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We can't nibble around the edges of the overdose crisis

The Sun’s overview of Gov. Larry Hogan’s response to opioid overdose deaths shows that “nibbling around the edges” doesn’t save lives (“After Larry Hogan vowed to take on Maryland's opioid epidemic, deaths soared. What happened?,” Oct. 10). In 1980, when I worked for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee examining the Drug Enforcement Agency’s strategies, drug user overdose deaths were a frightening 7,000, nothing like 2017’s 70,000 deaths. Doctors abandon to the street patients who are addicted. Drugs sold by criminals on the street often kill from contamination. Opioid users often die because forced into jail, treatment, or probation, they lose their tolerance. When they relapse, they often overdose.

If we want to save the lives of drug users we must love and respect them and make their survival the heart of drug policy. We can’t save drug users’ lives as a byproduct of law enforcement and mass incarceration. Governor Hogan, relying on an enforcement-style “command center,” embraced the shaming and punishment of drug users and maintaining the profits of cartels and violent street markets — he didn’t “try everything.”

Eric E. Sterling, Silver Spring

The writer is executive director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation.

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