Killing addiction does not include the death penalty

By John Eppich

There is a disease  plaguing the United States. It is not very well understood, and it leads to millions of deaths every year.

The disease is addiction. To some people, the only relief to their problems is to snort, shoot up and ingest illicit substances. One of the largest drugs — especially in Cleveland — is heroin.

Heroin is part of the opioid family. The drug is known for its highly addictive characteristics which cause one to do anything and everything for another hit. Many heroin addicts face not only the possibility of overdosing and contracting HIV or other blood borne illnesses, but they also face isolation from the rest of society.

President Donald Trump recently talked about how he wants to combat America’s heroin problem. This included the death penalty for dealers.

While many Americans agreed, I am not so convinced. His message is putting out the wrong idea about the drug problem we currently face. They are not criminals — they are sick.

I could go on about how I find the death penalty to be overkill, no pun intended. I could talk about how it gives criminals an easy way out and is a cruel and unusual punishment which goes against the 8th Amendment, but this debate is more about how we cure addiction rather than exterminate its sufferers.

The way to get the dealers off the streets is to cure addicts.

Drug addicts are sick. They have a problem that, like any illness, can and should be cured so the person can continue to live a healthy and normal life. Unlike cancer, however, other countries have found the that cure for addiction is rehabilitation.

The country of Switzerland has a program for heroin users and other drug addicts to get high in a safe clean environment. They are staffed with nurses, and each addict is given a healthy dose of pure heroin. This has been a controversial idea, but since the opening of these clinics, the overdose deaths in Switzerland have gone way down.

I’m not saying we should glorify drug use, nor am I saying we have to use  Switzerland’s methods of heroin clinics, but I am saying that killing drug addicts and throwing them in prisons is not the way to go with this.

The War on Drugs has failed. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate even beating out North Korea. Addicts do not get the proper care they deserve. If we killed addicts for simply being addicted to heroin, what does that say to the rest of the world?

A counterargument to this may be that some drug users are violent. I completely agree, but not every addict is a violent drug dealer. For violent drug offenders, they should absolutely be thrown in prison, but they should not be killed for their actions.

Drug users need to be understood. They are sick and need help working through their issues. Drug use often comes when people are alone and isolated. They should be given support by the people around them.

I believe that if we take lessons from how other nations have combated their drug problems and stop treating addicts like they are the scum of the earth, we can eradicate drug use entirely.

Trump’s idea of killing all the addicts in the world is in no way the answer to our issue. The issue is addiction, not the drug or the drug user. Killing drug dealers is not going to solve anything.