Health

Bad Idea of the Day: Governments Prescribing Heroin

Reality BaseBy Melissa LafskyDec 1, 2008 7:53 PM

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What would happen if the U.S. government announced a new obesity-fighting initiative whereby every chronically obese person in the country was given up to two federally-funded Big Macs a day? That's basically the plan of attack Switzerland is taking with its heroin addicts. The BBC reports that the Swiss have passed a "radical" health policy that allows long-term addicts to receive the drug at government clinics, free of charge. A whopping sixty-eight percent of voters supported the policy, which would allow addicts to inject the drug up to twice a day under medical supervision. Granted, the scheme has some benefits: it increases control of needle use and disposal, provides incentives for addicts to come into clinics regularly and be treated for other medical or psychological problems, and removes the need for them to resort to crime to pay for their habit. Part of the bill's popularity also comes from the fact that the scheme has already been underway in Zurich for 14 years, and many consider it successful. Still, at the end of the day, the bill is exactly what it sounds like: a plan to have the government pay to shoot its citizens up with expensive and extremely dangerous drugs. It's hard to imagine that lesser alternatives, like offering free methadone instead of a syringe full of Harry Jones, wouldn't be a better plan, even for the worst addicts. And it would be interesting to see whether Zurich has seen any unintended consequences from its free heroin policy, such as an increase in the number of heroin users who cross the line to addiction or a migration of hardcore addicts in search of a free and unlimited source of smack. And for the day's big dose of irony, in another referendum vote at around the same time, 63 percent of the country voted against de-criminalizing cannabis. Where to even begin on that one.

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