Saturday, February 14, 2004


Kevin Williamson, author of Drugs and the Party Line, published an excellent analysis on the real life costs of drug prohibition in Edinburgh, where heroin addiction has reportedly doubled in the last five years. He sums up the harms well.

...that property-related crime in Edinburgh - more than half of which is directly related to heroin addiction - will have increased accordingly.

It will have meant that an even greater number of addicts have ended up selling heroin, or other drugs such as cannabis, to fund their addictions, and this chemical version of pyramid selling will continue to cause an increase in the number of young people in our city coming into contact with heroin.

It will have meant more gangsters and criminals muscling in on the city's flourishing heroin trade - with the inevitable upward spiral of violence this will bring in its wake. This too has been well reported on in the News in the last few years.

It will have meant more drug deaths, more overdoses, more overstretched health and social services, and longer queues at chemists as more and more desperate addicts try to contain their craving with heroin substitutes such as methadone.

He also offers some astute observations on the link between the heroin and cannabis markets and the essential need to separate the two.

I also argued in 1999 that the heroin problem would get worse unless cannabis was removed from the black market. This sensible policy, such as they have enacted in Holland with their coffee shop system, would help drive a wedge between use of the two drugs. Addicts often sell cannabis to fund their addictions, the two cultures overlap, and therefore more young people have crossed over from smoking cannabis to smoking heroin off the foil. The Evening News story last week confirmed what most drug workers always feared would happen. Many of those who occasionally smoked heroin have ended up addicted, and have then moved on to inject because less heroin is wasted that way and the hit is stronger.

But regardless of the damage heroin is doing to our communities, the politicians continue to leave the huge black market in cannabis in the hands of violent criminals at the top, as well as many heroin addicts at street level, thereby exposing more young people to heroin, as well as wasting police time and public money in what has become nothing more than a cosmetic exercise in law and order posturing.

Williamson makes a strong case for the legalization and regulation of heroin as a solution to a growing problem of addiction in every country. For my newer readers, I'd like to reiterate that I do not encourage or advocate the use of heroin. What I do advocate is accepting the problem as a health and safety issue, rather than a law enforcement one. I agree with Kevin on the solution. If you read the whole piece, perhaps you will understand why I also have come to believe that legalization and regulation is the only practical and humane policy.

[Link thanks to Ben Masel]


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