It's been almost a year to the day since Mac Miller was found dead due to an overdose of fentanyl, cocaine, and alcohol. His death came as a heartbreaking end to a years-long battle with addiction, joining the more than 70,000 individuals that die of a drug overdose every year in the United States.
It was revealed today that Cameron James Pettit, a 28-year-old that allegedly sold Miller the drugs associated with his overdose, is being charged by federal prosecutors and facing up to 20 years in prison. Pettit allegedly supplied Miller with counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl, the deadly synthetic opioid that causes more overdose deaths than any other type of opioid.
Miller's death is a completely preventable tragedy that serves as a heartbreaking reminder of the ways in which the disease of addiction can destroy lives.
It also sheds light on the mind-boggling fact that we continue to criminalize it in a way we don't any other disease in this country. But sending a young man to prison for 20 years will do nothing but perpetuate that disturbing trend.
The reality is, while addiction is not a choice by any means, Miller purchased these drugs knowing full well the risks. Addicts know the risks of their behavior. Fentanyl-laced drugs are becoming more and more common.
The potency and lethality of this opioid are associated with the increasing rates of overdose we've seen in recent years. People know that. But they keep using. Because they're struggling with a disease. And they've lost the control to stop on their own.
Sending a 28-year-old (who could potentially be an addict himself) to prison for 20 years only serves to further criminalize something that is not a criminal issue — it's a public health issue.
U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna commented on the charge, saying, "Drugs laced with cheap and potent fentanyl are increasingly common, and we owe it to the victims and their families to aggressively target the drug dealers that cause these overdose deaths."
While that's a palatable sentiment to make us feel better about the continuous war on drugs, the fact is, these same institutions are also "aggressively targeting" those they call "victims" while they're still alive.
And like it or not, arresting one dealer isn't going to stop the demand for drugs. If people don't get it from one dealer, they'll get it from another. We cannot police people out of a disease.
Miller didn't deserve to die. He deserved to get help and another chance at life.
But we can't blame this 28-year-old for his death the same way we can't blame a liquor store for an alcohol overdose or a car dealership for a head-on collision.
If we want to see real justice, we need to stop treating drug addiction as a crime and start treating it for what it really is: a disease.