Part II ..
But why is alcohol legal freely available whilst heroin is banned and feared like the plague by all good law-abiding citizens? It's certainly not the effects the drug has on the brain. Alcohol has
wild and largely unpredictable effects on all different kinds of users. It can make you euphoric, depressed, aggressive, impair your hand-eye coordination, or inhibit sections of the brain that dis
courage criminal behavior.
In a year in the USA:
Alcohol abuse results in the deaths of another 110,640 Americans, including 16,653 alcohol-related traffic deaths. Alcohol is a major factor in more than half of all homicides and rapes, 62 percent
of assaults, and 30 percent of suicides.
And, of course, Alcohol can just plain kill you if you ingest too much of it.
In contrast, very few rapes, murders, or car accidents happen under the influence of heroin. This is mostly because the primary effect of heroin is to make you lay back fall half asleep, wondering
why everything is suddenly so wonderful. There is none of the 'dutch courage' effect of alcohol that leads people to believe that they can drive home unaffected, fight 10 blokes at once, or that th
e cute chick at the end of the bar suddenly really wants to have sex with you.
The primary danger of heroin is by overdose, and this danger is only so prevalent because it is illegal, and therefore not packaged in conveniently labelled standard dosages like legal dru
gs are. Secondary dangers are risk of infection from sharing needles, and the risk of being poisoned by contaminants.
The 2nd two would simply not be a problem at all if heroin was legalised, and the first would be significantly less of a problem.
So why is heroin illegal, exactly? Well, nobody really knows. Most people alive today can't remember why.
It's illegal in Australia primarily because the rest of the world told us to ban it.
Australia had no problem with heroin in 1953 when it was declared illegal. In fact, until 1952 heroin was one of a few that were distributed free of charge by the commonwealth's 'Lifesaving drugs s
cheme'. In other words, heroin was not only legal, but it was covered by the PBS.
When banned in 1953, the primary reasons given was that it was the most addictive of all drugs, and at the time addiction of any kind was seen to be a moral weakness. In effect, heroin was banned b
ecause the sight of seeing people who were uninterested in anything except their next fix was distressing to the goodly folk who made the laws at the time.
Additionally, it was argued that it was worth attempting to eradicate the drug from the world altogether:
If you take whisky from people addicted to it, they will take gin or methylated spirits. If you take one drug from them, they will take others. If heroin can be suppressed in all decent countries t
hen the manufacture of it is likely to cease.
As you can see, even back then the prohibitionists made very little sense at all.
It's worth remembering - and look, I know I harp on this, but it's important - that the US also made alcohol illegal at around the same time they made heroin illegal. Unlike heroin at the time, alc
ohol was an immensely popular drug enjoyed by all sections of society. The experiment was a colossal failure, one of the most transparently ba
d decisions in the history of government.
The main difference between the prohibition of heroin and alcohol was simply that hardly anyone used heroin at the time, so the similarly catastrophic failings of heroin prohibition took nearly 50
years to become apparent.
Yet, after learning their lesson the hard way with alcohol prohibition, the US simply stuck its fingers in its ears and shouted 'lalalalala', and has been continuing to do so since the 1970s. The r
est of the world has blindly followed suit, just as they blindly followed suit in banning heroin in the first place.
Heroin may well be the only drug that has a more psychoactive effect on non-users than it does on users. Otherwise rational people seem to lose all control of their faculties when the topic of hero
in comes up. Ken says we should have a 'full public debate' before making any changes to our policies on the international drug trade, but how can we do that when our opinion leaders are permanentl
y under the influence of heroin hysteria?