Colorado has been given a spotlight in national news for its legalization of recreational marijuana, but by focusing on this one drug, other issues within the state have been swept under the rug.
Ignoring the abuse of other drugs in Colorado means turning a blind eye to an epidemic in our state. When it comes to prescription drugs and opiate abuse, Colorado has a big drug problem. And it needs to be addressed.
One Death Every Single Day
Since the new millennium, overdose rates in our state have skyrocketed. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Colorado Health Institute show increases in drug-related deaths in 63 of the state’s 64 counties. Drug use and overdoses are not unique to any one race, socioeconomic class, gender, or area of the state.
Prescription drugs and heroin cause the highest number of overdoses. On average, 35 people overdose on prescription drugs in one month. That means more than one person every day is killed due to prescription drug addiction. Add to that the fact that heroin has killed more people in recent years than any other drug. Since it can be cheaper to obtain than many prescriptions or other drugs, it has become a popular choice among drug users.
Incarceration and Overdose
How do we stop people from using illicit drugs? The answer is not incarceration.
In fact, the National Institute of Health published studies taken in Colorado and around the United States showing that people who have served jail time for drug use have a high risk of overdose, especially in the period immediately after their release.
Why? Because the emotional triggers of being released from jail and back into home environments can often spark heavy, even fatal, drug use. The study recommends rehabilitation throughout and immediately after incarceration, and a smoother transition between being released from jail and sent home.
Consequences for Drug Use
Despite this, our state continues to sentence drug offenders to heavy penalties and assume this will solve the problem by itself.
Heroin is considered a Schedule I drug in the state of Colorado. If you are caught up in a heroin sweep and charged with possession, you may receive a sentence of up to 12 years in prison and/or up to $750,000 in fines – even for your first offense. And abusing prescription drugs is dangerous more than just because of what the drugs can do to you. If you take extreme or fraudulent measures to obtain prescription drugs, such as doctor shopping, forging prescriptions, and purchasing drugs illegally, it can be considered prescription fraud. Heavy punishments are not just unique to so-called “hard” drugs, either. Despite the legalization of recreational marijuana, you can still be arrested on marijuana-related charges in Colorado and face jail time and exorbitant fines.
Fighting for Colorado’s Safety
If you have been charged with a drug offense, you are likely looking at serious consequences. Incarceration will take years away from your life, and even after completing your sentence, it can be dangerous to your health.
In court, a judge may be willing to lift or lighten your penalties if you express interest in rehabilitation. Rehabilitation can include attending 12-step programs or meetings, checking into rehabilitation facilities, or seeing an addiction counselor.
Encouraging rehabilitation over incarceration for drug users will not only keep people out of prison, it will also cut down on drug-related deaths. Heavy punishments and lengthy prison sentences are not the solution to Colorado’s drug problems. Helping people to regain control over their lives is.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.