Opioid abuse is a clear crisis in this country. While many argue that addicts require treatment, not incarceration, a law in Florida aims to punish those responsible for distributing drugs with a first-degree murder charge.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the state’s drug-assisted homicide laws are intended to punish drug dealers when a person they have sold illicit substances to overdoses. These laws are often centered around opioids, particularly fentanyl, which is especially deadly. However, many claim the law is counterproductive, as it often targets addicts, not dealers.

Laws hurt more than they help

Many people who distribute drugs like fentanyl to others are addicts themselves. These people are often fearful of calling for help in the event a person overdoses in front of them, typically out of fear they will be arrested. Drug-assisted homicide laws give legitimacy to these fears, which causes many addicts to deny assistance to an overdosing person, assistance that could potentially save their lives.

Additionally, the intended purpose of these laws, to stop drug dealers who are fully aware they are distributing deadly drugs, is rarely achieved. A study conducted found that half of those convicted of drug-assisted homicide were closely related to the victim, usually friends or family. In many cases, these people did not have malicious intent and were actively using drugs themselves.

Prisons offer little in the way of rehabilitation

Overcoming a drug addiction is no easy feat, and when addicts are sent to jail, they have little hope of rehabilitation. Most prisons do not have detox and rehab programs in place. As a result, most addicts leave prison and immediately resume using their drug of choice. This process is deadly, as one study showed newly released addicts are 40 times more likely to overdose.