Many people may argue that policies should be created to treat drug abuse as a health problem rather than a crime problem. In the United States and most other countries, drug abuse is treated as a crime, even though there are health-related implications. But by no means does that mean that drug abuse should be solely considered a health problem rather than a crime problem, nor vice versa.
Health Problem versus Crime Problem
When a person has a health problem, it is usually a condition that he or she suffers from involuntarily, normally treated by one or more physicians. The drug addict may suffer health problems, but those health problems related to the effects of substance abuse are by choice. Most likely, no one forced the addict to smoke marijuana, smoke crack, snort cocaine or shoot heroin the first time, the next time, or the last time.
The person truly suffering from health problems follows doctor’s orders and takes care of him or herself to resolve the health problem. The drug addict on the other hand, makes choices that may lead to committing intentional criminal acts that harms or kill others who are innocent victims of the drug addict’s voluntary lifestyle choices. But once that person is addicted to an illegal substance, drug abuse does indeed become a health problem. Everyday, people have adverse reactions and even die as a result of drug abuse.
Drugs as Causes of Crime
In 2006, CNN reported on a family that had recently moved to Florida. Both parents and the children, ages 3 and 4 were found to have been kneeling or lying down when shot to death. A DEA investigation ensued and four people were arrested on federal drug charges. In 2008, The National Drug Intelligence Center revealed data indicating that in Milwaukee, where there were significant drug-related crimes, criminal activity associated with crack cocaine was the drug most associated with violent crimes, according to 12 of the 16 law enforcement jurisdictions who responded. Eleven of the jurisdictions stated crack was the primary drug associated with property crimes. While gangs may fight over drug turfs, facts cannot be hidden that area robberies had gone up due to drug users seeking drugs or drug money. In 2009, in an article originally reported by The Times – Picayune, NOLO released details of a 73 year old Louisiana woman who had survived breast cancer, hypertension and diabetes. But she could not survive her 52 year old son. Louise DeClues was stabbed and strangled to death by her son because, as he himself admitted, he was short on drug money. In Dayton, Ohio, a woman still fears leaving her home three years after being burglarized while at work. A neighbor knew her routine and had a relative kick in the front door to steal the woman’s electronics and home entertainment items. The suspect, who had been released from prison just two months earlier for burglarizing homes for drug money, was later sentenced to 6-8 years.
These criminal acts are the direct result of drug abuse. In this respect, the persons responsible would be prosecuted for the criminal acts to supply their drug habit, not for the drug abuse itself.
Louise DeClues had health problems. She did not choose to have diabetes, breast cancer or hypertension. The woman whose home was burglarized did not choose to suffer from anxiety and depression related to the burglary of her home by a drug addict, while she was out working for a living. The murders of 3 and 4 year old children and of both their parents by drug dealers or drug addicts, the murder of Louise DeClues by her drug addict son, and the burglary of the woman’s home are not health problems; they are crimes.
If these same crimes were committed by someone who was not a drug addict, would we still be considering that the perpetrator has “health problems?” Of course not; we would hope that justice would prevail and harsh sentences would be imposed where the evidence is clear-these are voluntary crimes committed against innocent people, not health problems.
Yet drug abuse as a health issue must be better addressed. Instead of cutting funding for drug abuse programs, funding should be increased. If drug abuse issues are treated from a health-related aspect, drug-related crimes would decrease.