I have a friend who often takes heroin. She’s responsible. She’ll often go out and do it in the woods, where she owns a little farmstead. She’ll shoot up and really enjoy herself. It makes her feel good; empowered. Gets those endorphins flowing.
After she shoots up, and then comes down, she always locks her kit away, safely, so no one can get at it, especially her nephew and niece who often visit the farmstead. It’s a safe pastime and she feels she has the right to do what she wants to her own body. She is the sort of person who can contain her addiction, her emotions. She has good willpower and can control when she uses it. She doesn’t, for example, use it when she’s angry, because she knows the experience won’t be worth it and will usually end badly.
You always here about people in the news who abuse the use of heroin. This really pisses her off. She gets annoyed when people leave it out and toddlers get hold of the kit, either pricking themselves on the needles, or eating some of the brown stuff, and accidentally dying.
She buys her stuff off a reputable buyer who believes the same about her, concerning the controlled use of the drug. But she also gets annoyed with the drug makers who manufacture their stuff purposefully to peddle to nefarious types, who end up using the drug to the damage of their communities.
But, as ever, she sticks by the mantra:
It’s not drugs that kill people, it’s people who kill people.
Bad people. People who don’t know how to use heroin properly. People who supply those who don’t know how to use it responsibly. People who leave their kit out. People who haven’t been shown how to safely shoot up.
My friend and I have conversations about this. Yes, it’s always people who do bad things, or accidental things. But you wouldn’t give a razor blade to a two-year-old. Allowing ill-equipped people access to something potentially so dangerous is problematic, unless we give them all the support they need. It’s been done in Portugal, for sure. But with an awful lot of thought, structures and strategic planning with the intent of reducing its use.
I point out how many of the communities in her country have been ravaged by the drug. Even fourteen-year-olds can use it! She sees this as a wider problem. It is not the drugs fault. They need to sort out people’s mental health issues. Heroin is fine if you’re a stable character. If you can control the usage. The problem is the bad people, the careless people.
Taking away heroin, which is legal in her country, would be an assault on her fundamental right to do what she wants to her body. It is a pastime which exercises such rights, and without it, she would be denied a fundamental right: the ownership to do what she wants with her own body.
My friend was on holiday over here, and couldn’t believe that heroin was banned, that it was illegal. She couldn’t make sense of this denial of her fundamental human right.
I often try to convince her that I personally feel safer without heroin on the streets. Yes, there is illegal heroin, and where this pops up, problems ensue. Yes, people enjoy themselves when they illegally take it, but this is not worth the issues that it causes to individuals and communities, and the deaths that often follow.
In her country, there is some old document from when the country was formed that entitles people to do what they want with their bodies. She says that her country would not be her country without this document. I point out that we don’t have that here, and we’re fine, thank you very much.
Part of the problem, and I admit this, is that there is so much heroin on the streets in her country that it would be difficult to work out how to clean the place up if it was controlled more tightly. But to give into that is to give up too easily, in my opinion, without even trying to sort out what looks to be a widespread problem in her country. I look at the stats for heroin addiction and the ramifications which it brings: deaths, cost of care for addicts etc., and I am amazed. The problem is that it has become part of the identity of so many people, that relinquishing it feels to them like a relinquishing of who they are.
She claims that all of the problems which are associated with bad use of the drug by bad people, all of the deaths and costs, is still not worth more than losing that right to her body as set out in her old document.
I state that slavery used to be codified in old documents until we realised it wasn’t tenable. She didn’t buy that analogy.
The conversation goes on. She’ll never change her mind. She is a sort of addict, at the end of the day. She’s addicted to a dubious sense of identity, addicted to conservatively adhering to an old document and resisting change, addicted to misunderstanding the nature of human rights, addicted to heroin.
All I have to ask myself is this: what would my country look like if heroin was legalised? Indeed, Immanuel Kant talked about morality in terms of it being universal. A good rule of thumb is, would I prefer the world where everyone did it or not? Would I prefer a world where everyone had access to heroin?
No. No, I don’t think I would.