Pubdate: Thu, 13 Jun 2013
Source: Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ)
Copyright: 2013 Newark Morning Ledger Co
Author: Elizabeth Thompson


In "Heroin epidemic grows deadlier" (June 11), The Star-Ledger 
discussed the rise in overdose deaths in several New Jersey counties 
and a reactive legislative intervention that would increase penalties 
for heroin possession in an attempt to combat drug abuse and mitigate 
these alarming statistics.

Anyone who proposes harsher penalties for drug crimes in an effort to 
discourage use is ignoring years of evidence demonstrating that it's 
not a sustainable, or even remotely effective, solution to the drug problem.

In the 1980s, New Jersey and the rest of the country implemented 
harsh mandatory minimum prison terms for many drug offenses. The 
enhanced sentences packed our prisons with nonviolent offenders, a 
disproportionate number of whom are black and brown, and done 
absolutely nothing to affect substance use. In fact, although 
treatment admissions and the popularity of different drugs routinely 
fluctuate, overall drug use and dependence have remained relatively 
constant for decades.

Addiction is a disease; using drugs is merely a symptom of a more 
insidious, ultimately unrelated problem. History shows facilitating 
moral panics and demonizing specific substances will be both 
unsuccessful and result in tragic and unintended consequences.

Elizabeth Thompson, policy associate, New Jersey Drug Policy Alliance
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