I have already mentioned that I work with drug addicts, and this week my coworker mentioned an interesting point (one that was brought up by one of the “addicts” that we work with). What is the difference between methadone and heroin? Many people we see are more non-functional on their methadone treatment than they were on heroin.
This links in to a lot of what I have mentioned recently. What makes one thing more socially acceptable than the other? Why is it okay for a person to be “drugged up” on methadone as part of a treatment, but not okay to be using heroin everyday? Obviously there are some countries that have seen this hypocrisy and have opened heroin treatment centers for people addicted to heroin to get “clean” heroin with sterile needles. Most people in the US, and many other countries are outraged by this: “they are encouraging the drug use,” they say. But how is this any different to methadone clinics?
Let me be clear now. I am not saying we should get rid of methadone clinics. A slow reduction of the addictive substance is sometimes the best way for a person to get clean. Why else would we have nicotine patches, gum, and a whole host of nicotine products to help people quit?
It’s funny that my coworker brought this up the same day I was wondering why smoking was legal. Cigarettes are more harmful and addictive than many other “dangerous” and illegal drugs. People go to rehab for those drugs, but not for smoking. In fact, rehab facilities allow smoking, often encourage it. I would guess that in most treatment and rehab centers upwards of 80% of people smoke. If we’re trying to help people with an addiction, trying to give them new ways to cope with problems, why is smoking okay?
Again, I’m not saying that we should make smoking illegal, I am just wondering what our priorities are and where they come from.
A parent finds out their child has been smoking regularly and they are usually given a lecture, often grounded. Whereas a parent finds who out their child has been using cocaine regularly? This child is seen as an addict, sent to rehab, and told never to touch another potentially addictive substance again (barring cigarettes, of course!).
Isn’t there an inherent contradiction in these situations?