Saturday, February 14, 2004


I kind of hate when heroin developments show up in my in-box. I would love to just ignore them because to tell the truth, I hate that drug. It's killed a few of my friends. I think it's dangerous and frankly I don't understand what anyone sees in it. I tried it myself once in 1970 - some really pure brown Mexican. I snorted it of course. I threw up a lot and then I sort of dazed out. I didn't think it was much fun.

Nonetheless, many are fond of the effects and heroin is part and parcel of the drug war. I've come to find out that there is such a thing as a responsible heroin consumer. I imagine they must be very self disciplined people. But of course there are also those who miscalculated their self-control and become its living victims, and are in need of help. We cannot make this problem go away by ignoring it, and we will not end it with strict prohibition and incarceration policies.

Take as example Sweden, which is reported to have the strictest prohibition policy in all of Europe. Their heroin deaths have more than quadrupled in the last nine years. According to associate professor Peter Kranz of the Forensic Medicine Institution in Lund, "these deaths are due to poisoning, overdoses and cases where abuse has caused damage to internal organs leading to death."

Then there are many who were never users, yet the drug touched their lives in some way and they became health care providers and researchers. Their studies should not be dismissed. One such organization is the California Society of Addiction Medicine. This report of their 2003 conference activities lists some of their many projects. I found the conference they attended in Copenhagen particularly interesting in that it was sponsored by heroin consumers unions. There is no perfect solution, but the acceptance and treatment strategies that these reform organizations put forward, sound a lot more reasonable to me than the prohibitionists' policy of punishing those who fail to meet their moral judgments.

It's time to cut our losses and run with the practical solutions. Europe is way ahead of us on this front. There are many trial programs being conducted all across the continent that are showing positive results and go almost unreported in the US, even among medical professionals. It's time to try the harm reduction model here.

Last word on the subject goes to Neil Young.

I hit the city and I lost my band
I watched the needle take another man
Gone, gone, the damage done.


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