(I’m dedicating this post to Bill, the Dad at the blog Dad on Fire.  Keep up the good work Bill, and peace and safety to you and your family.)

Settlers of the American west learned that their best weapon against fire was fire itself.

Today, scientific researchers are studying the effectiveness of fighting heroin addiction by prescribing heroin.

What they are finding:

If you give medical grade heroin by prescription to people who are addicted to street heroin, they reduce or stop use of street heroin.

Um, wouldn’t it be better if they didn’t use heroin at all (you might ask)?

Of course.  But the people eligible to participate in the studies are people who have not been able to stop using heroin even with treatment.  All other treatment options have failed them, and they are looking for something that actually works.

Um, isn’t the whole point of heroin treatment to help people stop using heroin (you might ask)?

Of course not.  The point of heroin treatment is to help people stop suffering harm associated with heroin use -more specifically, use of street heroin.

Most of the harm associated with heroin use is actually only associated with heroin acquired on the black market and consumed in the context of a raging compulsive and chaotic addiction.  In comparison, much less risk of harm is associated with heroin acquired by prescription and consumed in the context of a drug treatment program under medical supervision.

It’s not demon heroin (or OxyContin or other pain killers), it’s demon addiction.

It’s hard to win the battle unless you can accurately name and recognize the enemy.

The pioneers faced their challenges head on.  It took bravery and bold thinking to fight fire with fire.  But when a prairie fire grew large and threatened to wipe out home, farm and family, that’s exactly what they did.

The settlers started their own fires.  These small, controllable fires would consume anything flammable near the homestead.  Deprived of fuel when it arrived near the homestead, the larger fire would either burn out or follow a different path away from the homestead.

I’m grateful for bold scientists, institutions, governments and people living with addiction who dare to try to fight heroin with heroin.

I’m grateful that they recognize that the ultimate goal is not to prevent drug use, but drug harm.  I’m grateful that they care more about preventing harm to people who are living with opiate dependence than they care about controlling people with opiate dependence.

And I’m grateful that they are brave enough to pursue this goal even at the risk of criticism from those with less noble motives.

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