In the News: Addiction Should Be Treated, Not Penalized

By

Janet Kaplan

on

May 19, 2021

Moving Toward A Public Health Approach

Health Affairs Blog, April 27, 2021

Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has been instrumental in demonstrating that drug addiction is a disease of the human brain. As a research psychiatrist and scientist, she has pioneered the use of brain imaging to investigate the toxic effects and addictive properties of abusable drugs. Dr. Nora Volkow makes the evidence-based case on how drug criminalization disproportionately harms Black communities and exacerbates health disparities.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the large racial health disparities in the United States. Black Americans have experienced worse outcomes during the pandemic, continue to die at a greater rate than White Americans, and also suffer disproportionately from a wide range of other acute and chronic illnesses. These disparities are particularly stark in the field of substance use and substance use disorders, where entrenched punitive approaches have exacerbated stigma and made it hard to implement appropriate medical care. Abundant data show that Black people and other communities of color have been disproportionately harmed by decades of addressing drug use as a crime rather than as a matter of public health.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse is redoubling its focus on vulnerabilities and progression of substance use and addiction in minority populations. We are exploring research partnerships with state and local agencies and private health systems to develop ways to eliminate systemic barriers to addiction care. We are also funding research on the effects of alternative models of regulating and decriminalizing drugs in parts of the world where such natural experiments are already occurring.
People with substance use disorders need treatment, not punishment, and drug use disorders should be approached with a demand for high-quality care and with compassion for those affected. With a will to achieve racial equity in delivering compassionate treatment and the ability to use science to guide us toward more equitable models of addressing addiction, I believe such a goal is achievable."

Learn more:

Health Affairs Blog, Addiction Should Be Treated, Not Penalized, Nora D. Volkow, NIDA, April 27, 2021

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

www.drugabuse.gov

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