Imprisonment And Drug Abuse

Tennessee currently has a massive problem with opioids. These figures are alarming: Around 60,000 people in Tennessee have some kind of dependence on prescription narcoticsTennessee is second in the nation for opioid useIn 2017, 1776 people in Tennessee died from drug overdose.  1268 of those were from opioidsMore people in Tennessee die from opioid overdose […]

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Tennessee currently has a massive problem with opioids.

These figures are alarming:

  • Around 60,000 people in Tennessee have some kind of dependence on prescription narcotics
  • Tennessee is second in the nation for opioid use
  • In 2017, 1776 people in Tennessee died from drug overdose.  1268 of those were from opioids
  • More people in Tennessee die from opioid overdose than they do from car accidents
  • Crimes related to drugs increased by 33% from 2005 to 2012.  This trend is continuing
  • About 50% of children who are taken into the Department of Children’s custody were removed from their parents because of parental drug use.

So, what can be done to help reduce numbers of those with addiction problems and help people to heroin detox Tennessee?  Many believe the imprisoning more drug addicts is the solution.  This article delves into this issue and sees if there is any truth to this statement.


Almost 300,000 people are being held in federal and state prisons in the US for violations of drug laws.

As the United States continues to confronts a growing epidemic of opioid use, policy makers and public health officials must have a solid understanding of whether imprisoning drug offenders affects the nation’s problem with drugs.  Studies show that there is no statistically significant relationship between the drug imprisonment rates in a state and it’s rate of drug arrests, deaths from overdose, and reported drug use.  This suggests that policy makers should look into other options that research has shown work better and cost less than the amount that imprisoning a large number of the population costs.

Rising federal drug imprisonment means high cost and low returns

Over three decades ago, Congress reacted to the rise of crack cocaine by implementing policies which meant that drug offenders went to prison for lengthy stays.  Because of these law changes, between 1920 and 2015, the number of prisoners serving time in federal custody rocketed from 5000 to 92000.  Though the percentage of federal inmates who were imprisoned for drug offenses has declined from its highest point of 61 percent in 1995, it was still almost 50 percent in 2015.

As the prison population soared, spending rose by almost 600 percent between 1980 and 2013, giving little back in return.  In fact, the use of illegal drugs increased between 1990 and 2014, and the drugs heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine are actually more available than ever, signaled by a rise in purity and falling prices of these drugs in the US.  The percentage of drug offenders in federal prison who leave prison, are placed under supervision and then either commit new crimes or violate the condition of their release has been around a third for more than 30 years.

Opioid misuse rising

Lawmakers around the country and attempting to address opioid misuse and encourage people to go to heroin detox Tennessee.  In 2015 alone, over 33,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses, and deaths from heroin rose 20 percent on the previous years.  In addition to the numbers of live lost and the families and communities which are destabilized by opioid abuse, it is estimated that in 2015 alone opioid misuse totaled an economic toll of $504 billion.

Prescription opioids are now more widely misused than illicit drugs such as heroin, and almost 80 percent of people currently using heroin previously misused prescription opioids.  Changes in legislation surrounding prescription opioids have meant that many found like they had no other choice than “graduate” to heroin.  One study found that in a group of OxyContin users, use of heroin doubled in 18 months after the formulation of the medication was changed in 2010 to make it harder to misuse the medication by crushing tablets up.

Zero relationship between states drug problems and numbers imprisoned for drugs

One of the primary reasons given for imprisoning people is deterrence-the idea that losing one’s freedom is not worth the gains one receives by committing a crime.  If imprisonment were really effective in deterring people from using drugs and committing crimes, then the extent to which a state imprisons drug offenders should be strongly correlated with the drug related problems that that state faces.

Research has shown that higher rates of imprisoning people for drug crimes does not mean lower rates of drug use, deaths by overdose, or arrests.  This shows that if we want to get more people away from addiction, then we need to look at new strategies.  The more people who are ultimately able to access heroin detox Tennessee, the better.

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