Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 – Opioid Abuse: Why are Health Problems Dealt with by the Law?

Name: Ulises Munoz

Opioid Abuse: Why are Health Problems Dealt with by the Law?

Abuse: Why are Health Problems Dealt with by the Law?

medical law - health vs law stock illustrations, clip art, cartoons, & icons

Ulises Munoz

of Wisconsin-Milwaukee



the scope of Milwaukee, opioid abuse has been overlooked due to
events regarding gun violence or Black Lives Matter. It has also been
treated in the wrong manner; opioid abuse is treated as a criminal
offense rather than a health issue which leads to poor recovery
percentages. Although gun violence and Black Lives Matter are
important and relevant, it has overshadowed the ever-growing Opioid
Crisis occurring in Milwaukee.

way Opioid Abusers are treated within the US is not the most
effective. Although abusing drugs and selling/buying is illegal, it
should not result in jailtime and parole officers. It’s urgent that
the policies are changed; Social workers, treatment programs, etc.
can help an opioid abuser recover and not be dependent upon the drug
anymore. However, they are most typically thrown in jail, and end up
returning later for a longer sentence.

abuse has grown negative stigma towards its users. Typically seen as
bums, or criminals, it only feeds into the lack of health care that
users receive and ultimately leads to law over healthcare. However,
research studies and countrywide programs display that healthcare
will help opioid abusers in every manner possible and help the

with the implementation of the ‘Four Pillar Strategy”, the number
of Opioid Abusers will ultimately decrease annually, which is a step
in the right direction. The idea being with city-wide action turning
state-wide, hopefully one day being country wide. Opioid abuse is not
a US problem, it is also a European problem, and their implementation
of the Four Pillar Strategy can hopefully transfer here and change
the way opioid users are treated.

Information – Milwaukee

numbers do not lie, and in 2018 alone, 302 individuals died from
opioid abuse (Milwaukee COPE, 2018). That may seem low compared to
gun violence numbers, or police brutality cases, but deaths produced
is not the only perspective. The PDF report compiled by the Milwaukee
COPE organization is a great indication of how dangerous opioid abuse
is. It is reported that in 2018, 1,401 Milwaukee individuals were
administered Naloxone, which is a reversing agent to help offset
opioid overdose (COPE, 2018). Another perspective to grasp is the
fact Wisconsin had 14.5 opioid-deaths per 100,000, meanwhile
Milwaukee alone has 30.6 per 100,000 in the past 4 years (Opioids –
Death by County, 2019). Milwaukee is a big contributor to opioid
abuse when compared to the state. That is why dealing the problem
head on will be the most beneficial. Small numbers produced in rural
areas will be easy to combat, but a larger scale such as Milwaukee’s
will be a greater success which will be mirrored by smaller counties
surrounding Milwaukee.

in all, opioid abuse numbers steady and consistent yearly, and as
population keeps growing, so will the number of abusers. Nothing has
been done to combat the opioid abusers except locking them up. When
an unstable person is locked up it just seems impossible for them to
recover mentally, physically, or socially. When numbers increase and
nothing has been done, it becomes alarming what the future statistics
can hold. It’s important to keep in mind that the data is of
opioid abusers. Perhaps a couple hundred more opioid abusers are
present within Milwaukee alone.

vs. Criminal System

mentioned in the background information, there’s a difference in
how opioid users are treated by the law vs. healthcare professionals
such as an addiction psychiatrist or social workers. A key manner on
battling drug abuse is to lower tolerance, gradually taking less and
less of the substance. When a drug abuser is then jailed, not only
are they refused the substance, but they also experience withdrawal.

example of this happening was with Psychiatrist Brian Barnett who had
a patient “Shawn” that he was treating. Over months of treatment
Shawn failed to show up for an appointment. He happened to be pulled
over for a different motive and was jailed. Afterwards he experienced
withdrawal galore. (Barnett, 2018). In the case of opioid abuse,
punishment is not the answer most of the time. Drug related crimes
are bundled up into the same web, which should not be the case. There
is a vast difference between drug sellers vs. Drug abusers.

comparing a piece of data, 23,854 gun deaths via suicide in 2017, it
is closely tied in with mental health (Howard, 2018). Opioid abuse is
a result of an individual seeking a state of happiness or high, which
can be because of the poor situation they find themselves in. The
number 23,854 can be attributed to opioid abuse for several reasons.
Individuals who are unemployed, poor, have a family history of
substance abuse, and/or criminals (Mayo Clinic, 2018). Additionally,
the age group who abuse opioids the most also correlate with the age
group that commits suicide the most too. (Kent, 2010) and (Pembleton,
2018). It is important that more is done for those who suffer mental
health, as that can lead to a life of opioid abuse as well.
Prevention is a big part of taking down the statistics.

Boost of Healthcare

benefit of employing a health program for opioid abusers is to
improve the economy. Studies have not only shown that prison
treatment programs will reduce incarceration rates but will also
prove to be cheaper. In study done in Delaware, 1,300ish prisoners
were followed upon release, with some having gone through a treatment
program while in jail. Results found that those who went through the
treatment program were less likely to be arrested again. (Butzin et
al. 2006) This supports the idea that treatment is vital in reducing
opioid abuse deaths and/or jailtime.

study found that the cost of treatment for opioid abuse patients was
beneficial in the long run, seeing that the cost per prisoner is more
expensive. (Zarkin et al. 2008) These two studies alone should have
been widely published and began to be practiced. However, the prison
practice has received many criticisms for high incarceration rates
regardless of opioid abuse or not, so it may be a while before change
occurs in the prison facilities. All in all however, medicine and
healthcare treatment is a step that must be taken to reduce numbers

Pillar Strategy

the question remains, “What treatment method should be employed to
reduce opioid abuse numbers?”. The biggest problem that occurs with
drug abuse patients that they overdose based on being careless or
extremely desperate with getting the drug into their body. The Four
Pillar Method is not currently used in the US, but has been
elsewhere. What this method does is have drug abusers be given
treatment via easier access to drugs and state of the art syringes,
doses, etc. (Kurzgesagt – In A Nutshell 2017) While allowing them to
take in the drug, they receive education, are helped on job
searching, and overall help reduce crime. They are gradually given
less throughout the treatment and are let go once they are deemed
self-functional by doctors and professionals.

the method is positive and proven, it does have downfalls. All
patients are under medical supervision in order to provide a safe
environment, it can help reduce crime; patients will experience
withdrawal. This also will reduce overdose almost to zero if all
abusers can undergo treatment. Finally, it is a proven method which
Switzerland dived into in the late 90’s (Knopf 2019). This also
does help remove the negative stigma presented from society that the
drug abuse patients are good for nothing; the education or job search
programs can help turn them around.

there are some downfalls to the four pillar method. Although overdose
deaths might decrease, this may support opioid abuse with the mindset
that there are programs to help save your life in case of emergency
(almost like a safety net). The initial cost may be unappealing, cost
of drugs and program may be deterring from city officials. Finally,
everyone is different. Some may not recover; others may take too much
time in these programs. There’s no set time for release.


the research presented within the paper has hopefully created enough
exigence for action to be taken. It is imperative for the health of
Milwaukee that the Opioid Crisis be taken care of. Opioid abuse has
not been on Milwaukee’s radar within recent years, and it is time
for it to be. Much can be done to battle the opioid crisis, and with
the right programs Opioid Abuse can be reduced.

the research, hopefully it can generate conversations about the
importance of battling the stigmas behind opioid abuse and mental
health. It is fundamental that opioid abuse be taken seriously in
every way possible. Not enough exposure has been granted towards the
issue that the opioid crisis presents. Perhaps the wrong action was
taken to battle opioid abuse, but it is not too late. It’s time to
let doctors, psychiatrists, and social workers fight a battle in
their field, not police. Seeking help is an important step, but when
no help is provided then all goes down.


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and prisons: the unmanned front in the battle against the opioid
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Butzin et all. “Effect of Drug Treatment during Work Release on New
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Clinic Staff “Am I Vulnerable to Opioid Addiction?”
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 Feb. 2018,

Mary. “In U.S., Who Is at Greatest Risk for Suicides?”
Reference Bureau
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T. (2019, January 21). Switzerland couldn’t stop drug users. So it
started supporting them. Retrieved from

– In a Nutshell. (2017).
The War on Drugs Is a Huge Failure.


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8 Nov. 2019,

Jacqueline. “Gun Deaths in US Reach Highest Level in Nearly 40
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Gary A et al. “Benefits and costs of substance abuse treatment
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