Opioids, Addiction Treatment, and the Long Tail of Eugenics
80 Ohio St. L. J. 841 (2019)
17 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2019
Date Written: December 1, 2019
Our attitude, treatment, and punishment of opioid addiction partly results from the long, intertwined history of eugenics and incarceration. There is a thread of eugenics-based philosophy undergirding our widespread imprisonment of the poor, disabled, and dependent. The current approach to opioid addiction in the criminal justice and sentencing worlds reflects this bias, hindering our ability to best treat the opioid crisis. Our 21st century tactics to combat the opioid addiction crisis unwittingly track the methods used to address the widespread use of opioids in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with equally troubling results. Indeed, addiction to pharmaceutical opiates is no recent problem; historically, iatrogenic drug use has been far more extensive than illicit drug use. Old errors are being re-enacted as we attempt to solve the problems of opioid-addicted offenders during sentencing, inside correctional facilities, and on release. Accordingly, before we craft workable policies to combat the opioid crisis, we must fully explore and understand the history of iatrogenic opioid addiction, to avoid making the same mistakes.
Keywords: opioids, addiction, eugenics, disability, sentencing, criminal justice
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