NEWTOWN, Ohio -- Giving drug dealers stiffer penalties, including the death penalty, won't be a practical way to address the opioid epidemic, according to a local expert.
President Donald Trump outlined his plan to address the issue during a speech in New Hampshire Monday. His plan focuses on three areas, including prevention and education through advertising, improving the ability to fund treatment and law enforcement and interdiction, which included the headline-grabbing death penalty for some drug traffickers.
Tom Synan, the Newtown police chief and co-chair of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, said the president's plank includes some steps that will "help out in some ways," but said tougher sentences for dealers won't work.
"We have to start defining who's a drug dealer and who's not," he said. "The drug dealer on the street, that 18-year-old kid will throw out a free sample to get somebody hooked. So does a pharmaceutical company. And both are responsible for people dying in the U.S., and killing Americans. So tell me who's the drug dealer and who's not."
Synan said the feds indicting suppliers in China is a start, but he wants the emphasis off penalties.
"I pushed for stronger sentancing on fentanyl and carfentanyl, and I got pushed back, saying, 'Here's the studies, here's the research.' The research shows that stronger penalties do not necessarily mean less drug dealing in the U.S.," he said. "As a matter of fact, it's had zero impact. Probably the biggest thing that helps the most is that Medicaid inpatient treatment. That is significant and that will allow people to get into treatment."
Synan believes the way to stop the drugs is to focus on decreasing demand.
"Let's start treating addiction the way that we should, and we'll start seeing results," he said. "Then we can start focusing on the drug dealers and penalizing them, but right now we have a lot of users that are sitting in jail, that are holding up a lot of space, so part of the reason is the drug dealers aren't going in on their full sentances because we have all these users in there."