Drug Week, Part 4
Painkillers derived from opium, like morphine, are very useful drugs. But the natural narcotics, and their synthesized cousins, like heroin, have the worst sociological effects when they are abused. Narcotics as so dangerous because they are so addictive.
Yet when people are high on narcotics they are usually not dangerous to others. On this scale, cocaine is worse than heroin. Heroin and its substitutes generally make people useless, but not dangerous. Heroin addicts are dangerous when they are not high, but will do anything to get high again. Heroin addicts would not be dangerous to others if they had a steady supply of heroin. Some of them are even semi-functional.
Still, heroin is so addictive, and does gradually destroy its addicts.
So how should it be treated? I don't have an excellent answer here. I think full legalization, regulation, and taxation is not enough social control. But full prohibition is not quite appropriate, and isn't working very well. What we need, I think, is a new legal category, something like a voluntary ward of the state, for people who choose to be heroin addicts. They would get a steady supply of the drug, which would be regulated for purity in the usual way. They would be kept from crime to support their habit. In exchange, they would be required to do socially useful work in their limited number of functional hours. And addicts would be given every help to quit.
This is not a great solution, but it is better, more proportionate, than what we are doing now.