January 01, 2018

When Less Is More: Reforming the Criminal Justice Response to the Opioid Epidemic

By Jonathan Giftos and Lello Tesema

The young man in clinic, whom we’ll call Angelo, bought his first bag of heroin when he was 19. At 24, he was in jail for the fourth time on charges related to his drug use. This time it was for selling a bag of heroin to an undercover police officer.

It started as a casual habit—sniffing a couple of bags a day with his girlfriend. With time, he needed more and more drugs to get the same effect. Angelo also began to get sick if too much time passed between use. As his tolerance for heroin increased, and the withdrawal symptoms became more severe, he found it more efficient to inject instead of sniff. Today he shoots 20 bags of heroin a day and lives with hepatitis C acquired through sharing needles.

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