How Can I Help Reform Drug Policy in the United States?

How Can I Help Reform Drug Policy in the United States?

By Jack Greenberg

To start, let's look at what our country can do:
We need to rethink how we measure the success of our country's drug policies. Rather than looking at changes in drug use, we should measure effectiveness through the reduction of drug-related harm to the community:  overdoses, drug addiction rates, and the transmission of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.
Our drug policies should also be evaluated based on the harms caused by the policies themselves. We need to start by drastically reducing the enormous numbers of people behind bars for drug offenses.
We also need to end the damage that drug laws cause: corruption, public distrust of police, environmental damage, the breakup of families and loss of civil rights, collateral sanctions like removal of financial aid for students and jobs, and racial discrimination in enforcement, prosecution, and sentencing.

Our drug policies should be judged – and funded – according to their ability to meet these goals in a timely fashion.

Education is a critical component in the equation for a safer society. Everyone deserves it and a lack of education often leads to disparities in our community's quality of life. Drug laws, use, and rehabilitation can only be performed safely if we are educated about these issues. 

Youth:

Effective education is critical for young people, as people are often faced with many influences to use both licit and illicit drugs from an early age. Education can help shape a culture of safety, moderation, and informed decision making.

Young Adult Resources:

Safety First: Drug Policy Alliance Education for Youth

https://drugpolicy.org/resource/safety-first-real-drug-education-teens

"The U.S.’s first harm reduction-based drug education curriculum for high school teachers. It adheres to research-based prevention and drug education principles while equipping teens to make safer choices about drug use."

How to Spot a Drug Overdose:

https://drugpolicy.org/resource/how-recognize-drug-overdose

Safer Partying Checklist

https://drugpolicy.org/resource/safer-partying-checklist

Parents:

We need to move away from punitive parenting techniques and move towards a more informed, restorative practice of educating oneself as a parent so that we can pass along healthy, safe practices to our children.

Tips for talking to your kids about drugs:

https://drugpolicy.org/resource/8-tips-talking-your-teen-about-alcohol-and-other-drugs

https://drugpolicy.org/resource/real-reasons-teens-use-drugs

https://drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/safetyfirst-4.24.19_0.pdf

"Get the tools you need to evaluate and discuss strategies for protecting your teens from problematic drug use. This booklet is available in eight languages"

Educators:

Similarly to parents, educators must be beacons of knowledge for our community. Drug policy, use, and consequences can often slip through the cracks of peer and parent influences. Educators fill the role of a representative of their community without necessarily being an authority figure, making them a great option for young adults to lean on and learn from.

Beyond Zero Tolerance: A reality-based approach to drug education 

https://drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/DPA_Beyond_Zero_Tolerance.pdf

Academics:

Those in various fields of research and academic engagement have an important role to play in bridging the divide between research and positive drug reform. Whether it be in data collection or legislative proposals, academics must do their part to actively engage in the changing of our current attitude towards drug-related scholarship. 

Become a Drug Research Advocate:

https://drugpolicy.org/about-us/departments-and-state-offices/research-academic-engagement#Researcher-Advocate

Attend Conferences, Trainings, and Events:

https://drugpolicy.org/about-us/departments-and-state-offices/research-academic-engagement#Events

Transform the Drug Research Landscape:

https://drugpolicy.org/about-us/departments-and-state-offices/research-academic-engagement#Landscape

It's Up to All of Us

If we are going to live in a safer, healthier society, we all have a part to play. Take the time to explore these resources and get informed, qualified, and empowered to bring about positive change at every level of our community. 

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