Discrimination Against Drug Users
Drug war advocates have always relied on the public’s fear and discomfort to build support for policies that marginalize people who use drugs. Through scare tactics and media manipulation, the prohibition lobby has ensured that an entire category of people are excluded from laws that protect against discrimination.
Mandatory drug testing by employers, schools and hospitals is widely used to exclude those who test positive from job opportunities, student financial aid and public benefits. Positive drug tests are even used to prosecute and jail pregnant women suspected of substance use or to send parolees back to prison, regardless of their underlying offense or history of drug misuse. Drug testing has become a tool of discrimination, and DPA has been involved in a variety of legal challenges to expansive drug testing policies and unreliable drug testing technologies.
Even among those who use drugs, some are more severely ostracized than others. Not all drugs are created equal when it comes to stigmatization, but often the assumptions that lead us to view certain substances or substance use behaviors as more harmful or immoral than others stem from misinformation. In the 1980s and 1990s, for instance, sensational media stories and political rhetoric about crack cocaine led to the widespread condemnation of “crackheads” and “crack mothers” and the draconian, racially discriminatory sentencing laws that we are still fighting to correct today.
DPA advocates for compassionate, evidence-based policies shaped by scientific fact, not fear and hyperbole. By advocating for honest and accurate public education about drugs and addiction, we hope to lift the stigma associated with drug use and to end the cycle of discrimination perpetuated by the war on drugs.