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Opioids: An epidemic that requires care, not jail

As you may know, opioids are a serious problem in America today. They were overprescribed by medical professionals for a long time, meaning that many patients have become addicted to the substances despite following their doctor's orders.

The epidemic has increased for years. As of 2015, it was reported that over 2.5 million people were addicted to heroin or opioid pain relievers. Prescription and illicit opiates can both be problematic. Since 2000, it's believed that they have killed around 300,000 Americans due to overdoses. Approximately 91 people die each day as a result of overdosing on opioids in America.

What can be done to help those addicted to opioids?

Anyone who is addicted to opioids has an uncontrollable, compulsive desire to use opioids. This happens despite the fact that there will or could be consequences.

Many people believe that locking up those who violate drug laws related to opioids will help stop the crisis, but that's not the reality. Without treatment, many people return to using opioids even after a time spent in prison. That's why states now look into developing drug courts, which offer alternative penalties to nonviolent offenders.

The good news is that judges have many options when deciding how to penalize someone who has abused drugs. It is, by far, more reasonable to seek medical care for someone and to get them back to society as someone who can work and contribute than to lock them up for years with no treatment or assistance. For juveniles and nonviolent offenders, alternatives to prison may be a possibility.

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