The rise in unintentional drug overdoses, a trend that began in 2009, points to the need for drug courts that specialize in addressing rehabilitation of users, but it also makes us wonder if those trafficking in illegal drugs should not face tougher penalties when convicted.
Last year, the Ohio Department of Health said in a report released Aug. 25, 3,050 Ohio residents died from overdoses, up from 2,531 deaths in 2014 and 2,110 deaths in 2013. The mixing of Fentanyl, a drug used in anesthesias, with heroin is believed to be a major culprit so state lawmakers are proposing to increase the penalties for the possession or sale of the drug, which may help.
The availability of so many over-the counter opiates that can be used to create narcotics is another problem and Ohio has reduced unintentional deaths from opiates by restricting the numbers and kinds of painkillers available or prescribed. Singapore, the world's wealthiest city state whose average personal income exceeds that of the average American, has had the most success in eliminating drug problems, but has used draconian measures to do so. Those in possession of tiny amounts of illegal drugs can be caned and sentenced up to life in prison. If the person arrested has a certain volume of drugs in his possession, he is presumed to be a dealer and the punishment is life in prison or death.
Whether a tougher approach on traffickers would work is difficult to say, but it appears to work in Singapore, which is drug-free.
In Ohio, conviction of trafficking in marijuana is a fifth-degree felony punishable by six months to a year in prison. A conviction of trafficking in a more serious drug can result in a prison sentence of three to 11 years. Ohio's jails and prisons are loaded up with those convicted of drug possession and use and traffickers.
While we are a reluctant to recommend death penalties, tougher sentencing with an eye to the results in Singapore is certainly worth considering. Trends in increasing intentional drug overdose deaths is an indicator that what we in Ohio do currently is not working.