Addicts need help, not punishment and shame
Most drug addicts are not criminals, but the stigma and legal penalties associated with drug use force them down a criminal path.
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The dangers of drug addiction justify the illegal status of many drugs, but the criminalization of drug use is counter-productive and subjects drug addicts to a vicious cycle of stigmatization and recidivism. The illicit nature of most recreational drugs positions them as part of a counter-culture, outside the mainstream of society. Consequently, drug users are often negatively stigmatized by members of the mainstream culture. This isolates drug users and addicts from the societal support networks which can mitigate the worst effects of addiction, lead to health care and employment opportunities, and address mental health problems. Mental illness is a neglected consideration in criticisms of drug addicts which attribute their choices to inherent immorality or criminality. The U.S. Department of Justice estimated that a large majority (76%) of inmates incarcerated for drug-related crimes suffer from mental health issues. The rehabilitation and reintegration of drug addicts into society would be more successful if supporting mental health was the focus rather than applying a more punitive approach. Decriminalization would work toward this purpose without the risk of causing higher rates of addiction.
[P1] Drugs being completely illegal serves to stigmatize drugs so they feel unable to get help. [P2] By decriminalizing drugs, we could get rid of some of the stigma without increasing rates of drug use.