How Are Overdoses Impacting Criminal Penalties?

“The War on Drugs” is in an interesting spot: recreational marijuana’s been legalized in many states, some countries are thinking about legalizing small amounts of cocaine, and synthetic drugs are causing more overdoses by the year. While the federal government is interested in cocaine and marijuana busts, many legislators are focusing on the “overdose crisis.” Today, we will examine how the overdose crisis is impacting criminal penalties in Texas and beyond.

Statistics of Overdoses

Before we talk about criminal penalties concerning drugs, we must first look at the statistics of drug overdoses in America.

Statistics of overdoses from the National Institute of Drug Abusefound that:

  • In 1997, 16,849 Americans died from drug overdoses;
  • In 2007, 36,010 Americans died from drug overdoses;
  • That’s an increase of 113% in a single decade;
  • In 2017, 70,237 Americans died from drug overdoses;
  • That’s an increase of 319% in two decades;
  • In 2017, more Americans died from drug overdoses than Americans who died in the entire Vietnam war;
  • Men make up roughly 2/3 of the people who died from an overdose in 2017.
  • If the trend continues, we can expect to see 140,000 drug overdoses in 2027.

Here are statistics of 2017 drug overdoses by drug type:

  • 28,466 overdoses were caused by synthetic narcotics other than methadone (mainly fentanyl);
  • 17,029 overdoses were caused by prescription opioids;
  • 15,482 overdoses were caused by heroin;
  • 13,942 overdoses were caused by cocaine;
  • 11,537 overdoses were caused by benzos;
  • 10,333 overdoses were caused by psychostimulants (like methamphetamine);
  • 5,259 overdoses were caused by antidepressants;
  • Prescription opioids accounted for the most one-drug overdoses (over 10,000).

These statistics are shocking, and unfortunately, they may only get worse with time.

The Legalization of Marijuana & Drug Charges

Marijuana has been legalized in many states, and it’s only a matter of time until more states jump on the bandwagon. While legalization efforts have decreased marijuana trafficking on the southern border, that won’t stop the cartels from making money.

When a product goes out of style, the cartel changes its approach.

As discussed in this Vice article, Mexican cartels are currently a small (and new) supplier of street fentanyl in the United States. However, now that marijuana trafficking is no longer as lucrative as it once was, many sources believe Mexican cartels will change their main product to fentanyl.

An increase in fentanyl production and sales from the southern border will likely result in more American overdoses. More overdoses will increase public outcry against opioids, and more public outcry will result in tougher criminal penalties for the use and sale of street opioids.

If southern cartels start mass-producing fentanyl, stricter criminal penalties may be around the corner. However, politicians and lawmakers are currently more concerned with America’s role in the overdose epidemic than the roles of her neighbors.

Drugs & Criminal Penalties

This isn’t the first time America has dealt with a drug problem. In the 1980s, the cocaine trade was stronger than it had ever been, and that’s when the war on drugs was announced. The war on drugs enacted criminal legislation and crackdowns on the use and distribution of drugs (mainly cocaine).

There are many views concerning the war on drugs, and these views have turned into new thoughts concerning how America should deal with the overdose crisis. There are currently two sides of the overdose debate, those who want to treat the problem medically and those who want to treat the problem criminally.

Some Texas politicians and authorities would argue that the war on drugs was lost and that a new tactic should be used to tackle the problem. These men and women would argue that the opioid overdose epidemic should not be treated as a criminal problem but as a medical problem.

Proponents of medically treating the opioid problem say three main things about the overdose crisis:

  • Opioid addiction is a mental disorder;
  • Hospitals’ pain schedules have fueled the fires of the opioid crisis;
  • Cracking down on one drug (opioid) will only result in a shift to other drugs.

Others would argue that an increase in criminal penalties for opioid distributors and users is a necessary good to vanquish the overdose epidemic. While the federal government is nowhere near enacting another war on drugs, state and city judges near overdose hot zones may feel pressured to hand down stiff sentences to fight the war.

This could result in maximum sentences for illegal opioid distributors and users.

The Accused Can Fight for Their Rights

Politicians have yet to decide how they will deal with the overdose crisis, but even now, individuals’ rights are at stake due to drug-related criminal charges. If you or a loved one is accused of drug-related charges, you can fight for your rights with the proper representation.

Law Office of John L. Venza Jr is ready to defend your case should you be accused of drug-related activity. Attorney John L. Venza Jr has more than a decade of experience representing clients through drug charges, and you can expect nothing but comprehensive and aggressive defense.

Call (281) 817-8737 now for a free consultation for your case!

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