Justice

This Judge Wants Drug Dealers to Pay for Naloxone

A Pennsylvania judge has an unconventional plan to curb opioid abuse in the state: He's ordering convicted drug dealers to pay for another type of drug — the anti-overdose rescue medication naloxone — in an effort to rehabilitate offenders and increase access to the lifesaving drug.

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The judge orders a convicted offender to pay a fine that will be distributed to emergency medical services and law enforcement agencies in the communities where they were caught. "Ordering the defendant to provide funds for naloxone to the relevant agency will help to rehabilitate him and change his thinking," Judge Anthony Mariani said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune‑Review.

The hope is that forcing drug dealers to pay the additional fine will compel them to confront the reality of their role in the opioid epidemic, leading them to reevaluate the cause-and-effect relationship of dealing. At the same time, the extra funding will increase access to naloxone, a drug that immediately reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and saves lives.

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"This is the first I've heard of it, and I'm sure it could have a positive effect," Tim Phillips, the executive director of Westmoreland County's drug overdose task force, told the Pittsburgh Tribune‑Review. "It could be part of the solution. Anything that will save a life is worth considering."

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Pennsylvania, like other states across the U.S., is experiencing a rise in opioid overdoses. The state saw a 114-fold increase in fatal opioid overdoses from 1979 to 2014, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. While naloxone doesn't represent a solution to the epidemic, it offers a way to reduce overdoses and, ideally, put users on the road to recovery.

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