How Should We Treat Drug Abuse? | Dr. Harshi Shingra

Addiction has spread rampantly throughout the UK in recent years, sparking a number of debates. How should we treat people with an addiction? Is addiction a crime, or is it a disease? Understanding these facts can be very complex, especially from a conservative standpoint.

These questions become more pertinent given the Conservatives are in government, and the answers to them are linked directly to policy. Should substance abuse treatment be mandatory for those prosecuted for drug possession? Should the government treat all abuse as a crime? These questions need to be grappled with.

Addiction takes control of a person’s life, becoming incredibly difficult to escape and leading to ill health – but how fair is it to label addiction as ‘disease’? Disease implies victimhood and the absolution of responsibility. A person with cancer does not choose to become sick. Sure, behaviours such as smoking cigarettes may increase risk, but many people get cancer every year who were living otherwise healthy lives, or were affected by genetic predispositions. People with addictions consciously make the decision to abuse substances and to continue to do so before they get a physical addiction, so they bear responsibility in a way that other sufferers of disease do not.

The line can be blurry, however. A person with schizophrenia does not choose to have their condition, but if they pick up a gun and shoot another individual, they consciously made that choice. They are sick mentally and likely weren’t in control of their behaviour in some ways, but is it fair not to prosecute them at all? Should the families of those affected by this problem have no justice? This seems cruel and unfair to the real victims.

The same can be said of drug addiction. Some might argue that a person with a substance abuse disorder hurts nobody but themselves. Unfortunately, that ignorant statement leaves out friends, family members, spouses, and even children. What child can look up to a father who drinks himself into a stupor every night? Is it justified for a family to suffer financially to support a mother’s heroin addiction?

A person with an addiction must be held accountable for their actions and the damage that they cause. Just as importantly, their treatment must take these facts into account. So, yes, we believe in helping people with an addiction get treatment. But only if they’re willing to be accountable, make amends to others, and face punishment for their crimes.

The debate over drug addiction treatment takes place not only in the UK but also in the United States. There, conservative thinkers have a harsher stance on substance abuse than liberal ideologues. They believe that drug abuse is a choice and that parents and adults are responsible for teaching children and others about the dangers of drug addiction. Prevention, they argue, is key to managing this problem.

We agree with this stance and think it is a reasonable and measured one. We also believe that stricter enforcement of borders should help to manage this problem. Better training for immigration specialists could help catch smuggled drugs, particularly from areas where drug sales are common. Enforcement is critical: we don’t need new laws, just a better execution of what’s on the books.

Yes, I do believe that violent drug offenders should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. In particular, those who deal with or sell drugs should be treated as murderers or attempted murderers. But what of non-violent drug offenders? Should they be treated with the same harshness? Some argue that non-violent drug offenders shouldn’t be prosecuted at all. I disagree: laws exist for a reason, and prosecution can help deter others from trying drugs in the first place.

That said, treatment options should be available for those who want them. In particular, forced or compulsory treatment for those prosecuted may help manage this problem, as long as it is done humanely.

The onus should be on that person, their family, and their insurance. Yes, the government can fund education programs, prevention plans and provide recovery resources for those who need them. However, taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be thrown at people who have no desire to make a recovery.

We know that many people disagree with us drug-restrictionists on this stance. We’ll be called cruel or mean-spirited, thoughtless, and unempathetic. None of those slurs are true. We are empathetic towards those people with addiction who are willing to better themselves and we want everybody with an addiction to recover. But those who can’t take responsibility for themselves should not fall under our duties.

Conservatives must not follow in the footsteps of drug liberalisers, the policies supported by whom would only increase the burden of national drug abuse on the taxpayer, but rather press for a reversal of public opinion. We believe that treatment for drug addiction should include medical care, but it should also include punishment and deterrence. Drug addiction is a disease of choice, and even if it can affect a person’s decision-making, they should be held responsible for their behaviours.

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