Gov. Mills appears to have taken a “woman’s view” of drug addiction and destruction, focusing on the human pain and suffering, similar to those columns Bill Nemitz writes so well.

But when you’re running the government, comparing the failure and success of publicly funded programs is more critical than sympathy. Liberal Democrats are more likely to hold the hands of the laid-off millworkers than evaluate what went wrong and how best to fix it. And the latter approach requires insight into and analysis of the problem, not yet another photo opportunity and a statement of concern that blames someone else.

It seems to me, as an experienced drug policy maker, that as deaths from prescription and non-prescription opiates continue to escalate, the “war on drugs” has shifted to “how to reduce drug-related deaths.”

Moving from prohibition to harm reduction requires sweeping aside generations of rhetoric and implementing strategies that include, in the view of Jeffrey Singer, M.D., of the Cato Institute, “medication-assisted treatment, needle-exchange programs, safe injection sites, heroin-assisted treatment, deregulation of naloxone and the decriminalization of marijuana.”

Each strategy has pitfalls and dangers – who would have thought decriminalization would have made vaping a way of getting high? But the benefits, as dozens of other nations that have adopted these strategies show, are a dramatic reduction in overdose deaths and the introduction of new techniques like orally administered slow-release morphine and extended-release dihydrocodeine.

Each new method brings a potential danger with it. Subutex (buprenorphine) is taken orally and absorbed at slow levels that don’t lead to sedation and euphoria; however, users can dissolve and inject it.

Still remaining is the more difficult task of changing the lifestyle of the drug user. Live-in communities with daily reinforcement of new behaviors are expensive. Opiate antagonists and receptor blockers only go so far.

Frank Heller


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