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The federal government is about to 'get tough' on opioids

The opioid crisis has captured national attention in recent years. It finally reached the White House in March when President Donald Trump announced his new plan to combat the opioid epidemic in America. Trump's plan is multifaceted and could mean different things to different people. What does it mean to you?

An estimated two million Americans have a substance abuse disorder involving prescription painkillers, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. For many people in need of pain relief, an opioid prescription becomes an addiction, leading them to be an unwitting participant in America's opioid epidemic. Further, some people seeking pain relief now find themselves facing criminal charges.

Harsher federal penalties for dealers

In a recent speech, President Trump said he would be willing to seek the death penalty for drug dealers and increase penalties for dealing fentanyl specifically. In addition to harsher individual penalties, Trump also said he is working to create a nationwide database of opioid distribution similar to state-level programs, target opioid manufacturers and focus on border security to keep foreign drugs out of the country.

Similar state laws are already in place

Trump's proposals echo a new Florida law that was created last year. In July, Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 477 which creates and enhances penalties, including mandatory minimum sentencing, for crimes related to synthetic drugs and fentanyl, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Officials cited a 100 percent increase in statewide drug deaths in 2016 as the reason for the new law.

What does it mean to me?

The conversation around the opioid epidemic centers on addiction including patients, doctors and manufacturers alike. The reform seeks to target those who perpetuate addiction and fail to recognize the potential harm of opioids. For some people, the need to seek pain relief goes too far, which is why a compassionate approach is often necessary when defending opioid-related drug charges.

For those confronted with drug charges due to opioid use, an attorney can pursue an out-of-court deal including alternative sentencing, treatment options, and record sealing or expungement. While new legislation focuses on harsher penalties for opioid-related crimes, criminal defense attorneys are there to find balance in the law for people facing addiction.

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