Pubdate: Sun, 11 Oct 2015
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Copyright: 2015 Dayton Daily News
Author: Ron Rollins


'Tough on crime' doesn't help: From Lauren-Brooke Eisen, at

We have been through this before as a nation - during the crack 
epidemic of the late '80s and early '90s, and the previous heroin 
crisis of the '70s - and we have valuable lessons to draw upon when 
approaching today's challenge.

One lesson is that the reactionary "tough on crime" rhetoric led us 
astray. It resulted in policymakers enacting ineffective and overly 
punitive drug policies, many of which resulted from knee-jerk 
reactions to media sensationalism of crime or political opportunism.

Today, almost half of all federal inmates are in prison for drug 
crimes and 1 in 5 state prisoners are serving sentences for drug 
crimes. They are part of the world's largest and most expensive 
prison population, which since 1980 has increased by more than 800 
percent. In the last 40 years, federal and state governments have 
spent more than $1 trillion on the "war on drugs."

What we now know is that drug use should be treated as a public 
health issue, rather than just a criminal justice issue. It's easy to 
let political self-interest lead policymakers to enact harsh, 
punitive policies following high profile events like the 
heroin-related death of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. 
It's also clear that simply incarcerating drug users doesn't work.

Research by the Justice Department shows two-thirds of drug offenders 
leaving state prison will be re-arrested within three years. In 
addition, nearly half of released drug offenders will return to prison.

Each prisoner costs taxpayers an average of $30,000 a year, money 
that could be better spent on drug treatment programs with a stronger 
record of success. Studies have found that every dollar invested in 
drug treatment saves taxpayers more than $18 in crime-related 
societal costs, and that treatment reduces crime, recidivism and 
other societal costs 15 times more effectively than law enforcement alone.

The Obama administration has acknowledged this truth. Last April, 
drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said that his office would support a broad 
effort to make health care a larger part of the solution to drug 
issues. "We've relied far too long on the criminal justice system." 
Despite the administration's stated commitment, however, Obama's 
budget and his drug policies continue to focus on drug enforcement.

The administration must make a stronger effort to prioritize 
treatment programs as a solution to drug crises, including the 
current heroin epidemic. In addition, Congress should continue its 
efforts, through legislation like the bipartisan Smarter Sentencing 
Act, to reduce the use of draconian mandatory minimum sentences for 
drug offenders. These policies perpetuate the worst aspects of the 
drug war by locking up low-level drug offenders for long periods, 
possibly the least efficient use of taxpayer money to combat drug use.

As illegal drug use again becomes a focus of public policy, it is 
vital that we don't make the same mistakes that created mass 
incarceration in America. Decades of experience have given us the 
tools to do better. It is incumbent on policymakers, from the White 
House to state legislatures, to apply these lessons.

Try giving it away for free: From Jason Smith at

Heroin is sweeping the country. There's no denying that. Rx drugs - 
specifically, the opiate variety - paved the way for what became a 
very healthy appetite for all things opiate in the United States. So now what?

I believe that too often, the desire to "fight drug addiction," while 
well-intentioned, is mislabeled. Under the "fight addiction" 
umbrella, there are really two separate fights that require very 
different resources:

1. Prevention and education, to stop the next generation of addict.

2. Treatment for the current addict.

Those two require very different approaches with different resources, 
and often times, when the government throws money at "fighting drug 
addiction," they send money to No. 1. Money to schools and 
communities is sexy, something tangible that politicians can show in 
campaign videos. A classroom of small children learning about the 
dangers of drug abuse makes a great campaign commercial.

Videos of a heroin addict kicking in a rehab facility is, decidedly, 
much less sexy, receiving funds accordingly.

Drug addiction affects far more than the addict using the drug. 
Family and friends have to suffer along with the addict. Drug cartels 
from Mexico, in the meantime, are playing chess while the U.S. 
government plays checkers, having splintered into smaller, more 
difficult groups to control, compared to when there were just five 
major cartels. There are now 43 smaller, more deadly cartels 
operating, each fighting for the right to feed America's insatiable 
heroin appetite.

This is the result of a 40 year "War on Drugs." It has FAILED. My 
solution: Let's just give the stuff away.

Today, doctors wishing to prescribe the 21st century's version of 
methadone - Suboxone - need a special license. Let's do the same 
thing with heroin.

It's time we have doctors start issuing heroin to heroin addicts. 
Truth is, they're going to get it anyway. If we have it issued by 
doctors, we can implement monthly HIV and Hep-C tests, issue clean 
needles, and present treatment opportunities to addicts when they 
come to get their drugs. Look, 9 times out of 10, the addict will 
want their drugs. But what about that 1 time? You think their street 
dealer is going to go through the process of testing and treatment 

It's all about risk reduction.

By doing this, we immediately take the cartels out of the picture. No 
addict is going to continue to rob, cheat, steal, and connive, to buy 
from a dealer when they can jump through a few painless hoops and get 
it for free from a doctor.

Monitoring abuse will help fight the problem: From Brandon Duncan, at

In response to the surging drug epidemics seen across the country, 
national agencies and health experts are now developing an enhanced 
system for monitoring drug trends. In August 2014, the National 
Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) will start funding the National Drug 
EarlyWarning System (NDEWS), which will provide more intensive 
monitoring of local drug use trends and allow experts to act more 
quickly to address outbreaks of drug abuse before they spread to 
other areas. The system will also take advantage of social media 
platforms to provide information and education to people living in 
areas where addiction outbreaks are occurring.

Current ways of tracking trends in drug use have been too slow to 
adequately respond to the fast-growing opioid drug and heroin 
epidemics. The new system will be more tech-focused, scanning social 
media and other web platforms to identify new trends in drug use. 
Health experts will then send rapid response teams to the regions 
where the drug outbreaks are happening, assessing the health 
epidemics and working to contain them. The system will also create 
online networks of addiction professionals who can more easily 
communicate and coordinate efforts to reverse the surges in drug use 
and overdose deaths.

Removing stigma from addicts and families is crucial: From Lauren A. 
Rousseau at the American Bar Association.

There is a plague stalking the young people of our nation, and its 
name is heroin. Between 2007 and 2013, the number of annual heroin 
users almost doubled, from 370,000 in 2007 to 680,000 in 2013. The 
federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention released statistics 
on January 12, 2015, showing that overdose deaths linked to heroin 
increased 39 percent in 2013 over 2012, and that 8,257 people died of 
heroin-related deaths.

The number of drug overdose deaths overall in 2013 increased by 6 
percent, raising the number to 43,982. This means that every day in 
this country, 119 people die from a drug overdose. Another 6,748 are 
treated in emergency rooms - there is an overdose-related 
hospitalization in this country every 13 seconds And 75 percent of 
these drug overdoses involve opioids. Heroin is an opioid, as is a 
whole host of prescription pain medications - Vicodin, Hydrocodone, 
and OxyContin, to name a few. ...

Although the medical community has recognized addiction as a disease 
since 1956, society and government policy have largely treated it as 
a moral failing. Our current approach - much of which centers on 
criminalization and incarceration - costs our nation in excess of 
$360 billion a year. Only a small fraction of this goes to prevention 
and treatment services; a recent national survey found that only one 
in nine people struggling with addiction receives treatment.

The documentary film, "The Anonymous People," directed by Greg 
William, explores the emergence of a new recovery advocacy movement 
focused on eliminating the stigma associated with addiction and 
increasing access to treatment. In response to the heroin epidemic, 
this movement is accelerating. Grassroots organizations are springing 
up across the country hosting public awareness events, rallies, even 
"die-ins" to protest the increasing number of overdose deaths.

And governments are responding. As of December 2014, 28 states had 
adopted legislation broadening access to naloxone, a drug that can 
reverse opioid overdoses, permitting distribution to police, EMTs, 
and in some cases, families of opioid addicts. At least 22 states 
have enacted "Good Samaritan" laws providing legal protection against 
drug charges to persons calling 911 for someone who is overdosing. 
These laws are important because people who are with an overdose 
victim often use drugs themselves and are afraid to call 911 for fear 
of prosecution.

There are things Congress could do to help: FromKyle Simon, at The Hill.

Congress is finally talking about our nation's prescription drug 
abuse and heroin epidemic. Last month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch 
McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., requested an official 
report from the surgeon general on prescription opioid abuse and 
heroin use. Later this summer, the Department of Health and Human 
Services (HHS) will bring together officials from across the country 
to discuss responses to the crisis. ...

The problem is clear. So are the solutions.

Since 2009, dozens of not-for-profit health and safety organizations 
have come together each year to identify prevention, intervention, 
and treatment strategies to reduce opioid abuse, heroin use and their 
consequences. More than 30 not-forprofit health and safety groups 
have vetted and endorsed the 2015 National Prescription Drug Abuse 
Prevention Strategy.

States at the forefront of reducing prescription drug abuse have 
taken aggressive action and are seeing results. In Florida, for 
example, where the legislature enacted strong pill mill laws and 
prosecutors have cracked down on the physicians who operate them, 
opioid analgesic-related overdose deaths are down 17 percent.

As we successfully reduce the supply of prescription medications 
available for abuse, naturally, we must address demand. Among the 
most obvious and best ways of reducing the demand for substances of 
abuse is to ensure people with addiction get the treatment they need. 
This is where the federal government must do more.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, got it right last year when he stated, 
"We've got a problem when it's easier for Americans to get heroin 
than it is for them to get help to break their addiction."

A federal law enacted before this epidemic took hold prevents 
physicians from treating more than 100 patients at a time with 
buprenorphine, an FDA-approved medication for opioid-use disorders. 
The patient limit established by the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 
2000 (DATA 2000) was intended to prevent diversion and abuse of the medication.

Now, the demand for treatment exceeds capacity, with half of the 
physicians authorized to provide buprenorphine-assisted treatment 
forced to relegate patients in need to wait lists. At best, those 
patients fuel the demand for diverted buprenorphine on the black 
market - precisely what DATA 2000 attempted to prevent. At worst, 
they never reach the top of the wait list.

The Obama administration has had its chance to act, and it has 
declined to do so. In July 2014, HHS received a petition for 
rule-making to increase the patient limit for physicians who hold 
certifications in addiction medicine, and to exclude from the limit 
women who are pregnant or nursing - an attempt to stem the tide of 
neonatal abstinence syndrome. Other practical proposals exclude from 
the limit patients who pose a low risk of diversion or abuse, such as 
individuals who get implants or injections, are on a low dose of 
buprenorphine, or have succeeded for two years or more in 
uninterrupted recovery.

HHS never responded to the petitioners.

In the absence of meaningful executive leadership, Congress must now 
step in. Carefully expanding access to medication-assisted treatment 
for opioid-use disorders can reduce overdoses, HIV, hepatitis C and 
deaths. Enough talk already. It is time for federal action.

Most importantly, action must rest with the individual: From Megan 
Cairns, at Rare.

Look at the way politicians and commentators focus on the drug as the 
problem rather than the addict. ... In reality, the problem is not 
the availability of drugs, but the fact that there are people ill 
enough to stick a needle into their arms and inject a deadly 
substance into their bodies. ...

Politicians on the left make things even worse when they argue that 
society should accept and even subsidize drug abuse. Government 
needle exchange programs use taxpayer money to buy needles for heroin 
addicts, further feeding the addict's belief that he can never stop. 
Offsetting the negative consequences of drug abuse is not the 
government's job and will only prolong addiction.

As long as it's providing the needle, the government may as well just 
go ahead and provide the heroin.

Think nationalized drug dealing is laughable? The government doesn't. 
State governments spend millions of dollars a year transitioning 
heroin addicts to methadone, a drug that contributes to nearly one in 
three prescription painkiller deaths in the U.S.

Sometimes drug subsidization is subtler. Illicit drug use and 
dependence are more common among women who receive welfare than women 
who do not, and almost 20 percent of welfare recipients report recent 
illicit drug use. But when conservatives propose drug testing for 
welfare recipients, the left accuses them of "demonizing (welfare 
recipients) and vilifying public aid."

Just because someone thinks those who receive public assistance 
should be clean does not mean he thinks all welfare recipients are 
drug addicts. If your goal is to destigmatize public aid and push 
drug addicts into treatment, drug testing welfare recipients actually 
makes perfect sense.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom