By Michael S. Smith and Michael R. KappelSource USA Today | February 27, 2019 | 02:13:11AMWASHINGTON — The number of opioid overdose deaths in the United States has jumped nearly 50 percent since 2015, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But the drug overdose epidemic has been largely overlooked by many legal professionals who work in this area, experts say.
While there is much data to examine, it is difficult to find a single legal source that includes this aspect of the drug crisis, said David E. Gelles, a lawyer in New York who specializes in legal representation for opioid overdose victims.
For years, most attorneys have been writing to federal courts and Congress to urge them to address the crisis.
They have also written to lawmakers to urge more aggressive responses, he said.
They have even lobbied federal judges and prosecutors to issue harsher penalties for dealers who violate laws governing the manufacture and distribution of opioids, which are typically referred to as fentanyl.
But federal judges rarely issue those sanctions, and there are no court orders, Gellas said.
So lawyers are not necessarily looking at the underlying problems in the system that lead to overdoses.
Instead, they are looking at what federal judges, prosecutors and law enforcement are doing to address it, Gessles said.
“We have to ask what the courts are doing, what prosecutors are doing,” he said, adding that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently ruled that the opioid epidemic is “not a crime.”
This is because it is not a criminal offense, he explained.
It is more of a health problem, a public health problem and a public safety problem.
“They are trying to do everything they can to address this,” he added.
A few federal judges have ruled against states and localities in some cases, he noted.
But the federal government and law enforcers have not always acted to address these issues, Gells said.
For example, in 2017, President Donald Trump’s Justice Department issued guidance to prosecutors to focus more on dealing with dealers rather than prosecuting them, Gels said.
But it is also not clear that states have been taking advantage of this guidance, he added, saying that many have struggled to enforce laws.
There is also a lack of coordination between the federal and state governments.
“I don’t know if we have a coordinated approach,” Gellis said.
He noted that the federal response to opioid overdoses has been slow and limited.
Gelles said there are several ways the federal authorities can do more to prevent the crisis, including better training and increased resources to deal with overdose deaths.
But there is also an issue that the government needs to address, he stressed, because it will be difficult to solve the problem without additional resources.
“It’s an epidemic that has no real solutions,” he explained, adding, “It’s a very difficult problem to solve.”
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Read moreThe opioid crisis has been fueled by a surge in drug overdoses and the growing opioid epidemic in the U-20s, said James F. Rucker, an assistant professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Drug overdose deaths are up more than 70 percent among the youngest U-19s and up 50 percent among U-18s,” he wrote in a recent paper for the American Bar Association.
Rucker said that although many young people have taken to heroin, the crisis is more complicated than heroin, and the epidemic is fueled by the opioid abuse problem.
The problem is that many people don’t realize that heroin is more addictive and can cause death,” he argued.
Ruckers paper also noted that opioid-related overdose deaths among U.K. youth have risen more than 40 percent since 2012, when a spike in opioid use began in that country.
But many U. S. states have also seen an increase in opioid overdose death rates.
And while states have a responsibility to reduce drug use, they can also be penalized for not doing enough to deal directly with drug abuse.”
States can be punished for not working as aggressively to reduce the number of people who are abusing drugs,” Rucker wrote.
States and local governments can also have a greater influence over how drugs are prescribed, which could make it easier for states to push through stricter laws and more restrictive treatment.”
The more you punish the wrongdoers, the more likely they will continue to do it,” he warned.
The U.N. special rapporteur on drugs and health, Richard A. Schulte, has called on the U