Opinion, by Myriam Gómez García – The debate on the legalization of drugs, and its possible application extends beyond the field of criminal justice. When we talk about legalizing drugs – we primarily refer to a market driven, state-run marketing and production system. However, it is much likely that legalizing or regulating substances of abuse will have a direct impact on consumption levels while affecting support relationships and addiction treatment. In my opinion, it is from this prospect that organizations and professionals alike should (and must) contribute to the debate.
A consensus has been prevailing for years in the scientific community that addiction is a multi-faceted and global phenomenon. This implies that any significant modification in either of its dimensions will entail comprehensive changes within the whole phenomenon. The debate on drug legalization or regulation goes far beyond the mere legal aspect because the legal status of substances has an influence on how the drug user is considered: as an offender. This situation has had a direct impact on how we deal with substance abusers who seek treatment although we should focus our approaches to improving the health of our patients only – health being understood as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, essential to a high quality of life.
Without taking sides in the debate for or against legalization, it appears important to carry out an impartial analysis of its potential impact on prevention strategies, healthcare issues, and social reintegration prospects. To take but one example, I would point out that legalization would allow for the dismantlement of organized crime networks and the implementation of adequate health checks through a state run drug distribution system. Drug users would also have a quality product, much better than that they can have now, while reducing the harms that go hand in hand with the illegal market.
Such an analysis shouldn't be conducted from ideological, economic or legal perspectives – other people are doing it – but from that of the educational, social and therapeutic interventions carried out for people who are at-risk, who are confronted with an addiction problem, or who have overcome their difficulties but still are in a reintegration process.
The debate on legalization is spreading though economic, ideological, political, religious, and sometimes ethical interests which have an impact on therapeutic approaches. If we really want to feed the debate, I think we should shift its focus from these interests to the interest of people themselves, whose quality of life and full social and personal development is at stake.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that we professionals and organizations working in this field, we are committed to improving the quality of life of people who have a hard time maintaining social and emotional bonds, finding and keeping a job, getting rid of their addiction problem. As such, the positions we advocate are those that go in the direction of providing people with better support and health care.
Myriam García Gómez is graduated in Social Work (UCM), and specialist in psychiatric family therapy and has a degree from ESADE Business and Law School in leadership and social innovation. For over twenty years, she has been working for NGOs in the field of addiction treatment. She has been part of the staff of Dianova for the last ten years where she held various positions: addiction counseling, project manager, training supervisor, branch manager, Strategic Development Branch and institutional relationships. She currently serves on the Board of the Dianova Foundation and since 2013 holds the presidency of the Network against Poverty and Social Exclusion (Navarra).