Addiction Is Not A Crime

Criminalization of drug use is an abject failure, channelling sick people into a system that does nothing to help them heal.

The Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine is calling on the Canadian government to stop treating drug users like criminals and start providing the health care they need to recover from a life-threatening illness. In a policy paper released today, the society said the criminalization of drug use is “an abject failure,” channelling sick people into an overburdened criminal justice system that fails to provide access to life-saving opioid agonist therapy and does little or nothing to help them recover from their illness. The society argues that criminalization stigmatizes drug users, discourages them from seeking treatment, and saddles them with a criminal record. Racialized and marginalized Canadians suffer most. This is unacceptable, and we have the knowledge and resources to do better.

Addiction is a serious health issue requiring care

Drug users should go to treatment, not jail. Addiction is a serious health issue that requires evidence-based treatment supported by harm reduction services. Canada must follow Portugal’s lead and decriminalize drug possession for personal use. In issuing the statement, the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM) joins a growing chorus of experts calling for the decriminalization of drug possession for personal use. This list now includes the World Health Organization, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Toronto Board of Health, the BC Provincial Health Officer and the editorial boards of all of Canada’s major daily newspapers. “Decriminalization is not a silver bullet and must be combined with enhanced funding of harm reduction services and recovery-oriented systems, as well as supports that address social determinants,” the committee wrote. “The most vulnerable among us deserve nothing less.” Read the complete position paper in English or Français.

The Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine is a national society of medical professionals and scientists committed to helping Canadians understand, accept, and recover from substance use disorders.