Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 28th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Legalize Heroin?

Last year some 790 Arizonans died of opioid overdoses, according to the Arizona Republic, this state's largest newspaper.

The newspaper says this is a 74% increase since 2012. And at TLC we see the trend. Whereas many clients used to come to us addicted to meth, now they are more likely to come in with an opiate habit.

The article goes on with the usual handwringing about what to do about the heroin epidemic. It's the same old boring responses I've been listening to since I was a teenager, some 60 years ago. From then until now there's been this attitude of "doing something" about heroin.

One group will talk about raising public awareness. Another will talk about stricter enforcement. Others want to engage in a "war on drugs." I've been hearing the same thing for so long I almost have it memorized.

One solution that I don't believe has been considered in this state or in this country is a form of legalization. And of course, this kind of proposal would have everyone screaming about how legalizing heroin would encourage addiction. But that's kind of a dumb response. We already have an epidemic of addiction and overdose deaths across this country.

A few years ago we had a visitor to TLC from Berne, Switzerland. He was a man who worked as a counselor at a legal heroin clinic in his country. And he described the positive effect that legalization had on his city and country.

He said that AIDS had been cut dramatically because addicts were no longer sharing needles. Overdoses had been reduced to virtually nothing because the clinic staff taught people how much they could safely use. Drug-related crimes by heroin addicts had virtually stopped. And he said that young people are no longer as attracted to heroin as they had once been because now it was viewed as a medical problem. The fact that it was legal had made it less attractive to them.

Even though I don't believe that we should engage in any type of drug use, the reality is that it's overtaking our country. And I think we should examine any ideas that might help lower the death rate among addicts.

For more information about how the Swiss deal with heroin use, click this link.

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