Addiction is a health issue that deserves a health-based response

 Substance use disorders and addiction have been recognized as health conditions by the American Medical Association for more than 30 years, but in Oregon we still treat addiction as a crime.

Oregon is in the midst of a drug addiction crisis that is killing people every day. As medical doctors, we are on the front lines of this epidemic. We see how addiction wreaks havoc on our patients' physical health, mental well-being and the ability to live full, meaningful lives.

We see the toll addiction takes on families and communities. We see the pain of loss when addiction claims lives. We sit in clinic offices and hospital rooms with people every day who feel hopeless, knowing how challenging it can be to find a way out.

Oregon's current approach to drug addiction often involves arresting and jailing someone for possession of even a small amount of drugs, rather than connect them with support and services to help them get well. While in jail, some patients undergo excruciating detox, While this practice is cruel and could be argued on moral grounds, it is also ineffective. It may be tempting to make the argument that incarceration could serve as a gateway to treatment for people with addictions, but this has not been the case. In fact, incarceration for addiction exposes people to the harms of jail -- increased HIV and hepatitis C rates, decreased access to housing and jobs, and increased risk of overdose after release -- without improving rates of drug use or successful recovery.

As medical providers, when our patients are incarcerated for drug use we do not sigh in relief for the treatments and services they will receive. We lose sleep hoping we can find ways to keep them safe when they get out.

We're creating a vicious cycle that ruins lives, and as physicians, we see the fallout from Oregon's failed approach to addiction every day. That's why we're supporting Measure 110, which offers a more effective and compassionate approach.

Measure 110 ushers in a new era that shifts from punishment and ineffective, expensive incarceration to great expansion of access to drug treatment and recovery services. It will remove unfair, harsh penalties for simple drug possession, and instead offer people

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