Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Contaminated heroin hurting users

If you were writing a drug law, what class of people would be the first ones you wanted the law to help? If you were rational, wouldn't that class be, "drug users?"

The number of persons dying from the use of contaminated heroin increased markedly in April according to a report by Donna Leinwand in USAToday.

If there were a similar rash of deaths and injuries among any class of Americans other than injecting drug users, wouldn't there be more of an outcry? Why don't I hear anybody utter the rhetoric (admittedly absurd), "If legalization, regulation and control of heroin would save just one life, it would be worth it?"

The contaminant involved, fentanyl, has been a common heroin substitute or boosting agent for at least twenty years. In the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act which I helped to write, mandatory minimum prison sentences were created for illegally manufacturing or distributing fentanyl. 400 grams of a mixture or substance containing fentanyl gets a mandatory ten years up to life, 40 grams gets 5 years up to 40 years. Mandatory minimums for any analogue of fentanyl, such as sufentanyl or alfentanyl, are triggered at the 100 gram and 10 gram level.

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