opinion   |   oped

EDITORIAL: How to move forward in the wake of drug crisis


There is an opioid crisis in Indiana. The number of deaths due to opioid overdose has risen 75 percent since 2011, as 1,118 people lost their lives last year and even more are struggling with addiction. With these new statistics in mind, the state of Indiana and local governments should be doing more to help mitigate this ongoing crisis. 

Indiana has a law that protects against arrests for drug possession or consumption in an emergency situation. This is the Indiana Lifeline Law, which provides immunity in cases of public intoxication or possession as long as the reporting individual is cooperative with authorities. This needs to be amended, as people should also be able to call the emergency helpline if their friend or loved one is overdosing. Indiana Recovery Alliance is an advocate for improving this law with an amendment, and a draft is available on their website.

Beyond the obvious moral reasons why such a law should be in place, there is a pragmatic reason as well. Seeking help from professionals allows said professionals to give people resources to try and beat their addiction. 

Another thing Indiana should decriminalize, or at the very least allow for lenient sentencing, is possession of a needle. Right now, having a needle or any other instrument used to inject drugs into the body with the intent to do so is a level 6 felony. That means a minimum of six months and a maximum of two and a half years jail time. Now a level six felony can be reduced to a class A misdemeanor which means only a maximum of one year in jail, and a fine that can cost as much as $5000.

That is a high price to pay for being addicted to a substance that is already ruining your life and body. Such laws only make the problem worse because instead of getting a person help, we put them into an environment where they can only get worse. Jail time should be a punishment for harming others, not yourself. The hefty fine is also concerning as many opioid addicts spend most of their cash on drugs and will be unable to pay the fine.

Putting the injustice of the law aside, local governments can also help to stem the crisis. Increased education on the signs of addiction and opioid use can help friends and family stop their loved ones from worsening their condition. Safe needle exchange sites should be more abundant so that a user doesn’t contract a deadly disease. This also requires the distribution of narcan to key places to prevent death. 

Drug addiction is a hard topic that ruins lives and families. It is hard to determine the right approach to combating it. However, it is reasonable to assume that our current laws are ineffective and damaging. Even though you cannot get arrested for the use of drugs, you can get arrested to for the tools to use drugs. It is a system that is setting users up for failure. We, as Hoosiers, need to change our strategy to better help our fellow citizens and to ensure that those addicted to drugs can find help and not fear the repercussions. 

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