No, drugs are not legal but they have been decriminalized. Some illicit drugs are now decriminalized in Oregon. On February 1, 2021, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize the possession of illicit drugs in small quantities. The list of decriminalized drugs includes cocaine, heroin, LSD, meth, as well as other personal-use drugs.

Oregon voters made history by passing a ballot measure legalizing recreational drugs. On the federal level, these drugs are still against the law but in Oregon, possession has been downgraded to a civil violation. Instead of jail, a civil violation reduces penalties and may lead to a fine or court-ordered therapy.  

The new drug decriminalization law

The ballot measure turns possession of small amounts of street drugs into a violation, like a traffic ticket. “Small amount” is defined to be the following:

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Oregon is drastically shifting its focus on drug crime. Measure 110 allows the government to approach drug use as a public health issue, rather than a criminal one.

The measure addresses these possessions as a citation and expands access to treatment and recovery. So, instead of facing jail time, individuals found with small amounts of drugs face a $100 fine and would have to talk to an addiction treatment professional. 

According to Proposed Amendments to Senate Bill 755, addiction recovery centers will be able to expand the services they currently provide. “Recovery centers will also assess and address any on-going needs through intensive case management and linkage to care services.”

The epiphany

Measure 110 wouldn’t have seen the light of day were it not for individuals like Hubert Matthews. Hubert Mathews is a veteran, a father, and a productive member of society. But this wasn’t always the case. For twenty years, he abused substances and committed crimes to get more drugs. Inevitably, he brushed shoulders with law enforcement, which resulted in jail or prison time, only to end up back on the streets. It was like a vicious cycle.  

“I would break the law to feed my addiction, which made me an easy target for police. The judge told me one time. “Mr. Matthews, you are a drug abuser.” He wasn’t offering me any help. He just said he was going to send me to the Oregon State Penitentiary,” Matthew explained.

According to Matthew, this did nothing to help his situation. If anything, incarceration added even more trauma to his already troubled life. There was no end in sight. He would get arrested for possession of illicit drugs over and over again. And his criminal record was not helping either. No one would hire him or give him a place to live.

“I needed someone who understood that treatment would help me more than being incarcerated. Luckily, I was able to get treatment later on. That’s what saved my life,” he added.

Since his treatment began, Matthew has been clean for over 10 years. He’s now out in the community every day, trying to get people to treatment. He believes that others struggling with addiction will have an easier path now that some illicit drugs have been decriminalized.

From criminal justice to addiction treatment

The United States has been criminalizing drug users for decades. But today, people are starting to treat addiction as a public health problem as opposed to a criminal one. Different states now have systems in place to help treat those who are struggling with addiction. Institutions are also sensitizing everyone about addiction being a medical condition and not moral failure.

Oregon is leading the way. The state has decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana as well as hard drugs. It has also joined the District of Columbia to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms.

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Fields of marijuana now grow around the state, since Oregon legalized cannabis in 2014.

“Measure 110 eliminates criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of drugs,” Lindsay LaSalle told Arnold Ventures. “It also increases access to harm reduction and health services, including drug use treatment and housing. At its core, the measure is tearing down the current system of punishment for drug use and creating a supportive, compassionate and non-coercive system of care to address drug use in Oregon,” she added. Lindsay is the Managing Director of Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance, which spent over $4 million supporting the measure.

The goal behind legalizing recreational drugs

Opponents of Measure 110 claim that decriminalization removes a strong deterrent to using or trying drugs, potentially driving more substance use and abuse. They argue that criminal penalties linked to drug possession can be leveraged to divert people into addiction programs they otherwise wouldn’t accept.

However, studies show decriminalization doesn’t fuel the widespread use of drugs. Countries like Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Portugal have applied drug decriminalization and seen positive changes. In fact, Portugal’s decriminalization saw a drop in the number of deaths. There was also a 20% rise in those getting addiction treatments between 2001 and 2008.

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 Decriminalization proponents explain that substance abuse is a public health problem. They argue that the criminal prohibition causes thousands of unnecessary, racially-biased arrests every year in the country. These arrests, according to proponents, are costly and burden the criminal justice system but do nothing to help those struggling with addiction. They say that Measure 110 prevents individuals in recovery from being stigmatized by landlords, lenders, and employers. The measure also helps them avoid drug-related offenses.

Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana possession in 1973. In 2014, voters approved a ballot measure legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. After decriminalizing illicit drugs, less than 3,700 Oregonians will be or have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony possession of controlled substances. That’s roughly a 91% reduction in drug possession and arrests in the state. The law will also likely reduce ethnic and racial disparities in arrests. This is according to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission.

Many people do not understand how criminalization builds barriers to treatment. People need more options to make different choices. Ending criminalization will prevent shame and open people up for other opportunities.

There's a lot of stigma around drug and alcohol misuse. People with substance use disorders continue to be blamed for their illness. Although medicine has long concluded that dependence is a complex mental health issue, many employers, law enforcement, and healthcare systems, continue to see addiction as a sign of flawed character, or as a moral weakness. Oregon's decriminalization law hopes to change that.

Thanks to the media and the heavily-politicized ‘war on drugs’, people see those who use drugs as bad people, who are deserving of punishment. There have also been policies that systematically criminalize addicts – throwing them behind bars each time they're caught in possession of personal or noncommercial drugs. But arresting an addict repeatedly for possession because they are unable to get treatment doesn't help. Well, at least not from the lens of Oregon's Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act.

Oregon ranks almost last out of the 50 states when it comes to accessibility of drug addiction treatment resources. It also has one of the longest waiting lists in the United States. The latest report by the Oregon Substance Use Disorder Research Committee, shows that 1 in 10 Oregonians struggle with alcohol or drug use. And that 2 in 3 Oregonians either struggle with a substance abuse problem, or they have a friend or family member who does. The report further shows that addiction costs the state about $6 billion dollars a year in everything from policing, to healthcare, to lost productivity and other associated costs.

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With limited access to treatment, many addicts in Portland, Oregon and surrounding communities are facing a vicious cycle of homelessness, addiction and poverty.

Going by the numbers, Oregon is in the middle of an addiction crisis. Substance use disorders devastate the state’s youth, communities, finances, and governments. Issues surrounding drug and alcohol misuse also exacerbates many of the state's most pressing issues, like poverty and homelessness. Loss of employment, high medical costs, violent crime, and the destabilization of families are also common concerns. Other impacts include poor educational achievement, huge burdens on Oregon's criminal justice system and the growing need for state-sponsored social services.

The aforementioned report mainly recommends treating substance abuse like a disease, as opposed to a moral failing. This is the general consensus among members of the modern medical and mental health fields. After all, addiction behaves like any other chronic medical condition. It cannot be cured easily, but with medical intervention, it can be controlled. Health care treatment is effective at helping individuals who abuse drugs, to regain control of their lives. Criminal punishment doesn't typically help in this way. Sometimes jail time can make the substance abuse worse, over time. The modern health care approach includes an overall assessment to determine an individual's needs. It then connects them to the services they need to turn their lives around.

Before the new decriminalization law, Oregon was treating addiction as a criminal problem. In 2017, for instance, the law enforcement officers arrested over 8000 people in cases where possessing small amounts of drugs was the most severe offense. In many cases, the same people were arrested for possession, over and over, because they were unable to get treatment for their addiction.

Unfortunately, criminalizing drugs burdens people with criminal records. These records hinder them from going to school, getting jobs, receiving licensing, housing, or even keeping their job. The criminalization of drugs in the United States typically has harsher consequences for people of color and the poor.

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Due to the negative stigma associated with addiction and various other socioeconomic factors, many who struggle are unable to find the help they need.

Oregon's decriminalization law: what it means for addicts

In a bid to address the drug issue, the Oregon State introduced Measure 110. This measure is intended to expand access to treatment services and eliminate unfairly harsh punishment for minor, nonviolent drug offenses like simple possession. This approach will allow individuals to recover more easily.

Oregon's Measure 110 (aka, Drug Addiction and Recovery Act) seeks to make addiction to hard drugs a public health issue instead of a criminal one. When the act goes into effect on the 21st of February, 2021, oxycodone, meth, heroin, cocaine, and other illicit drugs will be decriminalized in the state. From now on, people won't be arrested and jailed for possession of small amounts of drugs. Instead, they will get a fine of up to $100. And they can have the penalty waived, if they complete professional addiction assessment within 45 days of getting the citation.

These assessments have to happen in an addiction treatment center. In which case, the individual goes through a series of substance use disorder screenings and, upon completion, expresses the need to get treatment. At this point, the case manager works with the individual to create a personalized drug rehabilitation plan.

How Measure 110 works

Oregon's decriminalization law: Measure 110, focuses on recovery. As mentioned above, it aims at removing penalties for low-level drug possession charges and replacing them with a $100 fine. This fine can then be waived if the individual seeks treatment. On top of that, the measure tries to enhance treatment options in Oregon. It reallocates marijuana tax dollars and the savings from law enforcement making fewer arrests, to fund assessments, harm reduction, addiction treatment, and other services for people who are struggling with addiction.

According to the chief petitioner for the measure, Janie Gullickson, Oregon's existing laws have been a failing system. It is costly and in many cases, the penalties ruin people’s lives. The decriminalization law addresses how the current laws treat drug-related crimes and how Oregon promotes and supports addiction treatment. Measure 110 makes Oregon the first state in the United States to decriminalize all drug use.

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Simple possession of drugs will no longer be considered an arrest-worthy offense in Oregon.

Criminalization of drugs

Under the measure, drug possession is a civil violation, like a traffic offense, and is subject to a $100 fine without the possibility of jail time. Initially, possessing personal/noncommercial drugs was a misdemeanor in many cases and a felony where one has more than two prior convictions of possession or any felony. But now, these offenses are termed civil violations.

Possessing large amounts of drugs like 2 grams of meth, heroin, or cocaine or 40+ Oxycodone pills was a felony that attracted criminal penalties. The new measure reclassifies these offenses as misdemeanors. But Oregon still applies strict penalties, when there is evidence of a commercial drug offense, like manufacturing or distributing drugs. Oregon will continue to charge these types of crimes as a felony. Other factors include when a person is selling drugs, or they have weapons or stolen property in their possession.

A detailed analysis by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission says that this measure should  minimize 3,679 or 90.7% of drug-related convictions.

Addiction treatment

Oregon's decriminalization law also targets addiction treatment. It redirects some marijuana tax revenue from schools and other programs into a new grant for substance use disorder treatments. Cannabis tax is projected to reach $91million between 2021 and 2023. The measure will use some of this money to develop addiction and recovery centers that will run every day to address drug users' needs and help connect them to a wide-range of healthcare services.

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Soon, Oregonians will be able to receive treatment for their addiction, rather than face jail time and harsh legal penalties associated with their drug use.

In addition to treatment, these funds will cater to the housing needs of those with addiction problems and provide harm reduction services like needle exchanges. The Oregon Health Authority will appoint a committee that oversees the centers and decides how to use the fund's money.

Like many people, you may notice that your social life – or even your business networking –involves plenty of drinking. In many places, when a friend or colleague says, "Let's meet for coffee," they mean a drink or two.

But despite how much people try to normalize drinking alcohol or using drugs, it is not suitable for you in any amount. Alcohol and drugs affect the brain in negative ways. According to the Department of Health, drug use can cause serious changes in the brain that influence the way you think and act. Some substances can cause cancer, heart disease, lung issues and mental disorders like depression.

So, although we are going to highlight some cool things to do while high, we recommend staying away from abusing substances as much as possible.

Decide to get off drugs forever

You probably are using drugs and alcohol to fill a void in your life or to feel better. It could be that you're feeling inadequate towards yourself or the world. However, abusing substances is never the solution. Once the high is over, you'll have to face reality again. Emotional, physical, and psychological issues don't resolve with drug use. If anything, it'll only make the situation worse. The best way to take care of these issues is to get professional help. So, take advantage of this time to decide to get off drugs forever. Drugs aren't the solution – they only add to the problem.

Drink iced water

Hydration is critical when you're high. It keeps your mouth moist and helps you to feel better the following day. Ice water is the best way to hydrate when you are high because it cools your body and keeps you alert.

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For your own safety, a really cool thing to do while high is stay hydrated! Drink plenty of water.

Watch a movie

A great movie never disappoints – and the experience is even better when you're high. Grab some popcorn, turn off the light, and play a movie that you like. Thanks to platforms like Netflix, you have limitless options for the films. Here are some movie recommendations to get you started.

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Plenty of trippy movies out there to enhance your experience. They're better with friends too!

Devise a plan to get back your friends

One of the greatest downsides of abusing substances is strained relationships. If you are like many people who abuse drugs, you might have pushed some of your friends and loved ones away. In that case, this might be a great time to come up with a plan to win them back. Make a list of the people you've hurt with your drinking and note down how you're going to fix the relations.

Listen to music

Music has some of the most incredible therapeutic benefits. Certain tunes trigger the production of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. These neurotransmitters enhance the feelings of well-being and happiness. Listening to music is definitely one of the things you should do while high. Not just because of your mental well-being and physical health alone. Research shows that enjoyment goes way beyond the present moment because it influences the outcome of your hormones and cognitive functioning. Listening to music sober is a lot of fun, but it's even better when you're high. The parts of the brain that draw relations between ideas are stimulated when you're high.

Here are some cool songs to listen to when you are high:

 

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Music can be an amazing outlet for expression and it can offer a great deal of hope.

Play video games

Video games promote a healthy lifestyle, increases social activity, and make you a better decision-maker. Studies show that gaming can help people suffering from cravings or addiction to reduce the intensity of their desires. But that's not all. A nice game can help you form stronger relationships with your friends and family members because of their matching love of games. If you are homebound, you can pair couch lock and couch co-op for a fantastic time. You can also play board games if that's what is available or what you prefer.

Read a book

 

Reading a book sober is always better – but it doesn't mean you can't do it when you're high. Since your attention span tends to diminish when high, it might be good to go for short reads. You may also want to find an exciting fiction book. Here are some books to read while high:

Do some dancing

If you are in a club and are feeling extra energetic or adventurers, you can hop on to the dance floor and whip out a couple of dance moves. Dancing is a fun and refreshing activity and is also a great exercise. Going to a local dance club allows you to get some social interaction, do some incredible exercise, and create new experiences. If you are at home, you can learn or practice dance steps to stimulate your mind.

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Dancing can be great exercise. Physical activity can greatly stimulate your mind, body and soul.

Shower regularly 

It is always a good idea to keep clean. The easiest way to do so is to take a quick shower and put on some clean clothes. A long bubble bath can also work the magic. In this case, you want to turn out the lights and light some candles. You can also play your best music or listen to an educative podcast, to learn a few things.

Find your Zen

Activities like Pilates, yoga, meditation are great for flexibility and core strength. They are also good for your brain. Many people get high before a long and relaxing meditation session – you can do this too. Find some chill place, roll your yoga mat, light some candles, and find your inner Zen. You can even meditate about a sober and fulfilling life.

The accelerated spread of the novel coronavirus has brought the global economy to a standstill. Predictions of potential impacts of the pandemic’s shock on the worldwide economy vary considerably. Yet many agree that the economy is facing the most severe challenge of the post-war era due to the sudden halt in economic activity in both developing and advanced countries.

Five months into the pandemic and businesses of all shapes and sizes are either shaping up or shipping out. The lockdown regulations have seen more and more companies change the way they do business. However, there is an industry that’s taking a massive hit with the travel ban and border regulations – illegal drug trade.

The COVID-19 pandemic is dealing heavy blows on the illicit drug trade – or at least for now. The closure of all ports of entry and travel restrictions has made it difficult for drug cartels to ship their products across borders. That’s not the only problem. There’s also a significant disruption in the supply chains. As it turns out, drug traffickers depend on chemicals produced in China to make profitable drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine. But with everything that’s happening, they have a hard time accessing these drug supplies.

Illicit drug market shortage

The extensive disruption is causing shortages of illicit drugs in the US and UK, according to a United Nations report released on April 1. For instance, meth supply has decreased in most parts of the US, causing its price to skyrocket. Heroin and cocaine have seen the same uptick in price. These could be attributed to the shift in demand and supply equilibrium. The report further revealed that illicit drug trade is still thriving in other countries including, Australia and parts of Asia amid the pandemic.

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When drug shortages occur, price and associated criminal activity tend to increase as well.

Marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and meth

As mentioned earlier, most drug traffickers get their synthetic drug supply (like crystal meth) from countries like China. But the air travel restrictions and flight cancellations are disrupting the normal operations.

The opiate seizures in the Indian Ocean show the impact that Coronavirus is having on the heroin business, considering these drugs are often trafficked by land.

Then there’s cocaine, which is mostly trafficked along maritime routes. The drugs have been detected in the European ports in the past few months.

Marijuana seems to be the only drug that hasn’t been widely affected by the virus since it’s grown and produced near places where it’s bought and sold. Still, smugglers aren’t very willing to ship marijuana across borders or regions under lockdown.

Potential causes of illicit drug shortages 

The supply and distribution of most illicit drugs (especially those that rely on ingredients sourced from China, Afghanistan, Colombia, etc.) are restricted as countries close their borders to control the deadly Coronavirus. Several reports show a reduction in supplies of synthetic marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.

A post on Forbes speculates that the Covid-19 lockdown is putting darknet drug cartels out of business. It further states that the lockdown is hitting pubs, clubs, bars, and other drug-taking hotspots, but darknet dealers accept bitcoin as payment too. Bitcoin, which allows users to purchase illicit drugs, stolen goods, and even guns, has seen a significant drop in spending since the onset of the virus.

Again, with the transit routes through South America having shut down, drug trafficking cartels are unable to cross the Southwest border. There has also been a dramatic reduction in the foot and car traffic to and from Mexico, a major source of America’s heroin. Not to mention the stay-at-home orders and increased law enforcement (police presence) that discourages both buyers and dealers from meeting in public.

The report from the UNODC highlights the potential effects the pandemic may have on drug production in countries like Afghanistan, which cultivates about 90% of the global illicit opium. With March to June being the critical months for the opium harvest in the country, this year’s yields could go to waste if laborers won’t be willing (or able) to travel to where the poppies are grown.

People are "panic-buying" drugs

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People aren't just stocking up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Many are panic-buying illegal drugs, due to the fear of looming global shortages.

Those who manage to access illicit drugs like cocaine are panic-buying so that they don’t run out of stock should the supply run out. An anonymous drug dealer told The Guardian that they do not expect any more cocaine shipments from abroad for six weeks. He said, “I sell cocaine and cannabis to suppliers in the north of England. I have 20 guys on the street servicing about 200 regular clients. But right now, we have two major concerns: sourcing drugs and making enough cash. With the looming shortage, my customers are buying ridiculous amounts of cannabis.”

Harmful patterns affecting public health

Of course, as you would expect, people won’t behave rationally, whether it’s about buying sanitizers or marijuana. What we have seen happen with essential goods is a depiction of what’s happening in the drug world. Whenever possible, some users stock up on their drug of choice, leading to supply issues. Stockpiling might cause users to consume more drugs than usual. And when they exhaust their stock, and cannot get more, they could end up with withdrawal syndrome.

Inevitably, they’ll try alternative drug which exposes them to harm because they may not be used to the drug or know the safe doses. The same applies to the group that cannot stock up because of different reasons – like lack of money. They also will turn to substitutes, like diazepam, fentanyl, benzodiazepines, and so on. This shortage is increasing the number of IV (injection) users who are sharing needles to share what’s available. This exposes them to the risk of contracting hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, and Coronavirus itself.

Drug cartels are getting smarter

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When the government fights the illegal drug trade, organized crime and the drug cartels fight back harder.

The UN warns that the Covid-19 pandemic may present new opportunities to some cartels. Indications reveal that drug smugglers are adapting their strategies, with some having started to take advantage of the situation to boost their image among the population by offering solutions to the vulnerable. This prompted the Trump administration to launch a war on drugs to combat drug trafficking amid Coronavirus pandemic.  In the briefing, the president said the country must not let the drug kingpins and smugglers exploit the Corona outbreak to threaten American lives. He added that the US Southern Command would increase surveillance and seizures and disruption of the drug shipment.

When a convict is sent to prison, he or she is stripped, disinfected and subjected to stringent inspection to ensure nothing illegal, like drugs, or contraband gets inside. His or her possessions are catalogued and boxed up. A convict only gets to keep a few books, eyeglasses and legal papers.

Visitors, too, undergo thorough screenings before seeing their loved ones. This includes car checks by staff (and even canines) and body checks (along with belongings) by a metal detector, pat downs and sometimes, sniffer dogs.

Ideally, nothing illegal is supposed to get inside the prisons – or at least, that's what the law stipulates. But surprisingly, drugs are rife in prisons globally, and illicit drug use like heroin, meth, coke, clone and NPS remains endemic. In fact, a third of prisoners in Wales and England claimed that it was easier to access drugs in prison, than it was on the outside.

How drugs get into prison

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Surprisingly many people in the United States say it's easier to score drugs in prison than it is on the outside.

You probably are wondering how these drugs make their way into prisons. As it turns out, people are pretty creative and often come up with smarter ways to outdo the current security measures and systems. Some smugglers use babies, coloring books, dead birds or stamps to move the drugs past the systems. Others take it a notch higher and soak undies with meth or decide to shove prescription drugs inside their private parts to pass through security. A while back, a Cincinnati woman was nabbed trying to traffic a Bible-laced with heroin into prison.

Cases of staff being enticed by cash bribes aren't uncommon. Forty-nine correction officers from 31 prisons in Georgia were accused of accepting bribes and trafficking illegal stuff into prison. One prison officer took £1000 for moving an ounce of crack cocaine and heroin. Another one got £500 for a sizeable package with drugs and phones. And the cases go on and on.

More recently, an increasing number of cases have transpired where drones delivered packages. Compared to 2013, when the use of drones to transport drugs was unheard of, there were 2 cases and 33 cases in 2014 and 2015.

Prisons try to keep abreast of the inventive and creative ways individuals develop to smuggle drugs into the jail. And while they are mostly successful, inmates still manage to get hold of drugs in one way or the other. In addition to being illegal, the misuse of drugs in prison is a severe threat to prisoners' health, the security of prison systems and the safety of prison officials and staff.

Drugs commonly found in prison

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Drug culture does not stop at the prison walls. Many inventive inmates have developed a knack for sneaking contraband into US jails and prisons.

Using and/or dealing drugs is a criminal offense and may attract up to 15 years (give or take) in jail time. How these drugs find their way into prisons, designed to be secure places of law enforcement, is a big concern.

According to data collected through the 2007-2009 National Inmate Survey, 58% of state prisoners and 63% of sentenced jail inmates met the criteria of drug abuse or dependence. In comparison, only 5% of the general population 18+ years matched the criteria for drug abuse or addiction. This is in line with the data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

Between 2012/2013 and 2017/2018, there was a 50% rise in the rate of positive random tests for drugs in prison, from 7% to 10.6%. Data indicate that prisons with the highest positive rates in the random drug tests are those that are the least stable.

The most commonly abused drugs in prisons are:

How much of a problem are these drugs?

According to a post published on Independent, there were 58 deaths between 2013 and 2016 where prisoners were known, or strongly suspected, to have used legal highs before their demise. Synthetic marijuana is equally disrupting the normal prison life. Despite being prohibited in UK prisons, this drug led to 19 inmate fatalities between 2012 and 2014.

One inspector of prisons told The Guardian that the effect of these drugs on prisons and individuals is unlike anything they've seen before. Quoting what the prison staff told him, he said, "Legal highs have devastating effects in our prisons, more severe than we've seen with other drugs. They're not only destabilizing some prisons but also propelling the cases of violence, bullying and debt."

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Prisons in America are hard-pressed to stop the influx of illicit drugs within their walls.

A former employee of Tomoka Correctional Institution Work Camp told The Miami Herald that their mealtimes looked like a scene straight from out of the "Walking Dead." "Everywhere you turn, inmates are walking around like zombies." Cases of inmates face planting into their food tray, or falling from the seat twitching, foaming and their muscle seizing were not so uncommon. The main culprit? Synthetic marijuana – or K2 as it's commonly referred to.

Addressing the drug addiction problem in prisons

Prisons are full of people charged with drug offences. Some may have been thrown behind bars for possession of drugs or DUI and so on. And while not all inmates incarcerated for drug crimes have a drug problem, addiction is common among inmates. The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights revealed that about 50% of people in prisons and jails meet the criteria for substance dependence or abuse. Many inmates with drug addiction also have a mental health disorder like PTSD or depression.

But many prisons don't offer inmates who fight addiction with proper evidence-based treatment. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) that put withdrawal symptoms in check during detoxification is not common in US prisons. In-prison addiction treatment can save lives and even reduce the risk of further abuse, relapse and drug-related fatalities.

Prison drug strategy 

Drug misuse in both state and federal prisons is a huge challenge facing the criminal justice system today. The abuse of drug is widespread and contributes to crime, violence and vulnerability within prisons. Unless drug misuse levels go down, prison systems won't manage to prevent reoffending, improve security and handle severe and organized crime.

But eliminating drugs in prison is not as easy as it sounds. It needs a coordinated effort to cut down the drug supply in and out of prisons, educate and empower prisoners and support those needing treatment.

Many prisons support inmates struggling with addiction. Some offer religious ministry meetings, psychotherapy sessions and 12-step programs to inmates with addiction problems. On top of these, federal prisons provide a range of programs meant to help inmates overcome substance use. This includes:

Various studies have shown that blending community- and prison-based addiction treatment for offenders lowers the risk of both relapse to drug use and recidivism to drug-related criminal behavior – which, in turn, saves on societal cost.

The medical marijuana craze has ignited a multi-billion dollar industry. From oils to tinctures to lotions to lattes to e-cigarettes in all shapes and sizes, for pain, anxiety, depression, seizures, autism, soft skin, hangover, etc., marijuana is everywhere. In fact, those who invested in top marijuana companies in 2016 are potentially up more than 1000%. Yet another danger lurks under the guise of "synthetic marijuana", "K2", or "spice".

It is not a surprise that marijuana is gaining popularity globally, including on Wall Street. After all, cannabinoid (CBD) –the second most prevalent ingredient in marijuana – has been touted for different health issues. It’s also backed scientifically for its effectiveness in treating the worst childhood epilepsy syndromes like Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome which fail to respond to antiseizure drugs. Studies have also shown its effectiveness in addressing anxiety and chronic pain too.

But the main concern with CBD products is that they are mainly sold as a supplement as opposed to medication. At the moment, the FDA has only approved Epidiolex for a prescription, and does not control the purity and safety of dietary supplements. So it is hard to tell whether a product has active ingredients at the dose as indicated or other unknown elements.

One study tested 84 CBD products from 31 companies and revealed that 69% were mislabeled. Some had too much CBD; some had no CBD at all. Some contained too much THC – the active ingredient in marijuana that’s associated with the “high”. Other surveys indicated that a fraction of the products contained harmful synthetics that are health hazards.

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Both the legal and illegal marijuana business is booming across the United States. Pot farms, like this one are creating a variety of products, with little oversight.

Medical marijuana can be safe and beneficial to human health. The only reason marijuana is still federally illegal is because of THC, which affects one’s ability to concentrate, focus and even keep track of time. But with the rising popularity and demand of the legal natural marijuana, numerous companies have sought to simultaneously minimize production time and boost profits by creating synthetic cannabinoids.

What is Synthetic Marijuana?

Synthetic CBDs are a large family of chemically unrelated compounds that act on the same brain cell receptors as THC. Synthetic marijuana products are human-made, but mimic THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. They are misleadingly marketed as legal and safe alternatives to real marijuana. However, synthetic cannabis affects the brain more than natural marijuana, and their effect can be dangerous or even life-threatening. Unsuspecting users (mostly teens and young adults) assume that the fake weed is harmless – but that’s a grave mistake.

Synthetic marijuana is either sold as a liquid to be vaporized and inhaled or sprayed onto plant material to be smoked. It goes by several other names:

About synthetic cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids are not one drug. Manufacturers produce and sell hundreds of different synthetic chemicals. Each year, new products with unknown health risks make entry into the market. As mentioned earlier, fake weeds are prevalent because consumers believe they are legal and relatively safe. This can be linked to the misconception that many users have, that marijuana is a naturally occurring weed and is, therefore, safe to use (but that’s not all there is to it). Depending on what’s available or personal preference, synthetic cannabinoids is either:

In 2010, over 11,000 individuals were admitted to the emergency room due to synthetic marijuana use, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And in 2016, 2,695 calls were made to poison control centers about people who were harmed by using synthetic CBD. What’s disturbing is that 75% of these people were between 12 and 29 years old.

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Many teenagers and young adults are turning to synthetic marijuana to pass drug tests, or because they think it is a natural, safe alternative to cannabis. It can be quite dangerous, however.

K2 Users beware

Most K2/Spices are illicit. So, manufacturers try to get around the laws by producing new drugs with different ingredients or by marking them as “not fit for human consumption.” They are labeled not for human to mask the intended purpose and avoid the FDA’s control of the manufacturing process.

Synthetic cannabis products are not safe. And since there are no standards for producing, packaging or distributing the chemicals, it might be hard to tell the contents of products and the potential reaction. Again, synthetic CBD can have varying levels of chemicals between batches, or even within the same batch. The products may also be contaminated with toxic chemicals or drugs.

Side Effects of Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic marijuana can have adverse effects on the brain and overall health. Common side effects of synthetic cannabinoids include:

Note that these effects may vary based on factors like the type of synthetic marijuana, the dose and duration of use. K2 can be addictive, meaning a person may experience withdrawal symptoms when they quit cold turkey.

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While it may look nearly identical to weed, synthetic cannabis can actually be very dangerous to the user.

Incidences Involving Synthetic Marijuana

The CDC issued a warning after receiving reports of multiple cases from the Department of Public Health, including deaths among those who used fake K2. Other states have also reported the same cases. The warning urged everyone who’s bought a product that goes by names (spice, K2 or synthetic marijuana) to throw it out. It also encouraged those who had already used to call for help or go to the closest healthcare facility in case they experience severe, unexplained bruising or bleeding.

In another report, synthetic marijuana –which is 85 times more potent than THC – led to a “Zombie Outbreak” in New York City in 2016. For several hours, users were staring blankly, moving slowly and occasionally groaning. 18 out of the 33 people who displayed signs were transported to the hospital. The incidence happened after using K2 that Reddit users describe as “out-of-this-world potent.”

In 2018, 71 people overdosed from synthetic CDB in Connecticut. A significant percentage of the cases occurred on the New Haven Green. And although no deaths were reported, six or more victims had near-death experiences. In the same year, the drug was linked to 22+ cases of severe bleeding from gums, nose and in urine in the Chicago area.

A topic that long seems to have been up for debate is whether Christian’s are able to smoke weed and still be considered to be walking the righteous path of our Lord. Well, just the same with any other well-known argument, there are always two sides to every opinion. To answer this question, many call upon the Bible, which can oftentimes have many different interpretations that vary depending on the core beliefs of the specific individual (or group) who happens to be interpreting it. Here, we will try to explore both sides of the argument so that you may be able to come up with your own opinion.

A Brief History of Cannabis Marijuana

Marijuana, also commonly known as weed, cannabis, pot, grass, reefer, herb, and Mary Jane, has been around for centuries. According to History.com, the first marijuana plants were likely to have been grown in Asia during 500 B.C. Contrary to popular belief, the marijuana plant was grown purely for medicinal purposes at the time, not for the purpose of getting the user’s high. First starting somewhere in Asia, the marijuana plant evolved and before being introduced into Africa, Europe, and eventually the America’s.

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The cannabis plant has long been used to produce textiles, like paper, clothing and rope by humans for centuries.

In America, the marijuana plant was first grown in the form of hemp for textiles and rope during the early colonial period beginning in the 16th century. The word hemp is largely used to describe strains of cannabis that contain less than .03 percent of THC (the substance in marijuana that produces most of the psychological effects). The fibers from hemp were used to create clothing, paper, sails, food, rope, and many other common textiles. Since the hemp plant is easy to cultivate, is fast-growing, and has many uses it became widely popular. However, It wasn’t until the 20th century where political and racial factors ultimately led to the criminalization of the marijuana plant and its usage.

The Pro-Marijuana Argument

Despite marijuana’s recent history in pop culture, it has long been widely accepted that the marijuana plant has strong medicinal effects. It has been used for centuries by many ancient Chinese dynasties. In ancient times it was used to help treat many ailments, such as glaucoma and inflammation by the Egyptians, it has been used in India as an anesthetic, and even as a cure for leprosy.

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Many christians enjoy the use of the cannabis plant for medicinal and recreational reasons.

Part of the pro-cannabis argument for Christians is the mention of what is known as “anointing oil” in several verses of the Bible. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant calamus, 500 shekels of cassia-- all according to the sanctuary shekel-- and a hin of olive oil. Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil” (Exodus 30:22-25). In their interpretation, calamus is translated into the Hebrew word for cannabis, ‘kenah-bosm”. Additionally, calamus is mentioned in several different verses of the Bible. In other interpretations, calamus is a semi-aquatic reed like plant which has been banned for production by many agencies including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for being toxic. So, many would have to speculate why God would call for the use of a poisonous plant in the sacred anointing oil which was used for healing and in ceremonial proceedings?

Additionally, there are several other verses of the Bible that are often cited for pro-marijuana believers. Most of which can be found in the book of Genesis; “And God said, ‘Behold, every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the Earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food” (Genesis 1:29). “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I give you the green plants, I give you everything” (Genesis 9:3). “The Earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:12).

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Many people argue some verses in the bible prove that marijuana has been used responsibly, even in biblical times.

Scientifically speaking, it is hard to deny that marijuana plants are anything but naturally seed-bearing vegetation. Throughout history, the marijuana plant has been used for various medicinal purposes, used as essential textiles, and for ritual or religious proceedings. It is easy to see why some Christians argue that the use of marijuana should be accepted within the religion.

The Anti-Marijuana Argument

With all the different interpretations that come from studying the Bible, combined with the negative stigma surrounding the use of marijuana, it is not difficult to see why many Christians are against the use of it. While some argue that the Bible doesn’t directly mention the marijuana plant itself, there are many verses that mention the sins of the flesh, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexuality, immorality, and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:13-14).

For many Christians, the problem comes from the fact that marijuana is known to have psychoactive effects on the user, which could be translated as drunkenness. However, the use of alcohol is permitted in the Bible, and it is even practiced during several religious Christian ceremonies, such as drinking the blood of Christ. It would seem, then, that when the Bible speaks about drunkenness it is simply talking about consumption in moderation. The same could be said for the use of marijuana, as long as the user is practicing safe consumption.

So Can Christians Smoke Weed, While Remaining True to Their Religion?

Regardless of whatever you may believe, there are those who will support the decision that you will end up making in regard to the use of marijuana and whether or not you believe it is Christian. Speak with your local clergymen if you feel like you need a bit more personal guidance if you are feeling conflicted with this in any way. In my opinion, with the stigma surrounding marijuana lessening, more and more states across our nation are beginning to recognize not only the medical benefits of marijuana but the recreational benefits as well.

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Marijuana, also known by cannabis, weed, grass, shake, ganja, reefer, dope, hash, herb, chronic, and many other names, has a reputation for being a safe narcotic.

In reality, there are no 'safe' narcotics, and the potential for addiction to 'weed' (as it will be henceforth referred to) has well earned its place on the DEA Schedule 1 list of dangerous, addictive drugs. Let's read on to see just how weed can be addictive and habit forming.

"Don't Panic, It's Organic" one popular cannabis-related slogan reads. The 'Good Time' reputation weed has, due in part to its role in the burgeoning hippie movements of the 60s and early 70s, has led many substance abusers and addicts astray.

Popular TV shows and movies such as "That 70's Show" and "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle" portray weed abuse as being, at worst, mildly intoxicating. Unfortunately, even casual marijuana consumption can permanently alter your brain chemistry.

 

The team found that persistent marijuana use was linked to a decline in IQ, even after the researchers controlled for educational differences. The most persistent users — those who reported using the drug in three or more waves of the study — experienced a drop in neuropsychological functioning equivalent to about six IQ points (PNAS, 2012). "That's in the same realm as what you'd see with lead exposure," says Weiss. "It's not a trifle."

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/11/marijuana-brain

 

Not a good time. Not a laughing matter. Yet, the most chronic 'chronic' users will deny addiction, even as they go for their bedside' wake and bake' (referring to getting high first thing in the morning after waking up).

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"You can't get addicted to weed" is a dangerous refrain heard all across the world.

In a sense, weed is not addictive in the same way that heroin is. Your body does not develop a physiological need for it. However, the active ingredient in weed, Δ9‐tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), quickly invokes a resistance in the human body. More and more weed or weed products are needed to stay high.

What are some of the positive aspects of weed that encourage people to avoid withdrawal (and therefore, spur addiction?)

THC interacts with the reward system of your brain and dumps dopamine, much like harder drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and others. This leads to a sense or feeling of euphoria and stress relief.

Weed allegedly can treat certain types of pain - a self-medicator dependent on weed may not want to get clean due to an injury or pain.

Weed can also interfere with the formation of memories, and the cessation of it may force an individual to deal with a trauma or other event that weed helped them to forget.

Other symptoms of withdrawal include diminished appetite, stomach or digestion issues, depression, chills, inability to focus on a task, sweating, headaches, rapid mood changes, irritability, insomnia or other sleeping disorders.

Many users will also experience intense cravings for marijuana, similar to the way a smoker craves a cigarette.

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We know why people become addicted. We understand why they don't want to quit. However, the majority of people who use or smoke marijuana do not become addicted.

 

Marijuana use disorder becomes addiction when the person cannot stop using the drug even though it interferes with many aspects of his or her life. Estimates of the number of people addicted to marijuana are controversial, in part because epidemiological studies of substance use often use dependence as a proxy for addiction even though it is possible to be dependent without being addicted. Those studies suggest that 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it,24,25 rising to about 17 percent in those who start using in their teens.26,27

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive

 

To summarize this excerpt, the 'use disorder' of weed becomes an addiction when you cannot force yourself to stop using it, despite having one or more compelling reasons in your life to do so.

According to DrugAbuse.gov, only 10% of people will become addicted, a much lower rate than heroin or methamphetamines. If that's the case, then why is it so important to reach out to and try to help marijuana addicts?

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Paralleling the rise in marijuana use disorders, treatment admissions for primary marijuana dependence have increased both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of total admissions, from 7 percent in 1993 to 16 percent in 2003 (SAMHSA, 2004). The extent of marijuana use and its associated consequences clearly indicate a public health problem that requires systematic effort focused on prevention and intervention.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2797098/

 

Even with a rise in the prevalence of treatment facilities and staff trained to handle marijuana addiction, it is the forgotten addiction. Individuals are far less likely to admit an addiction to marijuana than they would to say, heroin or amphetamines.

This is once again linked to popular depictions of marijuana in media and society as being a harmless narcotic, as opposed to the dangerous substance it is.

Perhaps, our culture spurs the user to be afraid of being mocked for being addicted to weed.

As an additional word of warning, the rise of THC oil products, such as "dabs," "wax," "shatter," and "budder," make it very easy to deliver massive doses of THC to addicts. THC concentrates in such products usually begins around 70%, or seven times stronger than a regular marijuana joint.

This super-dose of THC means that from the very first hit, the subject is already well on their way to developing an unfortunate resistance to THC.

Other products containing THC that addicts may utilize are soap, lotions, toothpaste, personal lubricants, candy, shampoo, and many others.

There is also a rise of THC being included in food items, such as brownies, cookies, and other foodstuffs.

Consult with a doctor or addiction expert before starting a recovery journey from marijuana. Like all narcotics, it can be an arduous process, but the payoff is absolutely worth it.

 

The debate on whether or not drugs should be legal has been going on for over a century. If we look back 150 years ago, we can see that the Opium Wars crippled China for many decades. Some argue that there are still parts of China that haven’t even recovered from the epidemic.

We can also look to the morphine and laudanum epidemic that ravaged the United States post-civil war until those drugs became regulated. Finally, we can look at today, where certain states such as Utah and Ohio have incredibly high rates of opium related deaths, compared to other states in America.

Is the solution to this problem to make all drugs legal?

In the early 2000s, Portugal decided to decriminalize drugs of all types after two decades of some of the strongest abuse rates in its nation's history. These days, if you are caught being in possession of any drugs, you are either given a warning, a fine, or are told to appear before a local commission.

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Drug legalization has helped other countries actually control drug use. But, could it work in the United States?

This local commission is made up of social workers, lawyers, and doctors, who help drug users understand that there are treatments and support available to them.

Since this change, Portugal has seen dramatic drops in substance abuse rates, as well as addiction rates. There are still some long-term concerns with this policy, though. Since the policy hasn’t been in effect for very long, it's hard to tell what the results will be on the overall health of Portugal’s people.

Diseases such as hepatitis C and liver cancer are prevalent in people who abuse hard drugs, and only time will tell if decriminalizing these drugs was an effective move.

It's important to note that just because decriminalizing all drugs in Portugal has seemingly had a positive effect; it doesn’t mean that this approach will work universally. Every nation’s situation is vastly different, and this isn’t a “one size fits all” solution.

Would drug legalization work in the United States?

Decriminalizing drugs in the United States is prone to many problems, but the current system we have in place does not seem to be very effective either.

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The war on drugs has been a significant failure in the United States. How do we get people to quit using drugs?

It seems that the key to minimizing the drug epidemic in America is to provide people the help and resources that they need to recover from their addiction.

Addiction is almost always considered a disease by most medical institutions, and to fight it you need to treat the person who is suffering the same way you would treat someone who is suffering from any other ailment.

Throwing a drug addict in jail doesn’t solve any problems. In many ways, it's just putting off the issue until that person gets out of jail, only to repeat the same offenses.

A report done by CASA Colombia found that in 2005, the government spent around 74 billion dollars on incarceration costs for substance-related offenders (which included court proceedings, probation, parole, and actual incarceration).

In contrast, the government only spent only 632 million (which is less than 1% of 74 billion) on prevention and addiction treatment.

On top of that, the report found that only 11% of all inmates received treatment and help for their addiction. Based on this data, it seems that the focus in prison is to use fear and punishment as prevention, rather than providing inmates with the help that they need to recover.

When you look at Portugal’s approach to drug addiction, it does appear as though they are on the right track towards handling drug addiction.

In the United States, if you are caught being in possession of any schedule one drug, (which includes heroin, LSD, cocaine, meth, etc.) it is considered a felony.

If it’s not your first time being charged with possession, it will almost certainly result in spending time in jail and/or a very large fine. On the surface, the reasoning behind this makes sense. If you do something that is against the law, you go to jail.

This is how governments and societies have worked for centuries, but this solution has proven over the past couple of decades to be ineffective.

Since the “war on drugs” started back in the ’80s, the government has spent over 1 trillion dollars in efforts to control the use of these illegal substances; meanwhile, the number of people incarcerated for drug usage has drastically increased.

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The war on drugs is big business in the United States. Do police protect our freedoms by locking-up drug users in jail?

Clearly, the way that we handle things currently isn’t working, and we need to find another solution. Locking people up in jail doesn’t prevent the problem; it only prolongs the problem.

Although Portugal seems to be on the right track, it doesn’t feel right saying that we should make every illegal drug legal.

In the same report referenced earlier, CASA Colombia found that out of the 2.3 million people who were incarcerated at the time, 85% had a record of substance abuse.

On top of this, drugs were involved in 78% of all violent crimes, and 83% of all property crimes. Based on this data, it seems incorrect to legalize all drugs.

People who are under the influence of drugs can be hazardous and unpredictable, which is why drug-related laws were created in the first place. Long term abuse of these drugs can also be incredibly harmful to your body.

According to the American Addiction Center, prolonged use of cocaine is heavily linked to heart and brain problems, due to the fact that the drug alters the user’s respiratory system. These problems are often not easily detected, and when they are, it is often too late to do anything about it.

Answering the initial question of “should all drugs be legalized?”, is a very complex and delicate matter, and is not as simple as yes or no. We need to find a new way to handle these issues because the drug laws we have in place don’t seem to work. The black market can add dangerous, synthetic drugs that perhaps would have never been created, had other drugs been legal.

Portugal had a great initial idea of helping and treating people who are addicted to drugs, rather than incarcerating them. The real question is whether this type of approach would work in the United States.

Regardless of location or individual beliefs, we need to move away from harsh punishments and instead focus on helping people with addictions recover.

https://vittana.org/16-decriminalization-of-drugs-pros-and-cons

https://www.ibtimes.com/pros-cons-drug-legalization-us-246712

https://jsberrylaw.com/blog/when-is-drug-possession-considered-a-felony/

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/dec/05/portugals-radical-drugs-policy-is-working-why-hasnt-the-world-copied-it

https://www.centeronaddiction.org/addiction-research/reports/behind-bars-ii-substance-abuse-and-america%E2%80%99s-prison-population

https://americanaddictioncenters.org/health-complications-addiction/permanent-effects

https://www.livescience.com/60559-opioid-crisis-echoes-epidemic-of-1800s.html

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/after-40year-fight-illici_b_3623714

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