Treating Drug Addiction With Addictive Drugs

Jacob Sullum at Reason is incredulous over a new Vancouver program that administers maintenance doses to stimulant addicts:
The government drives [stimulants] into the black market and then allows the select few who are sufficiently f#@ked up to get oral stimulants at taxpayers' expense. Meanwhile, doctors commonly prescribe stimulants to people who have trouble focusing and paying attention, a condition that used to be self-treated but nowadays is recognized as a disease requiring professional diagnosis. If you take these drugs without that diagnosis, you also have a disease—drug dependence—that one day, if we're lucky, may be treated by giving you the drugs.
The whole thing is mind-numbingly absurd. Try as we might to rein them in, drug policies continue to boldly defy the boundaries of logic at every turn. Still, Sullum's assessment of government sponsored maintenance programs gives me pause.
This strikes me as exactly the wrong way to achieve drug policy reform, guaranteed to alienate people who might be willing to let others use drugs but don't want to pick up the tab for it. The message should be freedom coupled with responsibility, not government-subsidized drug addiction.
I'm not saying he's wrong, but I sure hope he is. Though ideal, the freedom/responsibility model isn't exactly resonating either. To whatever extent such programs are bad because they piss off taxpayers, one hopes they'll earn their keep by mitigating the destructive conditions that necessitate counterintuitive ideas like stimulant maintenance in the first place. Demonstrating that such programs actually save money while reducing harm should eventually placate reasonable skeptics.

As long as legalization is out of the picture, taxpayers must choose between subsidizing the addictions of sometimes unsympathetic characters, or subsidizing by default the black market profiteers who would otherwise provide for them.

Anyone who can’t come to terms with this will love Joe Biden's hilariously unworkable plan to eradicate drugs from the earth with biological weapons.

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How to Reduce Crime

Legalization of hard drugs being off the table for now, taxpayers must choose betwen subsidizing addicts or effectively subsidizing dealers. Relunctantly subsidizing addicts keeps them from committing crimes, including murder, to get money for black market drugs and can open up some opportunities for rehabilitation that a punitive approach can't (a lot of addicts have already had far too much punishment/neglect in their lives- that's the source of the original problem). Subsidizing dealers empowers a lot of very dangerous and cruel people, spreading violence all over the place. Current policy is a catastrophic mistake.

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