I am not sure what to think of an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal by Theodore Dalrymple, but I believe his claims need to be heard. He claims that heroin addiction is not as easy to obtain nor as difficult to overcome as thought and claimed by most doctors and most addicts. According to Dalrymple, the average heroin user does not become addicted until they have been taking it for a year. "Heroin doesn't hook people; rather, people hook heroin." That is, they become an addict because they want to, not because an experimental trial hooks them. He has seen thousands of addicts withdraw and has concluded that the suffering is not as great as is claimed. In watching the addicts without our their knowledge before they entered his office, he saw them cheerful. As soon as they entered his office, they doubled over in pain, claimed to have never suffered so much, and threatened suicide if they could not get what they wanted.
The editorial also claims that giving up heroin does not necessarily require medical care. Thousands of Vietnam war addicts gave up the habit on their own when they returned from the war. Millions of Chinese addicts gave up their drugs with minimal help when Mao offered to shoot them if they did not. Thus, "Mao was the greatest drug-addiction therapist in history." Modern medicine which often substitutes one drug for another is simply wrong. Mr. Dalrymple, who has written a book on this topic called "Romancing Opiates," concludes, "Contrary to the orthodoxy, drug addition is a matter of morals." My comment: If anything, this warns us against being too sympathetic with drug addicts who say they have trusted in the Lord and cannot quit the drugs. They clearly play on our sympathies. The temptation is real, but perhaps what they need most is a stronger dose of God's power by a stronger commitment to Him. If a threatened execution can cure the drug habit, then certainly a full commitment to the God who will help them will do the same.