Overdose Arrests? Are They Ethical?

Overdose Arrests? Are They Ethical?

The Centers for Disease Control indicate that death rates associated with drug overdose have been steadily rising over the last five years. In the year 2015, over 52,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdose. 30 states have seen a steady increase in opioid deaths from the year 2010 to date with most of these being attributed to illicit fentanyl and heroin.

Other than ensuring that there are many recovery and treatment centers, the government is also involving policymakers in trying to find the solutions that will inhibit drug use. These policies include funding and diversion opportunities, the good Samaritan immunity law, modification of penalties and increasing access to the drug naloxone.

So what happens when an individual overdoses in the company of others. Ideally, the friends or those around the individual should call 911. In overdose cases, the first respondents are usually the police. When an overdose occurs, those who call for help are often users themselves and in many cases in possession of the drugs. When police get to the scene, probability of arresting the 911 callers is high and so many individuals used to shy away from calling for help when an overdose occurs. That is why the Samaritan immunity law was put in place to protect those that call for help irrespective of whether they are using or in possession of the drug.

Some law enforcers feel that this law serves to counteract their efforts of cleaning the streets from the drug. Once allowed to continue using and in some cases dealing as well, they only expose more people to the risk of an overdose. But then there are individuals who feel that the sanctity of life is more important and if these perpetrators can in some way help save a life whether they are under the influence of the drugs or not, then that is more important.

There has also been reported cases of individuals who get arrested after an overdose from other charges such as possession and intent to distribute only to die while in custody from withdrawal and other drug related complications. This begs the question, ‘Is removing the drug users and peddlers from the streets more important than saving their lives?’

In a study conducted in Illinois, police expressed their frustration in that they would arrest drug users and survivors of overdose multiple times and yet these individuals would continue using irrespective of how many times they got arrested.

Legally enforced or mandatory rehabilitation of those arrested can in some way serve a greater purpose because it not only deals with the problem but helps change and restore lives. The sad thing about drug abusers is that more often than not, they go through a relapse because the drugs are so readily available especially in some particular demographics.

It will require the collective effort of citizens who can help save lives by having Naloxone on them and calling 911 immediately an overdose occurs. The authorities by ensuring that overdose victims and other drug users are not just arrested but given the medical help they need to fight the addiction, and policymakers who put in place policies that will not only keep drugs off the streets, but help those already affected.


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