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Drug Abuse: Harm Reduction vs. The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs: America

The USA began the ‘War on Drugs’ method in 1971 to reduce drug usage across the country. However, statistics show that drug usage has actually increased in the U.S. ( It has also caused an increase in the number of people being imprisoned for non-violent drug offences; targeted towards people of colour.

“Although rates of drug use and sales are similar across racial and ethnic lines, Black and Latino people are far more likely to be criminalized than white people.” –

Apart from it being a debacle, it’s also causing social damage across America. A minor drug offense can potentially ban you from collecting food stamps, get you and your family kicked out from government housing, and possibly prevent you from accessing financial aid. (

Considering its obvious failure after 47 years, its probably safe to consider other methods to reduce drug usage.

Harm Reduction.

“Harm reduction refers to policies, programmes and practices that aim to reduce the harms associated with the use of psychoactive drugs in people unable or unwilling to stop.” – Harm Reduction International

Unlike the War on Drugs policy, the fact that not every drug user can be deterred from drug abuse has been taken into account. And so, it is based on preventing harm in drug users rather than incarceration. Due to this, many believe that harm redction encourages drug use. However, it only prevents spread of disease and death within the most vulnerable of drug users.

The CDC found that syringe access programs reduced HIV infections by 80% among people who inject drugs in the U.S. Apart from saving lives, these schemes can improve national economies, and reduce drug consumption.Similarly, there are safe injection sites; where trained health professionals can step in to prevent overdoses.

Although the policies may not be perfect, they deserve the same trial and error stance that we gave the War on Drugs for so long in order to prove its effectiveness and hopefully reduce the harm caused by drug use.

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