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Drugs, Punishment, and the Vicious Cycle Culture Featured Health 

Drugs, Punishment, and the Vicious Cycle

World (GREED) – There is a casual trend in conversation regarding the “drug problem”. It’s usually something to the effect of “Why do paramedics/police even bother reviving heroin addicts? Just let them die! Narcan just lets addicts do more heroin!” (Sewell, 2016)

Unfortunately, there is a widely held assumption that heroin addicts are all alley-dwelling, dirty, mean, drug-crazed vampires with no friends or family whom “society” should waste no resources on, as “society” would be better off without them.

It is likely that these preconceived notions are based in ignorance of how people become addicted, the effects, and how these two things become a vicious cycle.

First off, what is heroin? Heroin is an opioid made from the poppy plant. (NIH, 2017) Other opioids include codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine: All drugs that are commonly prescribed painkillers for surgery and chronic pain.  (WebMD, 2017)

Image Source: Flickr, Brandon Giesbrecht, Creative Commons

Oxycodone is one of the most commonly prescribed painkillers for chronic pain. When a prescription runs out or a doctor refuses to renew, there are several street alternatives; the most popular of these options is heroin.

Not all heroin addicts who fall prey to the drug have had chronic pain issues. Many people become addicted because of heroin’s euphoric effects, sometimes the feeling is described as “love” or “warm” or “good”. (CNN, 2014) It makes users feels upbeat about life and their fellow human beings. The feeling is never described as anything but positive. There’s no hangover, just a happy glow afterwards. I’ve known people who came to work after doing heroin the previous night.

Heroin is often insufflated (snorted) first, injection the first time is very rare. Heroin is cheap, at first it’s 10$ for a weekend of relaxing heroin. But one builds a tolerance very quickly. Soon, more heroin is required for the same euphoria. Sometimes people can pay for it out of their paycheck, other times they are poor and resort to crime.

This is where they get swept into the court system and the vicious cycle of drugs, jail, detox, and re-use

Washington Courthouse has an especially harmful policy, where those who overdose are charged with a first degree misdemeanor (Inducing Panic) for the crime of almost dying. (AP, 2017)

So let’s assume you OD in Washington Courthouse. You’re charged with the crime of Inducing Panic.

You’re sent to jail.

You’re in a cell.

A cold cell.

Going cold turkey.


Having panic attacks.

Diarrhea or constipation, loss of appetite, muscle aches, insomnia. (Addiction Blog, 2014)  (Suburban Heroin, 2012)

Suicide seems the only way out.[i] (Dinker, 2017)

So you get through this. Let’s assume you don’t hang yourself by your shoelaces or pants’ string. You do your time. Anywhere between a couple of days to six months in the Fayette County Jail. [ii]

You’re out: You have medical fees from almost dying.

Your electricity is due.

Your rent is due.

Your car payment, water bill, credit card bill, student loan payment, cable bill, telephone bill, internet bill, tax returns, etc. are all due.

Likely, you’ve also been fired from your job and therefore have no incoming pay or insurance. So good luck paying for all that.

Good luck applying for a job with a known history of drug abuse. And if you’re not homeless now, you better start looking for a couch to sleep on. Or a cardboard box to sleep in. [iii]

Remember when I mentioned that heroin makes you feel loved? It’s hard to leave the only thing (heroin) that makes you feel loved when the rest of the world seems against you. It’s hard to leave the only people (fellow addicts) who understand the suffering.

And withdrawing from heroin while hungry and cold in a cardboard box doesn’t lend itself to escaping addiction; so with no job prospects, crime is a way to fill your belly.

Supporters of the drug war get no moral credit for encouraging people to “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps!” or “Exercise some discipline!” while simultaneously supporting policies that crush and obliterate people’s futures and ability to decide for themselves.

I’m reminded of the law of Maslow’s hammer, which is essentially states that people (policy makers) have a tendency for over-reliance on a familiar tool: Prohibition. (Wikipedia, 2017)

Legislation always seems to focus on prohibition, which historically (Eighteenth Amendment, 1920) does not work. [iv] Prohibition encourages more hammers, more police. More surveillance, more intrusions.
The more effective options of decriminalization or rehabilitation doesn’t seem to cross the minds of policy makers.[v]

Nobody wants to wallow in suffering. The vicious cycle of addiction begins with ruining the chances of any ex-addict to escape the lifestyle, cliques, and desperation of drug addiction.

The revolving door to jail, the obstacles to employment, the social stigma: These are the sources of the vicious cycle of drug addiction.

This report prepared byMatt Raska.


Addiction Blog. (2014, June 12). Heroin detox timeline: How long to detox from heroin? Retrieved from

  1. (2017, March 28). ACLU asks Washington Court House to stop charging drug overdose survivors. Retrieved from

Byrne, E. (2014, February 16). 5 Unexpected Things I Learned from Being a Heroin Addict. Retrieved from Cracked:

CNN. (2014, February 4). Addict: Heroin is like a feeling of love. Retrieved from

Dinker, B. (2017, April 21). WHY HEROIN WITHDRAWALS ARE DEADLY. Retrieved from

drugrehabadvisor. (2015, December 26). How long does heroin withdrawal last? Retrieved from

Ingraham, C. (2015, June 5). Why hardly anyone dies from a drug overdose in Portugal. Retrieved from

NBC4 Staff. (2017, March 28). ACLU asks Washington Court house to stop charging overdose victims with crimes. Retrieved from

NIH. (2017, January). Heroin. Retrieved from National Institute of Drug Abuse:

Sewell, D. (2016, September 25). Just say no to Narcan? Heroin rescue efforts draw backlash. Retrieved from Big Story, Associated Press:

Suburban Heroin. (2012, June 4). What is heroin withdrawal like? Retrieved from

Vickers, W. (2015, September 24). Fairborn proposes public nuisance abatement ordinance. Retrieved from

WebMD. (2017, March). Opioid (Narcotic) Pain Medications. Retrieved from WebMD:

Wikipedia. (2017, April 25). Law of the instrument. Retrieved from


[i]  This is a good time to mention that Narcan immediately induces all these withdrawal symptoms. Which is why a lot of people who overdose prefer anything else, even overdosing, to Narcan.

[ii] Withdrawal can be anywhere between two days and two weeks. (drugrehabadvisor, 2015) But the Washington County House police have charged you with inducing panic which “is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine.” (NBC4 Staff, 2017)

[iii] The city of Fairborn, OH will force a landlord to evict a tenant for “violations in regards to felonious drug use, a gambling house, prostitution or sex related offenses, drug abuse, nuisance party regulations, severe alcohol crimes” and charge the tenant with additional crimes if they can’t find another place to stay within two weeks. (Vickers, 2015)

[iv] All drugs have been decriminalized in Portugal, fractioning both overdoses and use. To say nothing of the reduction of the blood-borne spread of HIV via dirty needles and other ills that come with addiction. (Ingraham, 2015)

[v] Lobby money from the prison-industrial complex, beneficiaries of the drug war (arms makers, surveillance salesmen), and police lobbies are an issue for another time. Furthermore: Police vote and enforce laws, felons can’t and don’t conform. The former’s support is essential while the latter’s lives are irrelevant to statesmen.

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