I hate heroin … I also love it. I love it when I have it but hate it when I don’t. It’s an easy drug to love and an easy drug to hate but since most of us can’t afford to be pinned all the time, there’s probably more hate than love. Yep, using heroin is definitely a love-hate relationship.
Luckily, I’m not currently using heroin everyday as I am on substitution treatment. My heroin use is limited to about once a month, which might sound like a lot to non-users but believe me, it’s nothing compared to the usual 90 or so hits needed each month when you’re an active user.
But this is where we need to separate the myths from reality. There is a big difference between the public perception of heroin addiction and the actual cycle of heroin-methadone-relapse-heroin-methadone-relapse... etc. For a longer term addict, using heroin is not about the high but something far more alluring … normality. The quest to feel some of those human traits like optimism, happiness, contentment etc. far exceeds the need to get high. Substitution treatments like methadone, buprenorphine and Suboxone might help with withdrawals or be a life changer for many but the stark truth is that they can also help fuel depression and emptiness. I have experienced this first hand and I must admit … I didn’t like it. The methadone blues are not on my wish list for Santa.
When a person is addicted to something they cannot control how they use it, and become dependent on it to cope with daily life.
I once experimented with using heroin everyday instead of methadone and surprisingly, I found myself far more productive and level headed than I had been in years. It cost me well over $1500 for the week and I needed to use three times a day, including an afternoon hit at work. Not exactly conducive with leading a normal life.
What if you could use heroin everyday without having to worry about the law and the money to afford it? Is it really any different to the 700mg of Slow Release Oral Morphine (SROM) that I take everyday? Is it any different to a daily dose of methadone? Some countries prescribe heroin (diacetylmorphine) to longer term addicts who don't respond to other treatments and so far, it has been very successful. Unfortunately, Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT) is not available in Australia so any attempt to self medicate with heroin, must be done illegally and expensively, away from medical supervision.
Methadone remains a pretty good first-line treatment, but either the switch to heroin or using heroin as an adjunct obviously has increased effectiveness for this difficult population.
Heroin addiction is a bitch. But so are the current alternatives. Those who do not respond well to the available treatments like rehab, detox or substitution treatment, are in a real bind and inevitably turn to crime to fund their addiction. This is a costly outcome for both the user and society, especially when there is a ready solution like Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT). I often think that if I could just get my hands on enough money, I could stock up on diacetylmorphine(heroin) and start to experience a better quality of life. My depression goes away when medicated on heroin and I start to feel somewhat human again. When dosed with heroin, I don’t look like a junky nor act like one but instead, I am capable of performing in a high pressure job, contributing to my community and living a productive life. The simple truth is that heroin can be an effective anti-depressant for some people.
But the dreaming must stop. After 40 years of anti-drug propaganda and the never ending message that heroin addicts are dysfunctional, dangerous sub-humans, the idea that heroin itself might be an effective treatment is just too much for the public and politicians to grasp. Each year, we churn out more and more opiate addicts and although many will finally kick their habit, many will not. Out of this remaining group will be those who were born with a predisposition for opiate addiction e.g. an imbalance in their brain's chemistry, some of the 66 known genes that promote the need for opiates, a persistent impairment of synaptic plasticity in a key structure of the brain etc. It may be impossible for some people to comprehend but this small group of addicts have a physical problem and are not simply selfish losers with no will power. But try telling that to the powers-that-be or a largely ignorant public.
We have an increasingly clear idea of how genetic and early childhood influences lie at the heart of the development of addiction and how the neurochemistry of the brain renders users unable to simply stop using.
In 2010, it’s abysmal that a so called “advanced society”, continues to promote laws that punish these people. At the top end are the addicts that sell drug to other addicts. Amazingly, they are lumped into the same class as child molesters, murderers and rapists. But these small time user/dealers are not doing it for profits or the lifestyle but to self medicate a medical condition. It’s a catch-22 situation where they have 2 options, both of which attract harsh legal penalties and public vindictiveness. When confronted with the choice between crimes that hurt people like stealing, theft, robberies etc. or simply selling drugs to friends or other users, most will choose the latter. But deciding not to inflict any pain on others and instead, choosing a victimless crime like drug dealing, we condemn them with as much venom as possible.
Many countries even have mandatory drug laws that take away the power for a judge to intervene when there are mitigating circumstances. Incredibly, in 1956, the US passed the first mandatory sentence via an act that made a first time cannabis possession offence a minimum of 2 to 10 years with a fine up to $20,000. It was repealed in 1970. In 1973, New York State introduced mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years to life imprisonment for possession of more than four ounces (112g) of a hard drug. The most famous mandatory sentence is the “3 Strikes and You’re Out” law that has been implemented in many countries since the 1990s. This has caused a huge increase in drug users being jailed for lengthy periods - usually 25 years to life. You know something is greatly amiss when being caught 3 times for drug possession can send you to jail for life or when small time user/dealers are imprisoned for longer than violent criminals.
Dealer Who 'Hated' His Heroin Addiction Jailed
By Staff Reporter
A "SMALL-SCALE" heroin dealer who sold £10 wraps to undercover police officers has been sent to jail for five years and eight months.
John Birchall, 45, of Morgan Avenue, Torquay, "hated" his addiction to heroin but found he could not survive without it, Exeter Crown Court was told.
He pleaded guilty on a previous occasion to five counts of supplying and intending to supply the Class A drug to undercover officers in May.
Judge Barry Cotter said he had no choice but to impose a minimum seven-year term, minus credit for a guilty plea, as it was the third time Birchall had been convicted for a supply offence.
The judge said: "It inevitably has to be a custodial sentence."
Prosecutor Emily Pitts said Birchall had been caught as part of a police sting operation.
Two undercover officers made inquiries on the street about heroin and Birchall, known as "Scouse John", was identified as a man who could "sort them out".
Three wraps containing £10 of heroin were supplied to the officers on separate occasions. Each wrap contained 0.1 grams of the drug.
Three more wraps, weighing 0.5 grams, were sold on another occasion. A further wrap, which turned out to be ibuprofen, was sold in a fifth deal.
Anne Bellchambers, in mitigation, said Birchall has been showing improved signs of dealing with his addiction.
She added: "He says he's been taking drugs since he was 14. He hates it but it leads him back into this sort of offending every time.
"It is small-scale supply with little or no profit — under £200 for these deals."
Judge Cotter said his hands were tied about what sentence to impose considering his past offences.
"The reality of the matter is that after an undercover police operation, you have been convicted of a third drug trafficking offence.
"That means I have to impose a particular sentence."
The judge added: "The brutal reality is that society has taken a view of those that continue to be involved in drug trafficking that if you persistently get involved in such conduct, you face a long custodial sentence."
He said he hoped Birchall would "still have the motivation" to quit drugs when he got out.
The defendant was convicted of three counts of supplying the Class A drug, one of being concerned in its supply and one of offering to supply the drug.
He was given a total sentence of 68 months.