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The opioid crisis
Spot the difference...

Quote:In 2016, the overdose death toll in the U.S. surpassed American deaths during the entire Vietnam War and lives lost at the peak of the AIDS crisis, with an estimated 59,000 people succumbing to overdose. This is far from the first time that problematic substance use has had a devastating impact on communities across the country, but our response is distinctly different than during previous eras. Heroin, cocaine and other substances have never discriminated, but it’s clear our policy response certainly has.  

Throughout the 1970s, heroin overdoses ravaged Harlem and other cities that were facing deindustrialization, disinvestment and demographic upheaval. The response was harsh policing and the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York, which established draconian mandatory minimum sentences that were then adopted across the country. Absent from policymakers rubric was consideration of the well-being of people with substance use disorder. In the 1980s and '90s, communities that were decimated by lack of economic opportunity experienced the brunt of what became defined as the crack era. Again, our country deployed law enforcement and prisons to interact with people experiencing deep trauma and medical issues — negating any public health dimension within the response. Instead, the Senate enacted enhanced penalties for people who sell small amounts of drugs and sentencing disparities of 100:1 for crack versus powder cocaine.

Now, with the overdose crisis becoming a mainstream conversation, there has been a shift in the narrative. When prior “drug problems” were seen as affecting primarily communities of color, government intervention focused on increased policing and criminalization. Current policy responses — now that predominantly white, suburban or rural communities are perceived as the hardest hit by overdose — invoke a distinctly public health response, a “kinder, gentler approach” that has politicians proclaiming we “can’t arrest our way out of this problem.”
Opioids became a crisis because they kill so many white Americans | TheHill

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