Oregon opportunity: Remove criminal penalties for low-level possession of controlled substances

September 18, 2020

 

We can’t incarcerate Oregon’s addiction crisis away. We need real solutions like Measure 110.

The history of opioid use is long and complicated. Sumerians in Mesopotamia cultivated the poppy plant as early as 3400 BC. Since that time, opioids have been widely recognized as a valuable asset for the treatment of pain, but their use is limited by side effects and addictive properties.

The National Institutes of Health reports that 128 people died every day in the U.S.in2018 due to opioid overdose, and the economic burden of opioid misuse now exceeds $78 billion per year.

The American Psychiatric Association estimates that nearly one in three Americans know someone addicted to opioids. One in 11 Oregonians is addicted to drugs and one to two die of drug overdose every day.

Addiction impacts relationships with loved ones, harms productivity, incurs addiction-treatment and other healthcare costs, and too often leads to involvement in the criminal justice system. It is widely and rightly recognized as a public health crisis.

Substance abuse has been designated by the American Medical Association as a medical diagnosis, not a moral failure, for 40 years. Yet we continue to deal with it as a criminal offense, declaring a war on drugs, with punishment rather than effective evidence-based medical treatment.

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