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Opioids continue to stress Florida’s criminal justice system

On Behalf of | Sep 7, 2021 | Drug Crimes

The tragic toll of America’s opioid crisis has taken nearly a quarter of a million lives since 2010. Despite educational efforts, increased enforcement and crackdowns on drug companies and over-prescribing physicians, the number of fatalities remains high.

Opioids have left a trail of addiction, death and incarceration. As the new target on the so-called War on Drugs, those selling or using heroin and fentanyl or prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone fill prisons and jails across Florida and other states.

The overdose death toll remains high

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a steady rise in opioid overdose deaths since 2010 when the crisis gained widespread attention. That year, 21,088 deaths were reported. Since then, the number of fatalities has risen sharply. The most recent statistics paint a disturbing picture for opioid-related fatalities:

  • 2017: 47,600
  • 2018: 46,802
  • 2019: 49,860

Many fear those numbers will be even worse for 2020 as millions of people became more isolated, lost their jobs and faced many other stressors during the pandemic.

Addicted prisoners remain at risk

While many people convicted of opioid charges face court-ordered drug treatment programs, most end up behind bars where there is a lack of substance abuse programs. What’s worse, correctional policies often ban medications that public health officials say could help incarcerated addicts.

Civil rights advocates say a black market has emerged inside prisons and jails providing opioids to addicts, leading to many overdoses and deaths. While it’s not clear how many addicted inmates exist, a Bureau of Justice Statistics report says two-thirds of offenders have substance abuse problems. But, only about a quarter of those individuals have access to adequate drug treatment.