to mask the real issue.

The mental health of addicts is severely affected by drug use and needs to stop.

Henry’s report claims decriminalization is a way for law enforcement to help people living with addiction to connect to the supports they need.

Then, at the bottom of a provincial government press release, reads this: “It is estimated that over 115,000 people are living with opioid use disorder in B.C., while only a small percentage are receiving treatment.”

They glossed over the most important point. Only a small percentage are receiving treatment. Let’s get them into treatment, no matter what it takes.

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