The War on Drugs is an instructive example of how criminal responses to health concerns are not only ineffective, but harmful.
Drug prohibition has led to challenges in regulating consistency in drug supply leading to fatal overdoses, stigma towards people who use drugs -- particularly Black people who use drugs -- and challenges for accessing medical treatment for substance use disorders. This, in addition to the severe mental, physical, and emotional health consequences of being introduced into the carceral system, indicates that our current carceral models are actually causing more harm, rather than preventing health inequities/harms. Drug policy is not based on public health and evidence, but an instrument of oppressing communities of color, immigrant communities, and people impacted by poverty.
The following selected resources lay out how criminalization of drugs has been worse than ineffective -- it has increased health-related harms and exacerbated racial inequities. Criminalization of drug use is not at all based in scientific evidence and aims to erase the agency of people who use drugs.
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Last updated May 2021