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Weekend Marches: "Facts Matter" For Drug Policies

With overdose deaths rising in West Virginia and around the country, scientists are arguing for treating drug addiction as a health issue rather than a crime. (NIH)
With overdose deaths rising in West Virginia and around the country, scientists are arguing for treating drug addiction as a health issue rather than a crime. (NIH)
April 21, 2017

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Drug policy should be based on facts, not fear. That's one of the messages scientists, academics and their allies will be taking to Washington, D.C., tomorrow.

Responding to the rise of "alternative facts," the National March for Science is being promoted as a call for policymakers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest.

According to Julie Netherland, director of academic engagement for the Drug Policy Alliance, drug policy too often is driven by fear and misinformation rather than science and facts.

"It's why we've seen things like the disastrous 'War on Drugs,' and a lot of punitive policies that have had absolutely no effect in their stated goals of reducing drug use," she explained.

Advocates fear a new emphasis on "law and order" in the Trump administration may roll back recent progress toward treating drug use as a public-health issue.

As an example, Netherland notes that during his presidential campaign, Donald Trump called for a national "stop-and-frisk" program.

"So, there are a lot of concerning signs that they are going to head in the wrong direction, just at a time where we're making real gains to have a drug policy that was more based in research and science," she said.

New York City's "stop-and-frisk" program targeted mostly young Black and Latino men and arrested thousands for nonviolent drug offenses.

Rather than law enforcement, Netherland believes the United States should embrace what she calls "a harm reduction approach" to drugs, including safer injection facilities where addicts have a clean environment with access to treatment.

"Those are interventions that have been used in Canada and Europe, and have shown to reduce overdose deaths, to reduce the transmission of blood-borne diseases, and have a host of really positive outcomes," she added.

There also are March for Science events scheduled in West Virginia this weekend - in Buckhannon, Charleston, Huntington and Morgantown.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV