Discrimination against drug addicts

Discrimination against drug addicts is a form of discrimination against individuals who suffer from a drug addiction. In the process of stigmatization, drug addicts are stereotyped as having a particular set of undesirable traits, in turn causing other individuals to act in a fearful or prejudicial manner toward them.[1][2][3] Drug use discrimination also leads to many users being secretive about drug use.[4] As it relates to healthcare stigmatizing attitudes surrounding drug use can cause barriers to treatment uptake and engagement.[5] In some of its manifestations, discrimination against drug addicts involves a violation of human rights.[6]

Drug abusers are often depicted as human beings who are not capable of staying drug free and are often addressed using derogatory terms. The reasoning for not helping patients seek the treatments needed are often due to the terms used to identify them, such as "crackhead" or "junkie".[7] The name calling and stigma places a sense of shame for drug users for a disease that takes control of them physically and psychologically. Discrimination against drug abusers is very common in the workplace, and the most familiar example happens when employers give random drug test to see if the employee will pass it.[8] However, according to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, employers are supposed to ensure that alcoholics and other drug addicts get help and the accommodations that they need.[9] The lack of job opportunities and treatment for drug addicts often results in relapses or in jail.

Basic information

Drug use discrimination is the unequal treatment people experience because of the drugs they use.[10] People who use or have used illicit drugs may face discrimination in employment, welfare, housing, child custody, and travel,[11][12][13][14] in addition to imprisonment, asset forfeiture, and in some cases forced labor, torture, and execution.[15][16] Though often prejudicially stereotyped as deviants and misfits, most drug users are well-adjusted and productive members of society.[17][18] Drug prohibitions may have been partly motivated by racism and other prejudice against minorities,[19][20][21] and racial disparities have been found to exist in the enforcement and prosecution of drug laws.[22][23][24] Discrimination due to illicit drug use was the most commonly reported type of discrimination among Blacks and Latinos in a 2003 study of minority drug users in New York City, double to triple that due to race.[25] People who use legal drugs such as tobacco and prescription medications may also face discrimination.[26][27][28]

Ideas of self-ownership and cognitive liberty affirm rights to use drugs, whether for medicine[29][30][31] recreation,[32][33][34] or spiritual fulfilment.[35][36][37] Those espousing such ideas question the legality of drug prohibition and cite the rights and freedoms enshrined in such documents as the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights,[38][39] the European Convention on Human Rights,[40][41] and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,[42] as protecting personal drug choices. They are inspired by and see themselves following in the tradition of those who have struggled against other forms of discrimination in the past.[43]

Drug policy reform organizations such as the Drug Policy Alliance,[44] the Drug Equality Alliance,[45] the Transform Drug Policy Foundation,[46] and the Beckley Foundation[47] have highlighted the issue of stigma and discrimination in drug policy. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids also recognizes this issue[48] and shares on its website stories that "break through the stigma and discrimination that people with drug or drinking problems often face."[49]

A report issued by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, critical of the global war on drugs,[50] states, under "Undermining Human Rights, Fostering Discrimination":

Punitive approaches to drug policy are severely undermining human rights in every region of the world. They lead to the erosion of civil liberties and fair trial standards, the stigmatization of individuals and groups – particularly women, young people, and ethnic minorities – and the imposition of abusive and inhumane punishments.[51]

Although still illegal at the federal level, about half of U.S. states have legalized marijuana for medical use and several of those states have laws, or are considering legislation, specifically protecting medical marijuana patients from discrimination in such areas as education, employment, housing, child custody, and organ transplantation.[52][53][54]

Drug abusers often choose the jail system because being in the real world exposes them to the very things that made them turn to drugs.[55] Many drug users choose jail so they can utilize the Drug Court Program.[56] The first drug court program was started in 1989 in Florida. The purpose of the drug court program was to put the court's authority in motion to reduce the drug crime rate by offering rehabilitation to drug addicts. In 2015, up to 3,000 drug courts were available in the U.S. and merely 120,000 defendants were being worked with per year. The overall goal of the drug court program is to reduce the need for drugs and the crimes that accompany them. Statistics have led researchers to believe drug court may be an effective resolution to end drug addiction.[57]