A growing number of U.S. politicians support tougher police actions against drug dealers, however, new research suggests these measures may worsen the overdose crisis.
Tough on Crime Approach: Many politicians are advocating for harsh police tactics towards drug traffickers such as fentanyl and methamphetamine dealers.
* Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Masto Cortez, for instance, is sponsoring a bill to increase penalties for dealing synthetic drug xylazine.
New Research Findings: A study published in the American Journal of Public Health suggests that police drug-busts may increase overdoses.
* Based on data from Indianapolis, the study found an immediate increase in overdoses and deaths after drug seizures, particularly with opioids.
* Jennifer Carroll, a co-author of the study, suggests disruption to the supply of drugs caused by police crackdowns merely destabilizes the market, leading users to buy potentially more dangerous substances from unknown sources.
* Restarting drug use after a period of abstinence, even a short one, could increase the risk of overdose and death due to altered tolerance levels.
Contrasting Views: Despite mounting evidence against heavy-handed police measures, many politicians and law enforcement agencies continue to support them.
* Sen. Masto Cortez insists that tougher criminal penalties are necessary to curb drug trafficking and prevent deaths from overdoses.
* Former police chief Brandon Del Pozo, now studying drug policy at Brown University, and co-author of the aforementioned study argues that these police tactics risk lives without significant community improvement.
* Brittney Garrett, a former cop who now advises police on drug fighting tactics, noted a trend towards doubling down on enforcement.
Research Implications: The study suggests the need for more planning and coordination before drug seizures to prevent deadly overdose spikes.
* Beau Kilmer, head of the Rand Drug Policy Research Center, agrees police play a vital role but insists they need a “thoughtful plan” including making sure treatment is available.
* Jennifer Carroll suggests that criminalization is not effective in saving lives, pointing to the historical ineffectiveness of such methods and the increased availability, toxicity, and decreased cost of street drugs.
* Despite these findings, many police agencies continue aggressive anti-drug campaigns, such as a recent seizure of 200 pounds of fentanyl and methamphetamines in Indianapolis.
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