Pubdate: Sun, 20 Jul 1997
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Author: Jerry Epstein

Thank you for your editorial series on heroin. Such an educational
emphasis is badly needed.

Some observations:

1) The estimated 1 percent to 2 percent addiction figure was true in an
era when these products were available on grocery store shelves or by
catalog mail order - as noted, labels do not even appear until 1906. The
figure is the same today (about 1.3 percent for heroin and cocaine
combined, another 6 percent for alcohol - we tend to ignore 80 percent
of addiction). The implication is that addiction is about as responsive
to laws as is suicide - particular drugs are used in faddish patterns,
but total addiction is pretty much constant. (As a sidelight, there was
a cocaine epidemic of sorts in the 1890s; it ended about 1900 when the
government took precisely NO action - ain't the free market grand?)

2) "Soldiers disease" is largely myth; opium imports did not trend
upward until a decade after the Civil War, and opiate use for pain
relief today results in almost no addiction, perhaps 1 in 10,000.

3) The government's addiction expert, Dr. Lawrence Kolb, used to say
there was more violence in a gallon of alcohol than in a ton of opium
(morphine/heroin). That is still true. (Some 19th-century doctors would
persuade "hopeless" alcoholics to convert to morphine addiction to
reduce child and spousal abuse and criminal behavior.)

4) Most Vietnam vets could not be identified as heroin addicts without
the urine tests and most simply gave up their addiction without
treatment when the choice was to be kept overseas with treatment - this
was a startling revelation to most experts at that time.

JERRY EPSTEIN, Vice president
Drug Policy Forum of Texas