“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.” ― Edgar Allan Poe.


Much has been made of legal medical marijuana and now legal recreational marijuana. But what should not be left unaddressed is the scourge of hard drugs.

If Philip Seymour Hoffman’s tragic death has a silver lining, it will be if it starts a meaningful conversation on hard drugs and addiction.

It is the rare addict who would turn down a “magic bullet” that would grant sobriety. And yet year after year, people take up hard drugs that will leave some of them helplessly enslaved. Society’s solution is to ensnare junkies in the criminal justice system. Buying drugs is a criminal offense, often involving jail time. It would be better to treat these “criminals” as “insane by reason of addiction”.

Leave in place the punishments for selling hard drugs, but instead of sentencing non-violent buyers to jail, sentence them to rehab. It will not solve addiction, but it would reduce the rate of use; certainly more than jail-time does. And it is cheaper.

Moralists dismiss addiction as a moral failing – portentously claiming that if addicts were better people, they could just say no to the demons that haunt them. No doubt it feels good to the “holier-than-thou” types. But as a social policy it is misguided.

Far fewer people smoke than used to. Not because they discovered a moral spine, but because of an increase in the awareness of the dangers of smoking, increased taxation, restrictions on where smokers could smoke, a social shift away from the perceived “sophistication” of smoking, and the advent of the wide availability of “stop smoking” programs and products.

In short, people quit smoking because it became uncool to use a product that is expensive, smells bad and could kill you.

Campaigns against drunk driving relied on public information campaigns, a growing social opprobrium and a tougher prosecution of offenses. Buying a drink is not a crime, but an illegal action committed while drunk is.

Treating drug use like alcohol makes more sense, than treating it like receiving stolen property.