Discuss the changes in the populations of opioid users. Include in this discussion the debate around the availability of Naloxone. Present the benefits and causes for concern associated with heroin use, and use these features to formulate an opinion about the efficacy of legalizing heroin for medical use.
According to the Post Graduate Medicine Journal, use of opioids in the treatment of various types of pain has increased significantly in the past 20 years. Use of certain types of opioids have been linked to emergency room visits in people who have taken them for more than 90 days.
Researchers have not successfully (as of November 2011) identified populations of opioid users so tracking changes in population poses a problem. Large populations are defined as "prescription opioid" users and "non-medical opioid" users. An effort is underway to define subgroups of non-medical users:
“As a population, non-medical prescription opioid users are not well-defined. We wanted to better understand who is using prescription opioids and whether we could detect subgroups of non-medical use ....” (Traci C. Green, MSc , PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at The Warren Alpert School of Medicine of Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital.)
Scientists have evidence to prove that heroin is a drug easier to give up than nicotine. And the harmful effects of smoking are something including the government knows about, leading to medical bills worth $60 million every day. If only the heroin lobby were as powerful as the tobacco lobby, I guess heroin too would be a legal drug. Particularly for medical use, it is totally justified to legalize heroin.
I think one of the major benefits of legalising a drug like heroin would be that the quality of these drugs and its levels can be carefully controlled. At the moment, the massive problem with heroin use is that there is no regulation. You can't guarantee that what you buy is going to be what you paid for, as many dealers "cut" drugs with other substances to pad it out and make it go further.
The problem with even legalizing and prescribing heroin is that the body very quickly develops a tolerance for opiods, and larger doses, given more frequently, are needed to keep from going into withdrawal--a withdrawal that is painful and ugly. So any government-administered use of the drug would have to be very short term purposes, and with diminishing doses. Fine for managing pain, but most addicts use it for something else.
As the purity of street heroin has increased greatly, overdoses by cocaine users who switch to snorting heroin are at epidemic levels.
From what I have heard, the idea here is that heroin can be given to users in prescribed and managed doses. This would work in instances where methadone is ineffective (which happens in some) and would also have other benefits.
Basically, the benefits are that it would keep the addicts in treatment and would reduce the dangers to them. It would allow them to get drugs of proven quality (reducing the danger of getting poisoned by things added to "cut" the drugs). It would keep them from having to do things to buy drugs illegally. It would reduce the danger of overdose and the danger of getting HIV from using dirty needles.
In other words, prescribing heroin would be a way to mitigate the problems and dangers associated with addiction.