Solving The Heroin Epidemic: Improving The Judiciary and Relevant Laws

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 2377 |

Pages: 5|

12 min read

Published: May 24, 2022

Words: 2377|Pages: 5|12 min read

Published: May 24, 2022

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Statistics on Heroin Use
    Mandatory Minimum Sentences as a Solution
    Methadone as a Solution
    Nixon’s Drug Policy
    Narcan for Overdoses
  3. Conclusion


Court systems are designed to protect society from individuals who break the law. This is often done through incarceration. Prison is an effective way to keep the heroin abusers away from both drugs and society but when they get released from prison they often continue to abuse the drug. Mandatory minimum sentences are often seen in court systems. These sentences ensure that the judge sentences the offender to a lengthy prison term that fits the crime. It does not, however, take into account the well-being of the offender and the likelihood of use again outside of prison. These laws set up a way to postpone the offender from committing further crimes rather than preventing it altogether. Court systems must be improved to better handle drug crimes which are a very large problem in today’s society. One of the drugs that are abused throughout the United States the most is heroin. Heroin is made cheap; therefore, it is often preferred over other opioids. Heroin has been abused by society for long past the recent years. Laws that are an effective solution to help addicts and eliminate the problem have yet to be established as the punishment for even the possession of heroin is very lengthy. The criminal justice system is at its core, designed to not only punish criminals but also teach them not to commit these crimes again. Throughout history, policies, programs, and laws have been implemented to help limit heroin abuse but nothing has significantly reduced the number of people that abuse heroin.

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Statistics on Heroin Use

Heroin is very dangerous and abused often in today’s society. The statistics of drug overdoses and heroin use in the United States are shocking and frightening. Deaths due to heroin occur predominantly in younger people between the ages of 20 and 40 and there are 174 deaths due to overdoses a day. Drug overdoses also occur in most young people. It also occurs more in males than females and more whites than blacks. Heroin is also very costly for the United States government and taxpayers. The cost of all heroin use “was estimated to be $51.2 billion in 2015 US dollars”. This means that each individual user costs about $50,779. This information was gathered by including the costs of HIV treatment and incarcerating users. The amount of heroin users continues to grow as the number of users doubled between 2000 and 2013 and heroin deaths have tripled since 2002. Heroin use is followed by many different diseases. This is because heroin is injected into the person with a needle and users are not always careful about using a clean needle or not sharing them with other users. This makes them much more likely to catch a disease such as Hepatitis or HIV. These diseases are very costly to treat as they do not go away and require a lifetime of treatment. Each individual user that is in prison “costs society $74,428, mostly driven by productivity loss ($28,885; 38.8%), incarceration costs ($30,656; 41.2%), and HCV treatment costs ($8,755; 11.8%)”. Taxpayers are required to pay for these costs and incarcerated people are unable to work which results in productivity cost loss. These statistics are recent, and the data has been collected after many attempts to solve the heroin epidemic by creating different laws and regulations. This shows that the current and past laws have not significantly reduced the crime rates for people using heroin and much still needs to be done in order to mitigate the drug problem in the United States.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences as a Solution

Incarceration is the most common way to try and prevent individuals from committing crimes related to heroin. Prison may be an effective way to keep the heroin abusers away from committing drug crimes while they are in prison but when they get released they often continue to abuse the drug. Mandatory minimum sentences ensure that the judge sentences the offender to a prison term that fits the crime, however, it does not prevent the crime in the future nor does it rehabilitate the individuals. Court systems and their methods for handling drug crimes must be greatly improved. According to Pryor, “In the fiscal year 2016, the average sentence for offenders who were convicted of an offense carrying a drug mandatory minimum penalty was 94 months of imprisonment, more than double the average sentence (42 months) for drug offenders not convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty”. Judges who sentenced individuals charged with drug possession, sentence them to significantly less time than judges who had a mandatory minimum sentence. Judges give fair sentences according to the individual's situation and it should be a case-by-case decision. If the individual is wishing to seek help to rehabilitate themselves, they should not receive the same penalty as someone who does not care about their actions. As time progresses society has become more critical of the minimum mandatory sentences, even removing many of the minimum mandatory sentencing laws. In 2016, 44.7% of drug offenders were sentenced with a mandatory minimum sentence while in 2010, 66.1% of drug offenders faced this form of a sentence. Court systems need to reevaluate their methods for bettering society. The mandatory minimum sentence law is not an effective way to prevent drug crimes. Other laws related to Nixon’s drug policies, methadone, and Narcan have been enacted through the court systems to try to help mitigate heroin use.

Methadone as a Solution

One of the first attempts to help addicts quit heroin was to administer another drug to them called methadone. Methadone is another opioid but when taken as a replacement to heroin addicts do not feel the effects of withdrawal as they come off of the heroin. Laws were created that made this drug legal for addicts as a solution to help them get off of the heroin that they were addicted to. Methadone is not an effective solution for heroin addicts as the drug is a “synthetic opiate,” meaning that users will become addicted as well as get them high. Making methadone legal for addicts it does not help them end their addiction but rather only ends having to go through withdrawal. Methadone is still given to addicts today in order to help them handle the withdrawal symptoms from the drug that they are addicted to but there is still no data that shows that it significantly reduces heroin crime.

Nixon’s Drug Policy

President Richard Nixon was the first United States president to make strides in order to end the opioid epidemic that was occurring throughout the country. Nixon’s first step after being elected was to ban poppy production and increase attacks on labs that were producing opioid products. He also established multiple government agencies to help control and enforce drug laws. These government programs included the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention, which ended in 1975. Its responsibilities were then transferred to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). This organization focused on research and treatment for drug abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse also collected nationwide data on drug use. NIDA still exists today but it is now only focused on performing research and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration manages the collection of data throughout the United States. The Drug Enforcement Administration was also established in 1973. This is the drug agency that is most commonly known throughout the United States today. As stated in its name, the Drug Enforcement Administration is responsible for the enforcement of drug laws throughout the United States. Nixon also established more treatment centers than the original 8 that had previously existed before he was elected as the president. Treatment centers are very important for addicts who are recovering and need a place to stay where they do not have access to drugs. Treatment centers also provide addicts with a place that has many people that will help them quit and give them the support that they need in order to do so. These treatment centers help limit the number of drug laws that are broken as they force addicts to be without drugs. They are also what give addicts the best chance to no longer be addicts. If they cannot get the drug and are forced to become clean, then drug crimes will be reduced. Giving an addict supplemental drugs does not help them but rather harms them and society even more. Before Nixon’s presidency, there were 8 treatment centers, but he added 18 more between 1970 and 1975. Nixon was responsible for many of the government programs that are established today but one of the new programs that have recently been established is known as the needle exchange program.

Narcan for Overdoses

One of the most used methods to assist addicts who are overdosing is Narcan. Narcan is a drug that can be administered with a nasal spray or injected for faster results. This product contains a drug called naloxone. Naloxone blocks the opioid receptors in one’s brain so that the opioid drugs are no longer as effective. Court systems made Narcan available for purchase by civilians in most states and increasing numbers of police departments are requiring their officers to be trained to administer Narcan as well as being required to carry it. Different laws have been passed in order to make Narcan more easily available as well as to lower the legal risk of administering it. Good Samaritan laws remove liability for the individuals who react in an emergency situation. Without these laws, a person that is trying to assist a person who is in danger could be prosecuted for making the situation worse or providing the wrong care. This is essential for Narcan use as if the person who is overdosing has taken other drugs along with heroin, Narcan will not be safe. The effects of mixing heroin, Narcan, and other drugs cannot be ensured to be safe and that the person's condition will not only get worse. Good Samaritan laws, created by court systems are essential for if a civilian is trying to assist someone who is overdosing by administering Narcan without knowing if they had taken other drugs. Narcan Greater Access Laws have also been implemented. These laws make it possible for people to buy Narcan without a prescription and without talking with a doctor. It is “still too new to generate data on the success and failures of Narcan as a public health intervention”. Although Narcan laws are helpful in situations where it is being used to save the life of an addict who has accidentally overdosed it can also be used to enable the heroin users. Under Narcan Greater Access Laws anyone can buy it and with this, users often buy it as a precautionary measure. Police departments were originally supportive of Narcan and believed that it would help with the heroin epidemic but as time has passed “they are now concerned that individuals are abusing Narcan access programs”. With Narcan Greater, Access Laws addicts can purchase as a precautionary measure so they can try to maximize the amount of heroin that they are injecting at once. One person is able to shoot up while the other standby with Narcan in the event they overdose. Once the first person feels safe the other can shoot up while the first person is ready with the Narcan. This is not a good use of Narcan and it only enables users to become riskier with the doses that they take. Police departments are not always well funded and administering Narcan can become expensive especially if it is the same few individuals that are always needing to be given the Narcan. The Narcan Greater Access Laws are encouraging addicts to be riskier and according to Smyth, a set of parents overdosed in their car in Ohio while their child was in the backseat. They decided to do this as they knew someone would call for the police to help them. According to Afro - American, “Medical experts say that Narcan is not a cure, only a stopgap and that unless the person who overdoses gets counseling, he/she will continue to overdose”. In many locations, Narcan is only feeding the heroin epidemic rather than limiting it. In Massachusetts, Narcan is provided free to people on Mass Health insurance so taxpayers must pay for it rather than the addicts themselves. People who suffer from diseases such as diabetes and cancer are required to pay for their drugs and medical care, but addicts are not. These laws that were enacted through the court system do not provide them with motivation to stop using but rather provide them with a free way to take higher doses without the risk of death.

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Court systems were created to protect society from individuals who break the law. One method for this is through incarceration. This may be an effective way to keep the heroin abusers away from both drugs and society temporarily, but they often continue abusing drugs after they get out of prison. Mandatory minimum sentences are often seen in court systems. These sentences ensure that the offender is incarcerated for a certain amount of time to fit the crime. However, it does not take into account the well-being of the offender and the likelihood of use again after they have been released. Court systems must be improved to better handle heroin crimes. Heroin is one of the most abused drugs and has been abused for a very long time within the country. Many different laws have been made to mitigate the heroin epidemic, but they have only changed the drug system. Nixon established effective policies, but the drug problem continued to cause many problems for society. Narcan is administered to people who are overdosing as a procedure to save their lives but providing it free to the public is enabling users to take higher, more risky doses. The court system is in place in order to punish as well as prevent people from committing the crimes and current and past drug laws have not worked for heroin use. Much needs to be done in order to help solve the heroin epidemic and more research needs to be conducted in order to create laws for society to help end the heroin epidemic as the current court systems are not working.

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Solving the Heroin Epidemic: Improving the Judiciary and Relevant Laws. (2022, May 24). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 18, 2024, from
“Solving the Heroin Epidemic: Improving the Judiciary and Relevant Laws.” GradesFixer, 24 May 2022,
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