One of the most depressing things about the drugs argument, is having to witness the wilful ignorance of otherwise-rational friends and relations. Desensitised and conditioned by years of political and media propaganda.
The following is part of an exchange between Jerry Dorey and a dear friend of long standing:
Friend - “You can't compare booze and fags to heroin! I have lived in small towns where people have used heroin. And they've died. Let's start selling heroin at the Heroin Barn and see what a good idea that is.”
JD - “I'm not sure why 'You can't compare booze and fags with heroin' - all of them being addictive psychoactive substances, and all having been legal and illegal, in different times and places.
Your comment seems to strongly imply that you ARE comparing them, and that you have a better impression of the first two – so, the health risks:
Alcohol: In the U.K. alone, tens of thousands die each year from alcohol-related diseases. It is a major factor in suicide, and in murder. It has been estimated that 25+% of mental health residential places are occupied by people with alcohol problems. And then, of course, there are the battered families, and passers-by, and the road deaths. I think we can safely say that alcohol damages a lot of people's health, killing many. (It'd damage and kill a lot more, if it was illegal, as in 1920s America – turf wars and bathtub gin.)
Tobacco: U.K. Annual deaths certainly well into six figures. (Again, if it was made illegal, many more would also die as 'soldiers' in turf wars, or just because they were unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.)
Heroin: Pre-Prohibition (mid 60s), there were around 6,000 registered addicts in the U.K. - people like Enid Bagnold, author of 'National Velvet' (she spent 60 years on Heroin's 'uncle', Morphine). They obtained their opiates legally, on a doctor's prescription. No-one much noticed them, because they didn't need to steal to get the money for an artificially-expensive fix. In addition, they were generally productive members of society, with stable family lives. One was a senior policy advisor in the Thatcher government. Bagnold died quietly, still on prescription morphine at 93.
Clinical Heroin is not a significant danger to health – statistically very much less so than Paracetamol. The most obvious medical drawback is that it tends to cause constipation. Prolonged use, over decades, will cause no damage to brain or bodily organs (contrast the legal drugs).
But yes, heroin addicts do die, and they die in huge numbers, at a much younger age than people like Enid Bagnold.
They die of vascular embolisms, because they are sometimes injecting brick dust, or drain-cleaner, with their heroin, so that the (illegal, unregulated, untaxed) dealer can make a bigger profit. Less often, they die of overdoses, because the strength of what they're taking is unknown.
They die of blood-borne viruses, because illegality and government policy often force them to share needles. And they die in all the many gruesome ways in which people who are socially-excluded, people we are encouraged to think of as sub-human, do tend to die – battered for fun and profit. In a legal, regulated market, they could have lived a normal life-span.”