Illegal drug use and abuse remains a pervasive social issue despite significant efforts to quell its existence. In fact, a recent report released by the RAND Corporation (2005) notes that drug abuse has become such a prominent social issue that substantial increases in prison populations all across the United States have been attributed to the tougher sentences that have been put in place for drug users. With the realization that current social policies toward reducing drug abuse are not working—only serving as the basis to promulgate overcrowding in America’s prisons—there is a clear impetus to examine the issue of drug abuse in a larger social context and determine the necessary social changes that are needed in order to effectively reduce drug use and abuse among the general population. Current Policies for Reducing Drug Use
As noted by the RAND Corporation, the most notable policy that has been developed to curb the use and abuse of illegal drugs in the United States has been tougher sentencing guidelines for those possessing illegal drugs. Anderson (2004) notes that mandatory minimums for drug offenses began in the 1980s, when the criminal justice system began efforts to stop the crack cocaine epidemic that was sweeping America’s inner city neighborhoods. While the principle goal of mandatory sentencing for drug related offenses was to deter illegal drug use and abuse, Anderson notes that this process has only further marred progress toward reducing illegal drug use and abuse. Not only have mandatory minimum drug sentences become the leading cause of prison overcrowding in the United States, Anderson reports that research now shows that these sentences may actually be responsible for the perpetuation of drug use and abuse. Examining how mandatory sentencing guidelines have contributed to the perpetuation of drug use and abuse, Anderson goes on to note that when drug users are sentenced to prison, they do not receive the rehabilitation that...
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