“Is it time to legalize heroin?” asks a recent article in the news compilation website, The Daily Beast. The compelling but flawed premise behind the article is that drug addicts would be better served by being able to get their hands on purer, legally obtained heroin. The answer to the question, however, from our corner of the internet anyway, is a resounding NO – for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that we cannot condone providing easier access to a substance that has caused so much damage to so many people for so many years. Still, it’s clear that existing enforcement policies have not proven effective at addressing the problem, or “tag”, of drug addiction. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the number of deaths caused by heroin has increased by 21% over the last decade. What seems evident to those in the recovery field is that, as a society we continue to place far more emphasis and resources in trying to police the SUPPLY side of the drug equation – resulting in a decades-long War On Drugs for which we should’ve waved the white flag long ago – and not nearly enough on trying to stem the tide of the enormous DEMAND for drugs.
At Axis Treatment West, we know the solution is not simple, but it should begin with better education about drugs of addiction that starts earlier and goes deeper; and more encouragement (and less stigma) for those who courageously seek out treatment for their problems. Putting drug addicts on a “maintenance program” may sound humane, but it only perpetuates the addiction. That’s why “Harm Reduction” is a model to which we cannot subscribe. Of course we understand the growing frustration with law enforcement, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the laws are wrong. The punishments, however, especially for first time and/or non-violent offenders, might have more positive, long-term consequences if they included more schools and treatment programs, and less prison time.