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Addiction to a substance can consume a person’s every waking thought, turning them into a person who will do anything to survive. However, many Americans suffering from abuse are criminalized or shunned for a neurological disorder for which they have no  control over or access to proper treatment for.

“I was like 17 when I first started using. So when my addiction took over, I was in and out of jail constantly, from trying to rob people and stuff like that so I could support my habit,” David Perry, former drug addict, said. 

NIDA reported that a year in prison costs approximately $24,000 per person. However, treatment for a disease pales in comparison at an estimated $4,700 for meth rehabilitation.



Despite the large number, only 2.6 million of the people in need were able to access treatment at a treatment center. Therefore, more than 20 million people in the United States are suffering without help.

“The first time I got caught up in the drug scene, I was a drug dealer, well I thought I was a drug dealer but I was actually my best customer, to be honest with you. And as a result of that I’ve made a whole lot of bad choices. One of the choices was I thought I could live out on the street, on my profit, when actually there was no profit.”

Perry became homeless due to his drug addiction. Perry was unable to afford a place to live and spent the money he made of drug deals to support his habit. Although Perry has been helped through a homeless organization, if he had the treatment before for his addiction, Perry could have avoided jail time and the vicious cycle caused by flaws in the healthcare system.

Part of the issue is lack of monetary resources and health care for addiction treatment. If someone is sick and cannot afford treatment, the person who is sick could miss days at work or lose their job, which can cause stress in both his or her wellbeing and finances.Therefore, if a person is unable to afford treatment, the health issue begins to affect various aspects of his or her life and causes more obstacles, all because of money and access

A prime example of wealth inequality.

Brendan Young, social worker for Health Plan Partners, a state-funded insurance company, understands the struggle of affording health care.

“Without a job, [it] can really impact your access to care and some of the premiums can be really expensive on those health insurance marketplaces,” Young added.

The Affordable Care Act includes substance abuse as an “essential health benefit,” aiming to help those who are enrolled in the program and bridge the gap for people who could not previously afford treatment.

The abuse also can drain the nation of resources. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “abuse of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs is costly to our nation, exacting more than $700 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care.

Therefore treatment for drugs is much more beneficial for the state and the individuals in the long run than issuing prison sentences, as abuse of drugs is expensive across the nation. Issuing a prison sentence rather than offering treatment is detrimental to the economy.





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In the United States different drugs and whether they are trafficked or possessed affects the fines and imprisonment that an individual would receive if they were caught with a controlled substance.

These laws became strict in 1986 with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986  setting mandatory sentences for drug offenders and methods for the police to handle different controlled substances.

“In Radnor Township we rarely do see some sort of drug deal happen in the open, whereas you can possibly see more drug deals happen maybe in other more poor neighborhoods,” Vivian Smith, assistant professor of criminology, said. “That has been termed by researchers as open versus closed drug markets.”

The major difference in these two types of drug deals it that in open markets, police can see the deal happening and act accordingly, but in a closed market which would be more likely in suburban areas, deals take place away from the public eye.

“When you go into prisons and jails, often times you see poor individuals , usually from already marginalized neighborhoods, in the prison system mainly because of the way that they are policed,” Smith said.

“No question, minorities are imprisoned on a large scale for drug offenses in particular even though the majority of drug users in this country are members of the majority population that is white Americans,” Stephan Clyburn, professor of political science at West Chester University, said.

Stop-and-frisk” laws make it even more likely for a marginalized individual to face charges for drug possession. In 2012, the New York Civil Liberties Union found that this practice was ineffective and contributed to racial disparities.

The scenario in New York plays out differently just a few miles away on Wall Street where businessmen in suits make-up the crowds.

“Those individuals are not stopped, and I don’t think they would be stopped,” Smith said. “They look a certain way. They look wealthier, they look like they wouldn’t be ‘up to no good.”

Smith mentioned the 100:1 rule that set apart sentencing for crack and cocaine powder which leads to further disparity and inequality.



“Individuals will say that this is because they believe crack cocaine is more addictive, but if you get into the pharmacological effects of crack cocaine and the way that crack cocaine is taken, then you can make an argument for the opposite,” Smith said.