To Beat the Opioid Crisis, Virginia’s Ralph Northam Should Think Like Portugal: New at Reason

Narcotics-induced deaths have plummeted in Portugal since the European country decriminalized all drugs. Should Virginia's next governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, give it a try?

A. Barton Hinkle writes:

Virginia's next governor will confront many pressing needs but few burning oil platforms—except one. The opioid crisis just keeps getting worse.

Drug overdoses, which now constitute the leading cause of death for anyone in America not yet old enough to join AARP, topped 64,000 in 2016. That represented a nearly one-fifth increase over 2015. The other day The Wall Street Journal reported that from January 2016 to January 2017, drug overdose deaths rose another 21 percent. Opioids are driving most of the fatalities.

The figures for Virginia are equally grim. According to the latest report from the state medical examiner's office, drug overdoses have been the leading cause of unnatural death in the commonwealth for the past four years. And they are getting worse: From 2015 to 2016, heroin overdoses rose 31 percent; overdose deaths from all drugs rose 39 percent; and deaths from fentanyl and fentanyl analogs spiked by 174 percent.

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