According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 52 million people, in the United States, over the age of 12 have used prescription drugs at least once in their lives. Of that number, over 6.1 million individuals have used the drugs for non-medical reasons in the past month. Studies show that while the United States makes up 5% of the world’s population, we use 75% of prescription drugs. These statistics illustrate the growing problem with prescription drug abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the nation was facing a prescription abuse epidemic.
What does this have to do with heroin and prison, one might wonder. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 1 in 15 people who use prescription drugs for recreational purposes will try heroin within 10 years. From 2004 to 2010, the number of prescription drug abusers who also use heroin has grown from 5% to 14%. This statistic correlates with the high number of citizens being arrested for drug abuse.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons reports 86,080 inmates reside in prison for drug offense charges. That is 46.5% of the entire prison population, higher than any other reason. Many of the offenders are in jail for merely possessing drugs. These statistics show a need to reform how our nation handles drug offenses.
The Marshall Project, a nonprofit organization that aims to bring awareness off the American criminal justice system, recently spoke with a former inmate and drug addict. 71-year-old Sandie Alger knows a thing or two about the criminal justice system. Since her first arrest in 1964, she has been in jail eight times, in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. She battled with drug addiction, which started with a pill.
Growing up in the 50’s, Sandie was given prescription drugs by her mother to help her clean her home. This led to an extensive prescription drug addiction, and then led to heroin use and jail time. When asked if she sees a difference in the criminal justice system and how it handles drug cases, she said that things are meaner now, than they were before. Rather than just acknowledging that addiction is like a disease, she suggests that the justice system work to truly reform the way they handle drug offenses.
Sandie wants people to understand that addiction is a real disease. One needs to work to overcome it. She shares,
I have many family members with diabetes. If they mess up, and they’re noncompliant with their diet or with taking their insulin – the same way an addict would be noncompliant with her treatment – we don’t send them to prison for it.
Sending drug addicts to jail simply escalates the situation. She admits to learning more tricks in jail than she did outside of it. The other inmates taught her about heroin in prison, where it was easily accessible.
When asked how she thought the drug “crisis” in America developed, Sandie said it was the readily available prescription drugs. In her eyes, doctors are part of the problem. They indiscriminately prescribe drugs like Vicodin without checking the need for it. This allows the pills to be cheaper and easier to obtain. Sandie suggests authorities focus more on drug reform, rather than persecution.
After her time in prison, Sandie entered herself into rehab. After getting clean, she looked to help other women who suffer like she did. She is currently the director of the Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abuser’s women’s program. Many of the women in the program have gone through the prison system because of their addiction.
At Koffel Brininger Nesbitt, we believe that drug addiction is a mental and physical problem that should be treated as such. We have started the Preventative Law for Drug Crimes program, which looks to prevent the number of arrests due to drugs. We work with families who have members struggling with drug addiction. With drug court principles, we counsel families to break the addiction before an arrest.
If you or a loved one was charged with a drug offense, contact our Ohio drug crime attorneys today! We will help you every step of the process. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.