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Survey: Public strongly supports less criminalization of addiction

January 27, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Comments from national political candidates supporting addiction treatment and prevention appear to reflect strong sentiment among the public, judging from results of a survey commissioned by the Legal Action Center.

The online survey of more than 1,000 respondents, conducted over a 10-day period in early November, found that 78% of Americans agreed with the statement “We need to treat drug and alcohol addiction more as a health problem and less as a criminal problem.” Sixty-three percent were in agreement with “We put too many nonviolent drug offenders in prison instead of treating their addiction.”

The law and policy organization advocating the rights of individuals with addiction released the survey results Jan. 27 in conjunction with the unveiling of a policymakers' guide for moving toward a disease-based approach to addiction. Roadmap for Promoting Health and Justice: A Smarter, More Effective National Drug and Alcohol Policy offers a set of recommendations for improving national drug and alcohol policies, including:

  • Significantly greater enforcement of insurance parity mandates at the federal and state level.

  • Adoption of the federal Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act to increase access to medication-assisted treatment for addictions.

  • An effort to make substance use screening, intervention and referral a standard part of all primary care practice.

The organization in 2008 issued a Roadmap for Smarter and More Effective Alcohol and Drug Policies, with a primary recommendation at the time of ensuring good coverage for substance use disorders in national health reform.

“An unusual bipartisan consensus is emerging—among presidential candidates as well as federal, state and local policymakers from coast to coast—to promote serious reform of America's drug policies and criminal justice system,” Legal Action Center president Paul Samuels said in a news release.

The online survey also found that 57% of respondents support a candidate for president who backs additional investmene in addiction prevention, education and treatment.