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The Pro-Heroin Effects of Anti-Opium Laws in Asia

Joseph Westermeyer, MD, PhD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1976;33(9):1135-1139. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1976.01770090125014.
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• Over 25 years anti-opium laws were enacted by three Asian governments in countries where opium use was traditional. Within months, heroin use suddenly appeared; and within a decade, heroin addiction surpassed opium addiction. The laws led to (1) increased price of narcotic drugs, (2) a heroin "industry," (3) corruption of the law enforcement system, and (4) major health problems involving parenteral drug use.

The Asian experience indicates that antinarcotic laws can be effective only with careful preparations: (1) changing society's attitude toward the traditional drug from ambivalence to opposition; (2) mobilizing resources to treat and rehabilitate all addicts within a short period of time; (3) developing the social will to incarcerate all "recidivist" addicts for a prolonged period; and (4) preventing narcotic production or importation.


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