Top Federal Drug Official Says Criminalization Creates Stigma And Harms Health Of Consumers – Marijuana Moment

The director of the federal government’s top agency on drugs and health says ending harsh penalties around use would reduce harm and facilitate access to treatment.

“Societal norms surrounding drug use and addiction continue to be informed by myths and misconceptions,” Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), wrote in an opinion piece for the health news website STAT last week. “Among the most harmful of these is the scientifically unfounded belief that compulsive drug-taking by individuals with addiction reflects deliberate antisocial or deviant choices. This belief contributes to the continued criminalization of drug use and addiction.”

NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow shares how punitive policies around drugs contribute to the overwhelming #stigma against people with #addiction, in @statnews and on her blog. In English and Spanish:https://t.co/4Q3m4FubNZ

— NIDAnews (@NIDAnews) August 9, 2021

“Many people intersect with the criminal justice system as a direct or indirect result of their substance use disorders, and the experience may worsen their addiction and their physical and mental health,” Volkow writes. “Imprisonment itself not only increases the likelihood of dying prematurely but also negatively impacts mental health and social adjustment via the stigma of having been incarcerated. And it has radiating effects: Incarceration of a parent increases their children’s risk of drug use, for example.”

The NIDA official’s column further argues that stigma caused by criminalization and prejudice against drug users have “major negative impacts on health and well-being,” which “helps explain why only 18 percent of people with drug use disorders receive treatment for their addiction.”

“While attitudes around drug use, particularly use of substances like cannabis, have significantly changed in recent decades, the use and possession of most drugs continue to be penalized,” she writes. “Punitive policies around drugs mark people who use them as criminals, and

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