Why Penalties For Drug Use Don’t Work

In the United States we already have pretty strict laws and penalties relating to the use or sale of drugs but yet there is still discussion about making them tougher to further crack down on drugs. Like many things this is great in theory, but it is unlikely to produce any significant results or cause any drug user to change their actions.

The current penalty for being charged with the possession of illegal drugs is an average of 30-40 months depending on which state you were charged in as well as a hefty fine. Even for a drug like marijuana that is quickly becoming legal throughout the country the penalty is still harsh. Possession of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first conviction. For a second conviction, the penalties increase to a 15-day mandatory minimum sentence with a maximum of two years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.

For those that are not just using themselves, but also selling drugs on the side have even more dramatic consequences than simple possession. If caught selling drugs you will face a minimum jail sentence in all 50 states typically longer the average length of stay for possession, ranging all the way to 10 years or more if caught selling to a minor. Another danger in the drug business is that you don’t even have to get caught in the act of selling as long as police believe you had the intent to sell.

Aside from the penalties of the law you also have an exponentially harder time finding decent employment. Most employers will not take a chance with someone that contains a misdemeanor or felony on their record over someone that has no such history.

So with all of the penalties and risks that come along with the abuse or sale of substances, why do so many people still abuse drugs and why don’t the penalties work?

Why Do People Still Use?

With possible jail time and loss of financial resources it’s definitely the logical move to give up the drugs and get on the path to straight and narrow, but it’s not that easy. Humans don’t always behave in the manner that would best benefit them, in fact we often perform in activities daily that can potentially bring us trouble. This is part of human nature and it will always be this way, regardless of the consequences.

The use of drugs is very similar to the actions we take when we drive. There are extremely severe penalties for many things relating to your driving habits, ranging from speeding all the way up to death. We know that speeding can possibly get us a ticket but yet we still do it everyday anyway because of how unlikely it is that we actually do get pulled over and fined. Statistics state that about 20% of all drivers in the United States will get fined with a ticket this year, which is about 1 in every 5 people. For most of us this ratio is music to our ears because we all believe we are one of the 4 out of 5 that don’t get a ticket this year and so we don’t change our driving habits in any way. 

Drug abuse works in the exact same way, people will not stop using their drug of choice purely because they don’t believe that they will be one of the few that will get caught. In 2014 law enforcement stated that they made just over 700,000 marijuana related arrests, meaning someone was arrested for a marijuana related charge every 51 seconds during that year. Don’t forget that this was only for marijuana related charges and not adding the thousands of other drug related arrests.

That 700k number may sound like a lot, but it is nothing compared to the number of people that actually use drugs. 52% of Americans over the age of 18 have tried marijuana at some point in their lives and of those people 44% still use it today, that’s nearly half of all Americans that consistently use marijuana. So when we look at the supposed “risk” of using marijuana alone we can see that only 700k people were arrested out of the total using population of 132,440,000. Since only that very small percentage of people are going to actually get caught, most users are not going to alter their behavior.

Instead of focusing on creating harsher penalties for drug use we should instead be doing outreach to get those affected by drug abuse into professional treatment programs that will teach them the skills they need in order to live a productive, happy, healthy life without the fear and stress of going to jail. To truly create a change, we need to attack the root cause of the addiction in each person.

If you’re motivated to break free from your addiction, call us now at [maxbutton id=”1″ ]  and our treatment specialists will get you into a program that is a perfect fit for your individual needs. We are available to answer calls 24/7 and are looking forward to speaking with you.

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