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Newsday: Help opioid addicts, but get answers, too

September 28, 2018

As deaths stemming from opioid addiction have reached unprecedented levels, law enforcement officials and health professionals have tried practically everything they can think of to stem the epidemic.

People are dying from overdoses, not because society isn’t reacting, but because the problem is so intractable. Once hooked, addicts find that quitting heroin and prescription painkillers is terribly difficult with treatment, and practically impossible without it. And the criminal justice system is ill-equipped to deal with people whose nonviolent, low-level misdeeds, such as drug possession and petty theft, are criminal but whose primary victims are usually themselves, and whose deepest offense is often breaking the hearts of loved ones.

The most important goal of opioid intervention programs at this point ought to be to compile data and detailed follow-up of participants to help show what works to keep people sober.

Is it intervention that erases charges and prevents convictions, or intervention that follows a guilty plea or conviction, when the punishment can be stayed and the record erased if treatment is completed? Does a 90-day commitment to a program work, or are 12 or 18 months needed?

Criminal justice and addiction treatment cost a lot of money, and addiction destroys a lot of lives. It’s good to create more options, but we need to find out what works, too, so we can go from trying everything to doing the right thing.

— Newsday

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