Between 2011 and 2013 fatal heroin overdoses increased 163 percent in Northern Virginia. It was just one particularly frightening example of rapidly expanding heroin use throughout the country. With that disheartening statistic it is no wonder that politicians in Virginia would be looking for ways to address the newly resurgent scourge. At a Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police conference this week Virginia’s Attorney General Mark R. Herring was making a variety of proposed new laws and strategies.
One of the most popular proposals was a “Good Samaritan” law that would protect those who report an overdose from being prosecuted for drug use at the scene. There were also laws proposed to make it easier to put dealers behind bars when their product is ruled the cause of death in an overdose. Herring’s proposals went even deeper, adding warnings about prescription drugs and heroin to school drug education programs and reprioritizing local law enforcement to go after doctors over-prescribing painkillers.
An area some saw the current plan as lacking is effectively advocating for opiate rehab and getting treatment to addicts ready to address their issues. That said, smarter handling of these legal issues is always welcome and much of what seems likely to be implemented seems likely to help. Addiction treatment is available from a variety of sources and we can help those looking for help make sense of what might work for them.
The increase in opiate abuse nationally stems from the wider than ever availability of opiate prescription pain medication. The pills get users hooked and when they become prohibitively expensive users often turn to inexpensive heroin flooding the streets of communities nationwide.