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Monday, August 12, 2013

Prosecutors Charging Dealers in Overdose Deaths

A number of prescription drug abusers turn to using heroin due to the drugs strength and cost reduction in comparison to the high cost of drugs like oxycodone. In response to the high risk of overdose, officials are now going after dealers and drug producers for causing heroin overdose deaths, the Associated Press reports.

 In recent years, prescription drug companies have made it much more difficult for users to crush and snort the drugs.

A 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, found that the number of people who were past-year heroin users in 2011 (620,000) was higher than the number in 2007 (373,000).

“We’re going to be ruthless,” Prosecutor Joseph Coronato of Ocean County, New Jersey, told the AP. “We’re looking for long-term prison sentences.” Using the state’s “strict liability for drug death” statute, prosecutors in New Jersey will hold dealers and producers responsible for a user’s death. These charges come with a 20-year maximum sentence.

In the past, overdose deaths were treated by law enforcement officials as accidents, the article notes. Paramedics are to treat overdoses as crimes and coroners are requested to order autopsies and preserve evidence. Detectives are using cell phones to track text messages and calls related to the drug purchase.

Although, in many cases overdose deaths involve more than just heroin, it will be difficult to hold that heroin was the single cause. Every year, thousands of people overdose on prescription pain medication; there is no evidence to suggest that prosecutors will go after pharmaceutical companies.

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