Crisis in Heroin

The current debate in Australia about the heroin crisis is centered on the drug and the high cost to individuals and society of its addiction. It is an emotional debate based on fear and fuelled by myths. The picture of a junkie who is shooting up in a dirty alleyway is a potent theme in these myths. (Alcorn and Brady 1999) In the article “Heroin – the Bogyman of the Frightened “90s”, the authors outline some of these myths and how they dominate the current debate on the heroin crisis. The article attempts to counteract the myths with the facts in an effort to place heroin use in a broader sociological context.

The mythology of a ‘junkie” finds its origins in Grand Theories. These theories paint a broad picture based on the individual drug user as being immoral, sick or deficient in some way labeling the individual drug user as ‘bad” or ‘deviant”. (Kellehear and Cvetkovski 1998) This view is widely held in our society at the moment. Heroin is seen as a highly addictive, evil drug that preys on innocent young people. Theories that see the user as sick and drug use as a disease consider individuals as having psychological defects that compel them to resort to heroin. This can be seen in the current debate with the focus on treatments to ‘cure” addicts.

So what is the reality of heroin and the people who use it? Heroin use is viewed only as a result of addiction but surprisingly only 15% of people who use heroin represent the stereotypical image of a junkie. The majority of those who use heroin do so recreationally and do not seek help and rarely find themselves in trouble with the police. (Alcorn and Brady 1999).

The problem with these theories is that they fail to look at the broader sociological problems such as unemployment and marginalization of certain groups within society, particularly young people. Dr. Nick Crofts states that ‘. heroin is a symptom of marginalization.

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