By German Lopez for Vox. More than 8,200 Americans died of a heroin overdose in 2013. Most of the response to the growing crisis has focused on treating this as a public health problem — leaning on drug rehabilitation and treatment, educating doctors on how to properly prescribe drugs that can lead to opioid (including heroin) addiction, and even giving police access to naloxone, which reverses opioid overdoses.
But some prosecutors, who are incredibly powerful in the criminal justice system, have taken a different approach. As Vice News’s Daniel Denvir reported, prosecutors are starting to bring murder and manslaughter charges against heroin dealers and even users who give the drug to friends. The idea is that people who provide heroin to others who overdose and die are culpable for the deaths, because they provided the drug that got someone killed.
These types of practices are a callback to the tough-on-crime tactics first enacted in the beginning of the war on drugs. And even though there’s evidence that these tactics have failed to significantly curb drug abuse, these prosecutors are only a few among many more politicians and lawmakers trying to use the heroin crisis as a justification for doubling down on the drug war.