What is the Problem with Heroin?

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn his post “Bringing Conservatives and Libertarians Together” about marijuana legalization, Fred Cole wrote:

I think it’s the situation with marijuana that it’s already so widely accepted and widely available, that most people who want to smoke already do. Whatever society costs it imposes are already there.

So marijuana prohibition means we get all of the downsides of legalization and all of the downsides of prohibition, but none of the upsides that come with legalization.  It’s the worst of both worlds.

It’s a pretty similar situation with LSD, cocaine and heroin.  However in the case of those three drugs, there are also issues of supply and cost.

On the other hand, here is a caption from a recent article “Eastside Facing Heroin Epidemic” in a local newspaper:

The Eastside branch of Therapeutic Health Services opened its methadone clinic in Bellevue two years ago, serving 90 clients at that time. THS now dispenses methadone to 415 clients from its Bellevue clinic daily, and is contracted with King County for 440.

There seems to be some confusion here. Fred suggests that there may be upsides to legalization of heroin, while the other source considers increasing usage of heroin a problem. One source argues for increased access to heroin, while the other expresses concern about heroin use.

So, what is the problem with heroin? Is it a health issue (addiction)? Is it an access issue (supply and cost)? Will legalizing heroin help resolve or mitigate the problem?

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  1. user_358258 Member
    user_358258
    @RandyWebster

    Dick Gregory (I think) wrote a book about heroin: So Good, You Don’t Even Want to Try it Once. I think that says it all

    • #1
  2. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I think part (by no means all) of the problem starts in the doctor’s office.

    I read an interesting article a while back in which the reporter said that people were switching to heroin when their oxycodone prescriptions ran out.  It sounds like people are in more pain than aspirin can solve. They need continued care.

    • #2
  3. user_358258 Member
    user_358258
    @RandyWebster

    For the Vicryl Contessa:  Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

    It IS the most quotable movie ever.

    • #3
  4. Carol Member
    Carol
    @

    Read this piece from the Weekly Standard about the problem of heroin addiction in Vermont. It boggled my mind.    http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/down-and-out-vermont_764688.html

    • #4
  5. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    rico:There seems to be some confusion here. One source suggests that there may be upsides to legalization of heroin, while the other source considers increasing usage of heroin a problem. One source argues for increased access to heroin, while the other expresses concern about heroin use.

    Criminalising heroin use doesn’t seem to really have stopped heroin use (hence words like epidemic) while at the same time economically empowering drug cartels and terrorist groups (basically the underworld) and chewing up a huge amount of public resources for enforcement (the War On Drugs) – that in turn generates a self perpetuating bureaucracy.

    Criminalising individual drugs achieves all these negative outcomes while failing to address the central issue – addiction.  Addicts switch drugs when their drug of choice becomes unavailable – which tells you something about what their problem really is.  And while the Government can play a big role in supporting families and communities when they deal with this problem, imho it cannot meaningfully take their place.

    • #5
  6. user_358258 Member
    user_358258
    @RandyWebster

    I’m with you Zafar.  As Robert Heinlein said, everyone’s entitled to go to hell in their own way.  Legalize drugs.  Let people kill themselves.  Don’t treat them.  I’m not being sarcastic.

    • #6
  7. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    They’re already killing themselves Randy : -(

    From a money pov, if heroin was legal it could be efficiently (!) produced and taxed, the way we tax liquor and cigarettes – which taxes could pay for the related public outlays (supporting families and communities dealing with addiction, for example, and covering harm reduction strategies) – and perhaps for other things as well.  All while placing a lower burden on the consumer. Contradictory?

    I’m curious what impact the legalisation of pot will have on State finances in Colorado.  Are there any early indicators?

    • #7
  8. Byron Horatio Inactive
    Byron Horatio
    @ByronHoratio

    As a full proponent of legalizing drugs, including the harder ones, I have been weary of the state efforts to do so. The supposed assurance is that, “Don’t worry! We’ll tax the hell out of it and make a lot of money!”

    But if you are already getting your illicit drugs through a dealer, what is your actual incentive to do so in the open? Sure the market value of drugs has declined, but as a buyer, it’s still cheaper to buy off the black market because you avoid the heavy taxes. And from the seller’s perspective, you aren’t merely guilty of selling unregulated drugs, but guilty of tax evasion too!

    It would seem better to keep the taxes relatively low on marijuana or any other drugs.

    • #8
  9. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Right now the efficiency of industrial production mean it isn’t worthwhile for a significant number of dealers to supply black market cigarettes and liquor.  Why would it be different for things like marijuana or heroin?

    • #9
  10. user_234000 Member
    user_234000
    @

    MarciN:I think part (by no means all) of the problem starts in the doctor’s office.

    I read an interesting article a while back in which the reporter said that people were switching to heroin when their oxycodone prescriptions ran out. It sounds like people are in more pain than aspirin can solve. They need continued care.

    I heard a doctor say exactly the same thing on a recent TV show about heroin addiction in Western Mass. This doctor stated that she had never encountered an addict who just woke up one day and said, “Gee, I think I will try heroin”. All of the cases she encountered involved people who were given oxycodone by their doctors, discovered that they really liked it, and then turned to heroin when their prescriptions ran out. The lines between legal and illegal drugs have become very blurred.

    • #10
  11. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    I watched a few minutes of the same TV show earlier today – Anthony Bourdain on CNN dealing with heroin in Western Mass. Why is heroin illegal? From a purely pharmacological perspective clean heroin from clean needles is much less deleterious to your body than marijuana, alcohol or tobacco. If consenting adults feel it relieves some physical or psychological discomfort why can’t they make their own decisions?

    • #11
  12. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Judithann Campbell:

    MarciN:I think part (by no means all) of the problem starts in the doctor’s office.

    I read an interesting article a while back in which the reporter said that people were switching to heroin when their oxycodone prescriptions ran out. It sounds like people are in more pain than aspirin can solve. They need continued care.

    I heard a doctor say exactly the same thing on a recent TV show about heroin addiction in Western Mass. This doctor stated that she had never encountered an addict who just woke up one day and said, “Gee, I think I will try heroin”. All of the cases she encountered involved people who were given oxycodone by their doctors, discovered that they really liked it, and then turned to heroin when their prescriptions ran out. The lines between legal and illegal drugs have become very blurred.

    The uptick in demand makes some sense. As soon as I read this article, I could how it would happen. The doctor says, “Okay, time to switch to aspirin.” “But, but, but . . .” the patient says. And the doctor doesn’t listen.

    • #12
  13. user_234000 Member
    user_234000
    @

    Petty Boozswha:I watched a few minutes of the same TV show earlier today – Anthony Bourdain on CNN dealing with heroin in Western Mass. Why is heroin illegal? From a purely pharmacological perspective clean heroin from clean needles is much less deleterious to your body than marijuana, alcohol or tobacco. If consenting adults feel it relieves some physical or psychological discomfort why can’t they make their own decision?

    The thing about heroin that is so scary is that apparently, it’s pretty much immediately addictive; lots of people smoke pot-most of those who smoke pot, it could be argued- do not become addicted. I used to work in a bar where there was a great deal of cocaine use, and there are those who can dabble in cocaine without it becoming a problem, but with heroin, there just seems to be no margin for error. Pretty much everyone who tries it loves it and becomes addicted quickly: that is very scary.

    • #13
  14. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Can’t wait for my tax dollars to fund more welfare recipients addicted to cheap efficiently-produced heroin.

    • #14
  15. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Asquared:Can’t wait for my tax dollars to fund more welfare recipients addicted to cheap efficiently-produced heroin.

    Also thrilled for parents trying to defend their children against peer group pressure let alone the inevitable argument, “Oh, but’s it legal, Mom!”

    • #15
  16. user_234000 Member
    user_234000
    @

    EThompson:

    Asquared:Can’t wait for my tax dollars to fund more welfare recipients addicted to cheap efficiently-produced heroin.

    Also thrilled for parents trying to defend their children against peer group pressure let alone the inevitable argument, “Oh, but’s it legal, Mom!”

    Heroin is terrifying, but even most young people seem to realize this, or at least they did when I was young. :) I have known so many people who experimented with so many kinds of drugs-every kind of drug, basically, except for heroin. In my entire life, I have only known one person who did heroin; sadly, she may have had a death wish. When I was younger, everybody just knew that heroin was not something that you could fool around with, and with one exception, everyone stayed far away from it.

    Many or most heroin addicts nowadays start off on oxycodone; they take it for a broken leg, or whatever, and they become addicted without meaning to, and without realizing that addiction is a risk. Even the ones who aren’t in physical pain are probably far more likely to start with oxy from their parents’ medicine cabinet than they are to go looking for a needle to stick in their arm. There is no way to address the heroin problem without addressing the legal side of it.

    • #16
  17. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    How many people do you know that live on welfare?

    • #17
  18. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    EThompson:

    Asquared:Can’t wait for my tax dollars to fund more welfare recipients addicted to cheap efficiently-produced heroin.

    Also thrilled for parents trying to defend their children against peer group pressure let alone the inevitable argument, “Oh, but’s it legal, Mom!”

    It’s a right and everything! The Constitution plainly intends free heroin in the welfare clause, just like free medical care and free housing! Remember, Keynes says it doesn’t matter what the government spends the money on, stimulus is government flooding the society with crisp new dollars!

    • #18
  19. user_234000 Member
    user_234000
    @

    Asquared:How many people do you know that live on welfare?

    I don’t know anyone on welfare; I think you and I agree that heroin should be illegal, so I am not sure what you mean by this comment: it was definitely not my intention to say that drugs are no problem, but from what I can tell in my not necessarily representative experience, drugs such as pot and to a lesser extent cocaine are not necessarily worse than alcohol, whereas heroine is a nightmare for anyone who comes within 50 yards of it. For the record, I never tried cocaine because I was pretty sure that I would like it; I tried pot several times, but I always hated it: I don’t understand why anyone would want to do it. Has anyone in the history of the world ever said, “I tried heroine several times but I just didn’t like it”? Some drugs are far more dangerous than others: that is all I am saying.

    • #19
  20. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    My point is, if you don’t want to be on welfare (eg, you and your friends) then not trying heroin is scary because you know how damaging it is. If you are already on welfare, the downsides don’t seem that scary.

    It is not a coincidence that the major heroin operations are in the urban welfare centers.

    • #20
  21. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    For the record, I generally support legalization. But only after we get rid of the welfare state.

    There are a lot of libertarian ideas I will support once we get rid of the welfare state. Unfortunately the order is vital. That simple fact seems to escape most libertarians.

    • #21
  22. user_234000 Member
    user_234000
    @

    Asquared:My point is, if you don’t want to be on welfare (eg, you and your friends) then not trying heroin is scary because you know how damaging it is. If you are already on welfare, the downsides don’t seem that scary.

    Ok, I see where you are coming from, but I’m not sure that I agree. I can only speak for myself, but my fear wasn’t ending up on welfare: it was ending up dead, and that is a totally realistic fear when it comes to heroin. I am not a professional, but am inclined to think that anyone who knowingly experiments with heroine has a death wish. It is very possible that those raised within a welfare culture are more likely to have a death wish than the rest of us, but I don’t think anyone says, “Well, I’ll just do heroine and stay on welfare for the rest of my life”. Heroin is like Russian roulette: anyone who knowingly experiments with it had some pretty serious problems that precede it.

    • #22
  23. Asquared Inactive
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    Well, I am catching up on “The Wire” and I use to live near Cabrini Green in Chicago. I think a lot of people are more afraid of having to live a real life than they are of dying.

    My drug-addict cousins certainly seemed to be like that.

    • #23
  24. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    There’s probably another medical-practice reason for the flood of oxycodone in communities, leading to an increase in demand for heroin. Starting fifteen years ago, patients began to be released from hospitals very soon after ICU care and surgery. These early releases moved pain meds out of the hospitals and put them into people’s homes. Maybe it led in some cases to overprescribing. That could have led to more addiction issues or family members’ getting these painkillers.  (A doctor releases someone on a Friday may want to prescribe more than he or she might normally so the patient doesn’t have to call him or get out of the house to a prescription filled.)  It left people on their own to handle their pain as well, without the help of hospital-based staff and resources. The ecology of a community.

    In short, I bet there have been many factors leading to this increase in demand.

    • #24
  25. user_234000 Member
    user_234000
    @

    Asquared:Well, I am catching up on “The Wire” and I use to live near Cabrini Green in Chicago. I think a lot of people are more afraid of having to live a real life than they are of dying.

    My drug-addict cousins certainly seemed to be like that.

    I am so sorry about your cousins; that must be so painful for you and your family. There aren’t words.

    • #25
  26. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    I’ve known (or, represented, anyway) several heroin addicts…  several of them are dead now.  I cannot think of any societal value to heroin, or to meth.  The extreme libertarian position equates marijuana/alcohol to heroin/meth, and it will never be taken seriously with anyone who has seen all four.  Anymore, I’m mostly inclined to ignore those with that mindset.

    • #26
  27. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Asquared:Unfortunately the order is vital. That simple fact seems to escape most libertarians.

    and damn, I can’t say this enough times.  You could just repeat this over and over and over, and it doesn’t sink in.

    • #27
  28. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Zafar:

    rico:There seems to be some confusion here. One source suggests that there may be upsides to legalization of heroin, while the other source considers increasing usage of heroin a problem. One source argues for increased access to heroin, while the other expresses concern about heroin use.

    Criminalising heroin use doesn’t seem to really have stopped heroin use (hence words like epidemic) while at the same time economically empowering drug cartels and terrorist groups (basically the underworld) and chewing up a huge amount of public resources for enforcement (the War On Drugs) – that in turn generates a self perpetuating bureaucracy.

    Criminalising individual drugs achieves all these negative outcomes while failing to address the central issue – addiction. Addicts switch drugs when their drug of choice becomes unavailable – which tells you something about what their problem really is. And while the Government can play a big role in supporting families and communities when they deal with this problem, imho it cannot meaningfully take their place.

    I can’t agree with this.  First, the “hasn’t really stopped heroin,” in addition to being unprovable in the alternative (can anyone say “jobs created or saved?”), it ignores unforeseen consequences.  You say that drug abusers will switch drugs when their drug of choice is not available… ok, so do you think that when drugs are legal, mobsters and drug-runners will simply become legitimate business men?  There are plenty of legitimate businesses available – the whole point of dealing in drugs (etc…) is that you are able to gain monopoly power (or close to it) through illegal means, and the law helps you.  Same with human trafficking, prostitution, gambling, etc…  The idea that there is somehow just a group of people who grow and sell pot, and that the only thing making them outlaws is the law, is ludicrous beyond belief.  Legalizing drugs will shift problems, but it will not solve them.  That is why big L Libertarianism is just as idealistic and stupid as big L Liberalism and big S Socialism.  It assumes that everything would be perfect if only we structured our government the way they want.  Well…  conservatives believe that the world is not, and cannot, be a perfect place.

    And conservatives are right.

    • #28
  29. rico Inactive
    rico
    @rico

    Ryan M:

    Zafar:

    Criminalising heroin use doesn’t seem to really have stopped heroin use (hence words like epidemic) while at the same time economically empowering drug cartels and terrorist groups (basically the underworld) and chewing up a huge amount of public resources for enforcement (the War On Drugs) – that in turn generates a self perpetuating bureaucracy.

    Criminalising individual drugs achieves all these negative outcomes while failing to address the central issue – addiction. Addicts switch drugs when their drug of choice becomes unavailable – which tells you something about what their problem really is. And while the Government can play a big role in supporting families and communities when they deal with this problem, imho it cannot meaningfully take their place.

    I can’t agree with this. First, the “hasn’t really stopped heroin,” in addition to being unprovable in the alternative (can anyone say “jobs created or saved?”), it ignores unforeseen consequences. You say that drug abusers will switch drugs when their drug of choice is not available… ok, so do you think that when drugs are legal, mobsters and drug-runners will simply become legitimate business men? There are plenty of legitimate businesses available – the whole point of dealing in drugs (etc…) is that you are able to gain monopoly power (or close to it) through illegal means, and the law helps you. Same with human trafficking, prostitution, gambling, etc… The idea that there is somehow just a group of people who grow and sell pot, and that the only thing making them outlaws is the law, is ludicrous beyond belief. Legalizing drugs will shift problems, but it will not solve them. That is why big L Libertarianism is just as idealistic and stupid as big L Liberalism and big S Socialism. It assumes that everything would be perfect if only we structured our government the way they want. Well… conservatives believe that the world is not, and cannot, be a perfect place.

    And conservatives are right.

    Very well stated, Ryan. It’s amazing how many libertarian arguments rely on this trope. It is their bread and butter. “Legalize it and put the criminals out of business.” That is merely an argument for legalizing EVERYTHING because the solution for the next thing they start selling will be to legalize that, too.

    That brings me back to the title of that other post by the guy who used to look like a cat before his promotion. If marijuana legalization is to be an issue that brings conservatives and libertarians together, conservatives will first have to be convinced that libertarians won’t forever be greasing the slippery slope.

    • #29
  30. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Ryan M:

    …the whole point of dealing in drugs (etc…) is that you are able to gain monopoly power (or close to it) through illegal means, and the law helps you.

    Yes, precisely.  And if the law consistently produces this unfortunate side effect, then isn’t it a good idea to re-examine how it actually works in real life and consider options to change it for the better?

    America went through this exact same experience with Prohibition.  Not only did people still drink, but it entrenched organised crime in the country.  The War On Drugs seems to be having a similar outcome, but on a global scale.

    • #30

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