The United States is currently in the middle of an opioid epidemic. Last year over 60,000 people lost their lives due to a drug-related overdose, that means more US citizens died due to drug use in 2017 than the entire Vietnam War. Delaware has been affected exceptionally hard by this devastating drug problem. The number of overdoses deaths continues to rise year by year, a vast majority of these deaths involves some kind of opioid.
Fentanyl and carfentanil, both are power synthetic opioids, can be directly linked to a large amount of these opioid-related overdoses. These drugs are now commonly being combined with drugs like heroin to increase its potency. These substances can be up to 10,000x stronger than heroin, just a match head size amount of carfentanil can cause a fatal overdose.
Narcan is used to reverse the effects of an overdose, it has been used to save thousands of lives. This life-saving drug is no match for the potency of fentanyl and carfentanil. The huge increase in heroin use can be directly attributed to the rise of prescription opiates in the mid-late 2000’s. OxyContin, codeine, Percocet and Opana were some of the most commonly prescribed medications during the pill boom. Doctors were writing prescriptions for different opioid medications for people struggling with various levels of pain management issues. Some doctors were writing these prescriptions for valid reasons, others to benefit themselves financially. Even those who were prescribed these pills to help them with a real problem were falling victim to the pills.
Prolonged use of any prescription opioid medication can lead to physical and mental dependence.
Delaware ranks first for the most amount of high-dose opioid pain reliever prescriptions in the country, with 8.8 prescriptions per 100 people. It ranks second for long-acting/extended-release opioid pain relievers with 217 prescriptions per 100 people. With 90.8 opioid pain reliever prescriptions per 100 persons and 41.5 benzo prescriptions per 100 persons. Delaware is clearly in the midst of a prescription crisis. There is no need and no reason for this amount of opiate prescriptions to exists anywhere.
Prescribing an Addiction
As more and more prescriptions were written, the pills made their way onto the streets. They became increasingly popular over the next few years. As new laws and guidelines were put in place, the number of opioid prescriptions plummeted. There was still a huge demand for these medications. A huge amount of people had become physically dependant on these drugs and needed them to function on a daily basis. The price of these pills skyrocketed as the supply dwindled and the demand grew. A large majority of the active users turned to heroin, a cheaper and more readily available alternative to prescription opiates. More than 70% of current heroin users report that they used prescription pills before they ever tried heroin. A vast majority of them say they would’ve never tried heroin if it wasn’t for prescription opiates. A lot of experts blame the opioid crisis on doctors and large pharmaceutical companies who saw financial gains from prescribing these highly addictive pills
According to a information provided by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) WalletHub created a report outlining the current drug use statistics in the state. Delaware’s overdose deaths involving fentanyl have more than doubled from 2015-2016. There were 282 drug overdose deaths in Delaware in 2016, a large majority of these deaths can be directly linked to prescription opiates and heroin use.
Marijuana laws have changed a bit over the past few years. A few new amendments have been put into effect. Making it a civil penalty rather than a criminal one for possessing certain amounts of the drug.
- Under 1 ounce (28 grams) is a civil penalty and comes with a fine up to $100
- Between 28 to 175 grams is a misdemeanor. Comes with a fine up to $575 and up to 3 months in jail
- Between 175 to 1,500 grams is a felony. This can lead to up to 3 years in prison with a fine at the discretion of the court
- Between 1,500 to 3,000 is a felony. Up to 5 years in prison with a fine at the discretion of the court
- Between 3,000 to 4,000 grams is obviously a felony. Up to 8 years in prison with a fine at the discretion of the court
- Between 4,000 to 5,000 grams is once again a felony. Up to 15 years in prison with a fine at the discretion of the court
- Over 5,000 grams is a felony. Up to 3 years in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of up to 25 years in prison.
The Delaware Medical Marijuana Act strictly dictates how much cannabis patients can possess. In Delaware, residents with a prescription can possess up to six ounces at one time. Qualifying patients under the age of 18 may not possess the cannabis plant itself. They are only allowed to have cannabis oil, which can have no more than 7% THC with no less than 15% CBD.