Opioid abuse is a public-health crisis that we ineffectively treat as a law enforcement issue. There are economic and social issues feeding this epidemic that we must address, but before and above all else, we must ensure that our fellow Americans in the grips of addiction get the help they need and that their families and communities are supported.
Although the opioid crisis has wreaked havoc on communities of every class, color, creed, and corner of this country, it has been particularly hard on communities already suffering from years of economic and governmental neglect. Opioid abuse is nothing new in many areas, but the scale of the epidemic is staggering and the modern variants of common street drugs are more dangerous, addictive, and lethal than ever before. In years past, many counties that would be shocked to see a dozen overdose deaths from prescription painkillers are now seeing tens or hundreds of deaths from painkillers' even more sinister cousins: heroin and fentanyl.
Counties and townships are desperate for resources and guidance in the fight against this scourge, and its long-past time the Federal government delivered the much-needed assistance. It is time for the government to view drug addiction primarily as a serious medical epidemic and not strictly as a law-enforcement issue. Since the 1950s the United States has waged a “War on Drugs” to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars – and yet more than a half-century later, we are still facing a massive and growing drug-abuse crisis.
It’s time to modify our approach and support our law enforcement agencies with proven solutions like medical teams, extensive research, and non-criminal approaches to non-violent, low-level offenders that free up law enforcement to focus on real criminal threats facing our communities, not repeatedly arresting and locking up low-level addicts stuck helplessly in the cycle of poverty and addiction.