Just recently, Measure 110 of the Drug Decriminalization and Addiction Treatment Initiative was approved, making the punishment of non-commercial possession of a controlled substance a maximum fine of $100. Furthermore, individuals receiving this punishment will be sent to rehab instead of jail. With many states and countries growing in favor of decriminalizing drugs, there are still arguments that addiction will worsen without the threat of jail time. Understanding the benefits of treatment over jail will show that it is more important to help those struggling with addiction than to punish them for having a disease they never asked for.

Decriminalization versus Legalization

Decriminalizing a drug is not the same as making a drug legal. For example, in Portugal, the distribution and sale of drugs are still considered a criminal offense. However, the possession and personal use of drugs are seen as a public health problem. Instead of handing drug addicts off to the police and prison wardens, these individuals are sent to addiction counselors, psychologists, and social workers. Decriminalization of drugs does not mean that suddenly everyone will be allowed to abuse drugs. Users still cannot get high in public and drug sales are still grounds for prosecution. Instead, it simply changes the way that society deals with suffering drug addicts, treating them as mental health patients instead of as criminals. 

The Benefits of Decriminalization

Decriminalizing drug use and possession can save the country money by reducing prison and jail costs, as well as population size. It will also allow for public health and safety to be prioritized over punishment for drug use. Furthermore, decriminalization can reduce the stigma associated with drug addiction, encouraging more people to come forward and seek treatment. Consequently, those suffering from addiction can have the opportunity to change their lives for the better, instead of having to face the challenges of a criminal record on top of their struggles with addiction and mental health.

Decriminalization and Rates of Drug Use

People fear that decriminalizing drug use will encourage more people to use drugs. The truth is that treating drug use as a mental health issue instead of a criminal one is more successful at keeping communities safe. For example, according to Drugpolicy.org, the number of people that enrolled in treatment between 1998 to 2011 increased by over 60%, meaning that increased promotion of mental health treatment for addiction has led to more people off the streets and seeking recovery. Treating drug addicts as criminals only perpetuates the problem, while decriminalizing drug use can have life-changing effects.


Addiction is a disease that no one asks to have. Unfortunately, individuals struggling with addiction often suffer in silence, as they fear that speaking out about their troubles could lead them to criminal charges or jail time. Consequently, many people live their lives without experiencing a real chance at recovery. Decriminalizing drug use can direct drug users towards treatment facilities instead of jails and prisons, allowing them to seek the mental health support they need to beat their addictions. At Alta Loma, we understand how scary it can be to face your addiction and reach out for help. We want you to know that there is nothing to be afraid of. We are here to support you on your recovery journey. Located in Georgetown, Texas, we can provide you with tools to maintain your sobriety, including 12-step programs, individualized therapy, therapeutic recreational activities, life and coping skills education, and medication management, among other services. Please give us a call at  (866) 457-3843 to learn more.