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High rate of drug overdose deaths calls for a better solution

The United States is in the grips of an epidemic that is growing more fatal as time goes on. Although rates of drug use and abuse have been high for decades, the rate of heroin and narcotic painkiller overdose deaths is now more serious than ever before.

Federal agencies like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tried to determine just how widespread the problem is. According to a recent study of 28 states, the number of heroin overdose deaths doubled between 2010 and 2012. This should be adequate proof that heroin and painkiller abuse is not a criminal justice issue. What we are facing is a public health crisis.

Although heroin has been around for more than a century, its increased use can be directly tied to the development of prescription painkillers like Vicodin and Oxycontin. These drugs, in a class called “opioids,” have very similar effects to heroin. Drug companies have been more than happy to continue producing these prescription painkillers and encouraging their use despite how addictive they can be.

It should be noted that Americans are also dying of painkiller overdoses as well. In many cases, victims may have started taking the drugs legally due to chronic pain or medical procedures like surgery. If they become addicted, however, they may begin to seek opioids on the street.

Heroin produces a very similar high to opioid painkillers. But it is also much cheaper and easier to obtain in most parts of the United States. As such, approximately 75 percent of new heroin users have made the switch after first using narcotic painkillers.

The idea of the “junkie” as a hopeless criminal with no direction in life is a myth we must dispel. The fatal overdose epidemic involving painkillers and heroin is claiming the lives of otherwise average citizens. They are teenagers with promising academic futures. They are parents who love their children. They are our neighbors and our friends.

This problem cannot be solved through tougher drug laws and increasingly harsh prison sentences. It’s time for an approach that focuses on addiction treatment, abuse prevention and other methods that have already proven far more effective and humane than incarceration.

Source: Web MD, “Heroin Overdose Deaths Doubled in Much of U.S.,” Steven Reinberg, Oct. 2, 2014

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Meet Attorney Guillory

Attorney Joshua S. Guillory was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. Upon graduating high school from Alexandria Senior High, he enrolled in classes at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree. Josh was a member of Mu Kappa Tau, a national honor society for marketing majors, while attending... Read More

Joshua S. Guillory

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