A publication online recently advocated legal heroin, saying it might have saved the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The article (predictably) makes faulty appeals to “science”—“science” that essentially compares bananas to bowling balls by trying to compare heroin, medical treatment, and social support with just methadone. Wildly flawed studies aside (that did not even advocate legal heroin), the call for regulated, legal heroin is not going to happen—especially when “maintenance” programs already exist.
First of all, from a practical standpoint, heroin is innately dangerous. No matter how you look at the issue, this one fact alone will always keep it from being truly legalized when arguably safer alternatives exist—which still are not perfect and cause massive numbers of fatalities a year.
Which brings us to reason number two: heroin has an eternally tarnished reputation. It has been vilified in Western culture for far too long for governments to decide to do an abrupt about-face and essentially claim that everything that had been said for over a hundred years wasn’t true.
Add those two together, and you get reason three, which is the liability the government would face once the (inevitable) lawsuits began popping up left and right.
To what end? To “help” addicts? How does keeping an addict on heroin supposed to get that same addict off heroin? Further, how is regulation any less dangerous? If 3 out of 4 deaths are due to pharmaceuticals, how is legalizing the other quarter of illegal drug overdose deaths supposed to reduce the number of total deaths?
We do not advocate the legalization and recreational use of drugs because we know first hand how destructive they can be. Quite frankly, there will never be enough reward to offset the risks of making currently illicit drugs legal. That said, we have never been fans or advocates of criminalizing a medical condition. Contrary to popular perception, addicts do not get involved with drugs with that goal in mind. To grossly oversimplify: it just sort of happens.
The only way to help addicts is to stop treating addiction as a moral and law enforcement issue, and to continue down the road of treating it as a medical condition. In the study cited by the author, the effective program was three parts (heroin, medical treatment, and social support).
Maintaining an addiction is not the same thing as recovery. It is a delay of the inevitable. Once the drug(s) wear out/off, the addict is back at square one. It is part of the reason we do not work with those currently on these programs. If someone is relying on the drugs, what incentive is there to look elsewhere? Where is the freedom if there is still reliance?
In the end, though, legal heroin is nothing more than a pipedream. Alternatives that provide real support and relief exist, and in light of that, there is no reason for such a drastic measure.
What do you think? Should regulated, legal heroin be considered for maintenance? Let us know in the comments!