Oregon Decriminalizes Drug Use, Offers Treatment Over Prison Time


A new law in Oregon now decriminalizes possession of illegal narcotics, including cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin, and oxycodone. Janie Gullickson, executive director of the Mental Health & Addiction Association of Oregon, worked towards the passage of the innovative piece of legislation called Measure 110. The law went into effect on February 8, with a complete rollout expected over the next ten years.

Due to the impact of COVID-19 on alcohol and drug use, the new law is a timely development. Steve Allen, the behavioral health director at the Oregon Health Authority, reports that overdoses in Oregon have jumped by an alarming 70% since the rise of COVID-19 less than a year ago.

Providing Treatment as an Alternative to Prison

Traditionally, people arrested for drug possession enter the criminal justice system. The focus on punishment for breaking the law does not address addiction, setting up people for recidivism. Oregon will now offer treatment as an alternative to a prison sentence. If the person is agreeable to treatment, they will be fined $100 and spared going to prison.

Many treatment professionals hope that Oregon will lead the way for taking progressive approaches to combat addiction. These approaches can benefit those who otherwise would be imprisoned and offered no real assistance in recovering. Incarceration proves more expensive than treatment for the average person caught in the legal system due to addiction. When the cycle of addiction is addressed first, future trips through the legal system can be prevented.

Extenuating Circumstances Often Accompany Addiction

Other difficult life challenges often accompany addiction, such as mental health diagnoses, physical health problems, and homelessness. Using prison sentences as the only or first line of defense leaves these other problems unaddressed. Without addressing these issues, many people suffering from addiction become part of the “revolving door” of the prison system. Without treatment, many never have a real chance to achieve lasting sobriety.

When the penal system punishes people who suffer from addiction without addressing their addiction, they often begin a cycle “in and out” of the legal system. Dealing with the addiction first and foremost can help a person recover and avoid prison time. The Detox Center of Colorado offers a comfortable environment to detox and start life over. Our Denver area location features medical, psychiatric, and psychological assessments, and we help you formulate a plan for continued recovery after you finish your stay with us. Call us today for more information at (303) 952-5035.


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