"When the nation’s long-running war against drugs was defined by the crack epidemic and based in poor, predominantly black urban areas, the public response was defined by zero tolerance and stiff prison sentences. But today’s heroin crisis is different. While heroin use has climbed among all demographic groups, it has skyrocketed among whites; nearly 90 percent of those who tried heroin for the first time in the last decade were white.At Monday's meeting, Orange County Corrections Chief Cornita Riley and Dr. Robert Buck presented a pilot program for heroin users inside the jail that would offer inmates who want to be rehabilitated a shot of naltrexone, a drug which blocks the effects of heroin and can prevent people from relapsing. Inmates who don't want naltrexone could be offered naloxone, a drug used to treat narcotic overdoses. Riley and Buck say they hope to offer the treatments for free inside the jail, which saw 2,179 heroin addicts pass through it last year.
And the growing army of families of those lost to heroin — many of them in the suburbs and small towns — are now using their influence, anger and grief to cushion the country’s approach to drugs, from altering the language around addiction to prodding government to treat it not as a crime, but as a disease... Their efforts also include lobbying statehouses, holding rallies and starting nonprofit organizations, making these mothers and fathers part of a growing backlash against the harsh tactics of traditional drug enforcement. These days, in rare bipartisan or even nonpartisan agreement, punishment is out and compassion is in."