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Master's Professional Reports Abstract

The Damaging Effects of Heroin and its Policy Implications

Heroin is often seen as the most evil of illicit drugs, causing crime, ill health, destruction of family life, ruined employability, and even death. Unlike alcohol, heroin does not make people aggressive or violent, leading them to commit violent crime. Heroin addicts are typically guilty of non-violent property crime, trying to obtain the money to buy the illegal drug. Heroin has not been found to do any bodily harm to users like the organic damage done by alcohol and cigarettes. The harm done to users is from withdrawal symptoms, improper use of needles, or the use of dirty or infected needles. This paper analyzes the drug policies of the United States as well as those of Canada, Australia, and European countries which follow the philosophy of harm-reduction. Instead of putting more money into imprisoning drug users, the U.S. should consider directing funds toward helping addicts through drug maintenance and needle exchange programs. In this way, the amount of crime, disease and death resulting from heroin could be significantly reduced.

--Author's foreword.