Michael Jourdan (Drug Researcher) gives expert video advice on: Is heroin illegal everywhere in the world?; How does the US Controlled Substances Act classify heroin?; When did heroin become illegal in the US? and more...
Is heroin illegal everywhere in the world?
Most people think heroin is illegal, and it's only made in illegal laboratories, and they don't know that heroin is not illegal. It's illegal in the sense most countries have taken it out of the pharmacopeia because they do not believe it has medicinal value. But it's not illegal to use it for scientific or medical reasons. Now, most countries -- all except a very few -- have taken heroin out of the pharmacopeia. But in England, for instance, it stayed there all the time. It's been part of the ordinary doctor's weapon against pain and that's how it is.
How does the US Controlled Substances Act classify heroin?
Heroin has been classified as having no medicinal purpose at all, so it's been removed from the pharmacopoeia and there's no use for it officially. Unofficially, there's an illegal market for it. Any possession, any sale, any production or import is illegal and will constitute a crime. It can put you in prison for a long time.
When did heroin become illegal in the US?
Heroin became illegal in several steps. When it was an over the counter medicine, that was the first step to make it a prescription medicine. Later on, it was taken completely out of the Pharmacia peer. But an intermediate step between that, in 1919, was a court case that rule that doctors could not prescribe heroin to heroin dependent patients. That was a landmark ruling which has really influenced American politics and American treatment of opiate dependant people.
How prevalent is heroin use?
Heroin use is surprisingly rare compared to the headlines that it commands regularly. Most countries have a prevalence of a couple of percent maximum. Usually it's lower than that, and the amount of people addicted to heroin will be less than half a percent or even much smaller. So it's not very many people. It's like 0.2 percent most places.
How does the law deal with heroin users?
Well, the law has a very restrictive view towards people who use heroin. It constitutes a crime, but how harsh punishment is varies very much from place to place and from time to time. The general tendency is getting tougher and tougher on people who use heroin, heightening the sentences, but there are also countertrends which will voice the concern that people who use heroin are more sick than they are criminals, so it should be a case for the health care system more than the jails and that has opened the door to phenomena such as drug courts where people who are actually facing a jail sentence can go into treatment instead. In Denmark, which is the country I come from, we have treatment inside jails. It's not mandatory in any way but people who have gone to jail can get into treatment as well. So it depends where, it depends when.