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More communities seeking humane alternatives to the war on drugs

A couple weeks ago, we wrote about a new approach to combating drug use that focuses on harm reduction rather than arrests, convictions and incarcerations. A pilot program has so far been successful in one major city in the Northwest (based on reduced recidivism rates), and there's reason to believe that a similar program could work here in Wisconsin.

Another alternative program was recently announced, this time in a city on the East Coast. It also focuses on harm reduction - specifically related to opiates like heroin - and stresses that drug addiction should be treated like a disease rather than a moral failing.

According to news sources, the program is set to begin in June in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Like many cities in Wisconsin and throughout the country, Gloucester has experienced an increasing heroin problem in recent years. Presumably, this includes a sharp rise in the rate of drug overdose deaths.

Rather than continuing business as usual, the local police department has said that its policies will be changing to assist heroin users seeking treatment help. A recently released statement explains that “any addict who walks into the police station with the remainder of their drug equipment (needles, etc.) or drugs and asks for help will not be charged. Instead, Gloucester police will walk them through the system toward detox and recovery.”

The Gloucester PD has also said it will cover the cost to provide Narcan nasal spray to anyone fighting addiction. This is the drug first responders and emergency room physicians use to reverse the effects of an opiate overdose which could otherwise be fatal.

Perhaps the most promising statement made in connection with this policy change is one that asks us to rethink our attitude about the war on drugs. The police department issued a statement saying "We have to take the stigma away from alcoholism and drug addiction… Because the people aren’t bad people, they’re addicted people."

Will this new approach be effective? Many believe it will. And at the very least, it will almost certainly be less devastating and more effective than the current strategy.

Source: Inquisitr, "Gloucester, MA, Drug Addicts Won’t Be Arrested, Police Announce Heroin Policy Alterations, Will Treat It As A Disease," Gregory Wakeman, May 11, 2015

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