According to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 60,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016. Even worse, that was a substantial increase from 2015’s total of 52,000 deaths.
Over 60 percent of those deaths involved opioids like OxyContin, Xanax, fentanyl, morphine and heroin, the CDC says.
Almost a third of children in foster care were removed from their parental homes due to drug abuse, according to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The stakes are high, and Sessions believes we need tougher enforcement of our drug laws in order to fight. He also says we need a change in our culture, according to the USA TODAY NETWORK.
Speaking before an annual meeting of the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children last week, Sessions outlined several tactics the Department of Justice has already taken to fight opioids and drug use in general. He also pointed the finger at the media, Hollywood, and some officials for sending “mixed messages” regarding the harmfulness of drugs.
“This is unacceptable: we must not capitulate intellectually or morally to drug use. We must create and foster a culture that is hostile to drug abuse,” he said.
Sessions’ “tough on crime” stance is well known. In May, Sessions reversed an Obama-era policy which limited the application of tough, mandatory-minimum sentences to low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. Instead, he urged prosecutors to seek the harshest charges and penalties allowed.
Earlier this summer, the DOJ charged over 400 physicians, nurses and medical professionals with healthcare fraud related to opioids and opioid scams. A new database meant to identify over-prescribing doctors and over-filling pharmacists is also in place. Sessions has said that preventing the over-prescription of opioids is a major goal.
Sessions’ speech garnered some protestors, who generally opposed a “tough on crime” agenda for fighting the opioid crisis. One protester said that the legal system in the U.S. doesn’t pay enough attention to the non-criminal issues that underpin a lot of drug use. Moreover, it shames people with drug problems, causing them to avoid seeking help.
“Addiction is a medical disease. It is not a crime,” said the protester. “We’ve got this revolving door of people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol and other things, and they just keep going in and out of our prison doors.”
Do you think that cracking down on drug use is the best way to fight the opioid crisis? Or would a different approach be more effective?
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