Hal Pepinsky, email@example.com, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com
November 4, 2013
I heard it on NPR: We in the US are in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Ironically, opium is among common drugs in a harmless class by itself. It is the herbal equivalent of a hormone, endorphins, our own minds produce, and so is non-toxic (unlike pharmaceutical “equivalents”). Our bodies metabolize endorphins by blockers, to maintain homeostatic balance. Symptoms of rapid drop in endorphin/opioid levels are well known as “going through withdrawal,” or more dramatically, “going cold turkey.” Too rapid a rise, and you stop breathing. Pioneering drug researcher Alfred Lindesmith documented these realities in his 1940 work on the Opiate Addict and the Law. There he reported that those who had been given morphine in hospitals without being told anything about addiction withdrew without problems as they recovered their health. Late in life Al was a volunteer driver for the Monroe County, Indiana, Red Cross. He told me about driving a pregnant heroin addict to Indianapolis to receive morphine maintenance so that her baby could be born safely. No local doctor would treat her, so Al found one up the road. He explained to me that if the mother had been deprived of opiates, her fetus probably would not have survived, or worse. As it was, the newborn could be weaned off opiates in the first few months, with no ill effects.
When I became a criminologist forty years ago, the fad treatment for heroin addiction was methadone maintenance. Methadone had been created by Germans during WWI to serve the troops when opium supplies were cut off from Asia. Today opioids created in drug company labs have become abundantly advertised, consumed, and illicitly sold and used, and behold: we have an opioid epidemic.
Colorado has shown that a medical, now even a recreational, cannabis market can be safe and well regulated. Switzerland has shown that heroin addicts can be safely maintained in public clinics, with among other things drops in street crime, and in addicts who are socially dysfunctional.
I’m a political realist. If the Swiss example ever catches on in my home country, it won’t be anywhere close to my grandchildren’s lifetimes, I know. But it is crazy that we create such a mass of pharm lab concoctions and wars against them, when we could be raising poppies in our own communities and learning how to use their medicinal and spiritual powers. I repeat: it’s cultural insanity. Love and peace--hal