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Heroin use is on the rise, criminal justice addresses the problem

Heroin usage is on the rise, but this is a public health issue that must be stopped in its tracks. The rate of overdose deaths has been increasing steadily. What makes this so troubling is that heroin overdoses are possible for any user, whether they have been using for years or if this is their first time.

Lawmakers have addressed the problem by making sure there are strict laws in place to discourage heroin use. These come in many forms from possession to trafficking. It is imperative for anyone who is using or selling heroin to know some of the risks.

From a legal perspective

All heroin charges are felonies in Arizona. The only exception is if a person is facing a first-time possession charge and doesn't have any prior felony convictions, the court does have the option of changing the felony to a misdemeanor. This might help some individuals who have a drug problem but are ready to make a life change since they won't have to worry about dealing with a felony charge for the rest of their life.

There are no downgrades possible for charges related to selling or trafficking heroin. These charges come with considerable incarceration periods. The length of the possible prison sentence varies according to the charge.

A possession charge being prosecuted as a Class 4 felony comes with at least 2.5 years of jail time. Class 2 and 3 felonies for manufacturing, transporting, importing, selling, or distributing come with even more potential jail time. There are also fines attached to convictions.

From a health perspective

The health effects of heroin usage are even more concerning then the legal penalties of criminal charges. In the worst case, an overdose that leads to death is possible. While there are drugs to counteract the effects of heroin, these aren't always effective, especially if a person is too far gone.

People who use heroin are at risk of dental problems, including rotted teeth. They can also suffer from constipation, malnutrition and a weakened immune system. Social isolation and addiction might also come with heroin use. These can be devastating because they can all combine to make the person using the drug feel hopeless and helpless.

While it is important to have legal penalties set for criminal acts, there are some cases involving heroin that might involve better options. Programs like pretrial diversions and drug court could help addicts break the criminal cycle by addressing the underlying addiction.

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