Monday, December 11, 2017

Should We Make The World Safe For Heroin?

Should we make the world safe for heroin? Maybe not.

Lately, the press has been enamored of the tear-jerking heroin overdose story.  Not a day goes by when the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, or the Washington Post has some tragic story about a young man or woman who overdoses on heroin, oxycontin, or fentanyl.

There are often weeping interviews with surviving family members describing the tragedy of the overdose and how this was also so unavoidable.  Or, perhaps they argue it was avoidable if only the State or County governments with equipped all their ambulances with Narcan, an opiate antidote, so they could rush to the scene of the latest heroin party and resuscitate the over-imbibers.  At taxpayer's expense, of course.   Why stop the party?

While these deaths are certainly a tragedy - cutting short the lives of many young people on indeed many middle-aged and even older people - they are not entirely unpredictable events.  When I was a youth, we had drug education classes in junior high school.  It was explained to us the relative dangers of each type of drug that was available.   The drug epidemic was raging in the 1970s - at least one third of my high school class was regularly smoking pot and more than two-thirds had at least tried it.

The hippie generation was then morphing into the Yuppie generation and many were getting into cocaine.  In the late 1970s and early 1980s, they started cooking down cocaine into rocks which was called "rock" which was eventually the abbreviated term crack.

But we all knew the dangers of these drugs. The drug education classes I took were back in 1973. And back then we were told that heroin was deadly as was methamphetamine and cocaine.  These were serious hard drugs that could kill you.  Marijuana, the other hand, we were told wouldn't kill us, but might sap the will to live from us.  And of course alcohol could destroy your body and your mind and possibly your marriage and career.  Needless to say, drunk driving deaths were epidemic then as they are today.

The point is, we've known about this stuff for decades now.  Perhaps more than a century.  One-hundred years ago, opiates were legal in this country and available over the counter in the form of laudanum.  But even back then, people knew that taking laudanum could result in opiate addiction. And that was one reason why opiates were made illegal other than as prescription drugs.

A new generation has grown up apparently ignoring all of this sage advice.  And part of the problem is the pharmaceutical industry has been promoting opiate painkillers as a panacea (pardon the pun) for various ailments. You got injured on the job or during an athletic competition, and the doctor writes you a prescription for Oxycontin.  Months later you're trying to score heroin behind The Rite Aid.

Perhaps we no longer have drug education classes in this country. Or perhaps the push by the pharmaceutical companies to normalize opiate prescriptions has made opiates seem safer than they actually are. But the plethora of newspaper articles heralding the deaths of yet another opiate addict would seem to negate both of these explanations.  There really is no excuse for anyone today not to know that taking opiates can be deadly.

These victim articles in the media, however are somewhat disturbing.  I'm not sure what the point of the articles are. They want us to feel sorry for those people who are basically drug addicts. One young man is described as being a harmless fellow, age 23 weighing 330 pounds at 6 foot 4 (which is severely overweight) and drinking beer and occasionally smoking pot. His parents didn't know he was also doing opiates - although they certainly were aware of his marijuana use.  He was living at home.

Unfortunately this is a predictable outcome of keeping adult children at home as pets.  Many people allow their children to live at home well into their twenties and even thirties thinking that it is harmless or perhaps even helping them due to the high cost of rent or the difficulty in finding good paying jobs these days.

However, I have noted before, when you allow people (a young man in particular) to live in your basement, they will spend their time and energies on video games and drug use, rather than trying to better themselves, their lives, or career.  And I know this because I spend a lot of time when I was young man with others who were living in their parents' basements.  We would sit around and smoke pot and talk about how all the women were bitches and their ex-girlfriends were "ho's".  The topic of discussion was not which drugs were good or bad but where to find them and how to score them and how much to take of them.  It was a dead-end lifestyle and I was happy to be rid of it.

But at that time, I had a job and a career and the home of my own.   I had to survive on my own and advance myself, as my parents made it very clear that they were not willing to let me live in their house as a perpetual 20-something slacker.  Forced to sink or swim, I swam.  Others were coddled and not surprisingly, never left the wading pool.

What I find disturbing about these newspaper articles, is it appears that many of them advocate that we should make heroin use safe for heroin users.   Many argue that there should be "safe spaces" to shoot up so that heroin users can get high without being hassled.  Others argue that States and Counties should spend tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars stocking all of the ambulances and fire equipment with Narcan all so they can respond to overdose calls and revive drug addicts - running up huge bills which are course never paid.

While this may seem like a humanitarian gesture, I'm not sure it is the right answer.  We need to get people off drugs, not make drug abuse more attractive.  Once we normalize drug addiction, more people will start to think of it as normal behavior.  Why bother giving up heroin when the government is saying it's perfectly fine to do?

Some people point to Holland's experiment with Heroin users as an example of how this safe space approach might work.  They argue that heroin use in Holland is actually down as the number of heroin users attend methadone clinics or are able to take heroin in safe environments.  Younger people, seeing that heroin use leads nowhere, don't take it up.  Or at least that is the story we are told.

Regardless of whether you believe the Dutch experiment is working or not, the reality of life in the United States is that Americans are not going to endorse such an approach.  Despite the fact this is 2017, we have Senate candidates discussing the merits of slavery.  America is not about to go all Euro anytime soon. Look around you at the political landscape today - is anyone going to vote for safe spaces for drug users?  No, of course not.

Sadly, I think this is another nail in the coffin of the Democratic platform.  Many on the left are pushing for things such as this, which do not resonate with the vast majority of Americans. When the left is seen as the party of welfare recipients and drug abusers, most Americans will vote for the right, even if it means electing odious politicians.

And that in a, nutshell, is how we ended up with Donald Trump.  Thanks, Bernie!  Thanks for nothing.