A recent article from The Atlantic draws an analogy between the current opioid epidemic and the crack epidemic of the 1980s and early 1990s, and the political reaction to the respective crises.
[M]any conservatives demanded harsher sentencing during the largely African American crack epidemic, yet now show far less enthusiasm for imprisoning opioid addicts—most of whom are white.
My question is whether the two drug epidemics are analogous, at least for purposes of a public policy response. I confess knowing almost nothing about this, but I imagine significant factors might be:
- Number of deaths or hospitalization associated with drug use
- Any rise in violent crime associated with drug use
- Other social problems associated with drug use (drop-outs, unemployment, etc.)
I am not interested in the motivations of particular politicians (it is possible, though perhaps not likely, that a given conservative's mind has changed on the effectiveness of incarceration). I'm just trying to understand whether it's ‘fair’ to compare the two situations.