HILLSBOROUGH: The ‘War on Drugs’ doesn’t work

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To the editor:

High taxes and dense populations do not exempt New Jersey from an issue that many like to think is confined to Maine or Montana: opioid addiction. The opioid crisis hits all parts of America, and until the national government can take real action to curb it, individual states must fight to keep their citizens safe.

This ‘fight’ against opioids must begin by ending the ‘fight’.¬†Wars on things and ideas do not work, particularly not on drugs. Crackdowns against opioid abuse will not curb the number of addicts or overdoses.

Instead, New Jersey ought to take cues from allies like Canada and Germany, which have established safe injection sites for drug addicts. These sites offer safe, hygienic places to use drugs in order to curb the spread of infectious diseases and risk to addicts, as well as medical treatment and counseling in order to encourage addicts to seek help and fight their addiction. These sites have proved effective around the world, and New Jersey citizens could also greatly benefit from them. Addiction is a disease, and it is therefore essential that addicts be treated as patients rather than criminals if they are to recover.

In order to further reduce the reach of opioids into our communities, New Jersey must cut them off from the source: the pharmeseutical industry. While drug cartels and other illegal groups certainly play a major role in opioid abuse, the easiest way by far to obtain opioids is to be legally prescribed them by your doctor. Doctors often overprescribe these incredibly potent drugs, and patients become addicted because they have far more when they need. When they come back asking for more, doctors are happy to oblige because the pharmaseutical industry heavily pushes these lucrative opioids.

Although many New Jersey politicians may be afraid to take on big pharma, something must be done. Politicians must make it more difficult for patients to obtain opioids in order to curb the number of addictions. You can only be addicted to something that you have tried, and for most addicts, first expose is a legal dose of opioids prescribed by their doctor.

Opioids kill New Jersey citizens every single day. Individual states, however, have the power to change this. New legislation and new programs can play a significant role in curbing the opioid crisis. New Jersey can implement laws restricting the prescription of opioids in order to reduce the number of addictions, and implement safe injection sites to promote addict recovery. If the national government will not act, the states have a responsibility to do so.

Michael Cappabianca

Hillsborough