Despite claims, Florida is not first in regards to prescription drug epidemic.
Nov 3 2011 in Countryside by staffwriter
Much has been written and said about Florida and the Tampa Bay area in regards to pill mills and prescription drug abuse.
Some local officials and media outlets have labeled Florida the prescription drug abuse capital of the country and a “pipeline” to other states.
While criminals and drug users and seekers from other states are indeed obtaining illegal prescription drugs from our fair state,
Florida isn’t even in the top five when it comes to state rankings in regard to prescription drug abuse and supply according to FOX News.
While many refer to the prescription drug dilemma in Florida as an epidemic, FOX reports “New Mexico has the highest death rate, followed by West Virginia, Nevada, Utah and Alaska.
The highest abuse rate is in Oklahoma, followed by Oregon, Washington state, Rhode Island and Kentucky.”
FOX also reports that Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri admitted that despite intensive efforts at enforcement – targeting pill mills and users, they (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office) “haven’t made a dent in the problem.”
The war on drugs is 40-years-old this year and a magnificent failure.
Back in 2009, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, informed that while it elected to not significantly alter drug enforcement policy, the war on drugs is counterproductive.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy takes the view that drug addiction is a disease and can be successfully treated and prevented.
Prevention and treatment is the key but the privatization of prisons provides an incentive to favor tougher laws and advocate mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenders, including users not just dealers.
This translates into more revenue for private companies and less regulatory control and oversight, leading to increased prisoner abuse and violations of prisoner rights.
Until elected officials acknowledge addiction is a disease and not a choice (scientific studies have isolated genetic structures proving children born to alcoholics and/or addicts have a much higher tendency to become addicts) the chaos and failure regarding drug abuse shall continue.
An integral point lost on elected officials rushing for a solution to the drug “epidemic” is the fact humans have sought to alter their consciousness since the beginning of time whether through chemicals, alcohol, plants, meditation, religion, exercise, etc.
This is a very basic mechanism in the human psyche, a mechanism that cannot and should not be legislated against. This trait to obtain an altered or enlightened state is inherent in humans. Legislation against an intangible mindset is counterproductive.
In 2006 the U.S. Department of Justice reported one in 32 Americans are held by the justice system. This figure increases exponentially most years.
The U.S. has but less than 5 percent of the world’s population while maintaining a quarter of the world’s prisoners. What does this say about our country?
Are Americans by nature the worst people on earth deserving of incarceration or is our justice system corrupt, unequally balanced and intentionally geared toward profit?
Let’s take a look at the average sentence for a first-time drug offender in federal court: five to 10 years. In other industrialized nations the same offense warrants at maximum six months incarceration.
Mandatory minimum sentencing is a boon for politicians not wanting to appear weak on crime but prohibits judges from exercising due diligence and discretion, forcing them to dole out longer sentences for non-violent drug offenders.
In June of this year, the Global Commission on Drug Policy issued a report regarding the war on drugs: “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.
Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.”
Treatment and education, not punishment and incarceration is needed for those abusing any substance. While some jurisdictions offer first-time drug offenders diversion programs offering treatment options as alternatives to incarceration, additional time, energy, studies and money devoted to rehabilitation and treatment is required immediately.
Passing additional legislation against physicians is not the answer. Many physicians are now afraid to prescribe powerful narcotics needed by legitimate patients because of such legislation.
Some physicians, especially those specializing in the treatment of severe pain, are finding they must account for why they prescribe certain drugs in addition to the number of drugs prescribed.
This is causing a negative backlash in the medical community resulting in politicians and not physicians directing how certain patients receive treatment and care.
In addition, it is causing many good doctors to leave the medical field, the complete opposite of what some officials intended with stricter legislation … that it would serve as a weeding process for physicians abusing the system.
While stricter legislation may serve as a forced exit strategy for some physicians abusing the system, such an approach is causing more harm than good. The only answer to substance abuse is treatment and education, not incarceration and judicial involvement.
How many more must die before our elected officials get the message?
If officials directed just one-tenth of the money earmarked for the war on drugs toward rehabilitation, deaths and overdoses attributed to prescription drugs in the U.S. would drop significantly.
However, the manner of which our judicial system is designed appears to have a vested, financial interest in maintaining the status quo.