The use of substance abuse is on the rise and incarceration rates in the U.S. are the   highest in the world.  African-American and Latino men are incarcerated at significantly higher rates for non-violent offenses such as drug possession than whites.  The country of Portugal  in 2001 Decriminalized (reduce or abolish criminal penalties), all drugs use which was a Public Health Crisis.   Under Portugal law, people found guilty of possessing drugs in small amounts are referred for mental health services, consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal advisor for appropriate medical and rehab treatment.  This approach is offered (but can be refused) without criminal punishment and/or jail time.  The substances listed in the Law 30/2000  (cocaine,  heroin, methamphetamines, marijuana ect.) are illegal in Portugal-but using these drugs are nothing more than a misdemeanor, much the same as a parking  violation.  Did this new policy work in Portugal?   Yes, in the five years after all personal possession of drugs were decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped.  The number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.  
          On the contrary, people who suffer with chronic pain from sickle cell disease, arthritis, cancer and others may need pain medications and other treatments just to live a decent  quality of life.  But, there are a very small percentage of people who battle substance abuse from the use of pain killers and other ‘illegal’ drugs.         Oftentimes, they will end up buying medications and/or drugs on the street, doing prison time or at worst die from an overdose.
        It’s time for our legislatures take a look at how we treat people who suffer from Drug Addictions and perhaps provide more mental health and rehabilitative  services instead of a sentence for jail time (Global Commission on Drug Policy, 2012).          

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