Durbin calls for drug treatment over harsher penalties to combat opioid abuse

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U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says U.S. drug makers produce 14 billion opioid pills every year. (Photo courtesy CNN)

By Eric Stock

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said drug abusers need treatment not the harsher penalties that President Trump has proposed.

Trump has announced he wants the death penalty for some drug dealers as part of a wide-ranging plan to attack the opioid epidemic. Durbin told WJBC’s Scott Laughlin treatment facilities are limited across much of Illinois.

PODCAST: Listen to Scott’s interview with Durbin on WJBC.

“The only way to stop this epidemic is to put treatment right on the spot, it isn’t by hiking criminal penalties on people,” Durbin said. “The addicts who are going to jail come out of jail, unfortunately still prone to addiction.”

Durbin referred to one instance where an Illinois sheriff offered amnesty for anyone using heroin and other dangerous drugs and more than two dozen people turned over their drugs.

Durbin added stopping the flow of illegal drugs into the U-S from Mexico and elsewhere won’t be stopped by a border wall.

“If you own a hammer, as they say, every problem looks like a nail,” Durbin said. “His wall, his beautiful, big white shining wall, 2,200 mile wall is a 19th-century response to a 21st-century problem.”

He said illegal drugs are often brought into the United States through the mail and package delivery.

Durbin said the Drug Enforcement Administration has been unable to reign in the production of opioids — which amounts to 14 billion tablets a year- enough to fill a three-week prescription for every adult in the U-S.

Using a New Hampshire speech to announce a new approach to the opioid epidemic, the president on Monday said the nation must get tougher on drug availability and announced a new website-crisisnextdoor.gov that warns of opioid dangers, as well as broadcasting commercials targeted at children about how bad drug use is for themselves and their families.

Eric Stock can be reached at eric.stock@cumulus.com.