A Look at Pennsylvania Drug Crimes, Failures of the War on Drugs
Pennsylvania, like many states across the country, has been dealing with rapidly rising rates of opioid abuse. This problem doesn’t just manifest itself in rising drug-related crime. It’s also apparent when looking at overdose rates.
According to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths in the country as a whole tripled from 1990 to 2015. In 2015, the most recent year for which there is complete information, Pennsylvania had an average of 26.3 overdose deaths for every 100,000 people, the sixth-highest rate in the nation. There were more than 3,500 opioid deaths overall, an increase of about 30 percent from the year before.
Pennsylvania has been at the forefront of fighting back against the opioid crisis, with state legislators passing several bills that limit supplies that can be prescribed to people of a certain age, increase the usefulness of the prescription drug database in the state and more. The state has also opened 45 new centers to help treat and support those dealing with addiction. But clearly, there is more that needs to be done.
Results of the war on drugs
In response to the rising opioid crisis, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump have sought increased enforcement and harsher penalties for people found guilty of drug crimes, including lower-level offenses like possession. However, the last four-plus decades have shown that this sort of “war on drugs” simply does not work.
Numerous studies indicate that higher incarceration rates are actually associated with more drug-related deaths and more addiction problems. In one study, researchers found that former prison inmates have an elevated risk of death from drug overdoses, especially in the time immediately after their release.
Clearly, harsher enforcement isn’t the right solution. Finding better ways of treating addiction is the only hope for resolving the opioid crisis at a state and national level.