The Instigator
Pro (for)
6 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Heroin should be legalized

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/17/2010 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 10,546 times Debate No: 12052
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (1)




Heroin, also known as diacetylmorphine , should be made legal and subject to standards of purity similar to most commercial food products and pharmaceuticals.

In debates of legalizing drugs such as marijuana, both advocates and opponents refer to Heroin as the "hardest of drugs". It is often assumed without saying that virtually all would agree that Heroin is one of the most dangerous illicit drugs, and one only the staunchest opponents of prohibition would even consider legalizing. This commonly held position is flawed in that Heroin is not exceptionally dangerous compared to many more popular drugs, both licit and illicit, and should be legalized regardless of the legal statuses of other drugs.

One of the most commonly cited and misunderstood side effect of Heroin is the infamous overdose. The overwhelming majority of alleged overdoses can be accredited to impurities within the Heroin itself and the mixing of Heroin and other drugs. Heroin has a very high LD-50 compared to to the therapeutic dose needed to induce euphoria. One would in fact need to administer six to nine times their "normal" dose in order to induce a true overdose. Even if this factor were to be utterly ignored, Heroin overdose is remarkably easy to treat. A simple injection of nalorphine is usually adequate in preventing death via overdose. When comparing the risks of Heroin overdose to the risks of overdose by other drugs such as Alcohol and Cocaine, it is clear that overdose "problem" associated with Heroin is not particularly sinister, unavoidable, or even inherently deadly. Legalizing Heroin and subjugating it to regulation and a standard of purity would eliminate the deaths caused by impure Heroin and serve to reduce other health risks.

Some commonly cited problems associated with Heroin are the allegedly inherent health risks, such as HIV, Hepatitis, vein damage, lung infections, liver damage, oral decay and other maladies. However, virtually every major side effect can be attributed to either impurity, improper administration, or environmental factors. Legalization would have a huge impact on combating the problems associated with not only with Heroin itself, but also on reducing the environmental factors associated with Heroin use. If legalized and regulated to a medical standard of purity, Heroin would not only be pure and chemically safe, but would be remarkably cheap as well. Heroin prices are inflated by the black market at levels exceeding 1000%, which is one of the primary causes of destitution among addicts. Many addicts are forced to stoop to theft and other crime in order to fund their habit. However, Heroin use does not necessarily entail criminal behavior. In fact, In a Liverpool Heroin clinic, an experimental prescription based system found people who were able to administer a steady supplies of clean Heroin were 93% less likely to commit property crimes.

Furthermore, as the prices of the drug go down and the purity goes up, drug users tend to be less inclined to subject themselves to intravenous administration. This can be demonstrated by the Heroin epidemic among United States troops during the Vietnam War. When soldier had access to cheap and pure Heroin, over 90% smoked, snorted, or administered it orally. After military crackdowns on Heroin usage and possession, injection became commonplace in an attempt to maximize efficiency and reduce costs. In this sense, cheap and pure Heroin would greatly reduce the problems associated with IV administration in that fewer people would subjugate themselves to IV administration.

The major and very real risk involved with Heroin is its addictive quality. It is on the same level of addictiveness as cigarettes and other tobacco products, although being comparatively harmless both to individuals and society compared to said products. Several studies have shown that fast food and junk foods can have addictive effects that rival that of Heroin, and yet pure Heroin is likely a more benign substance than most junk foods.

This is not meant as a general argument against all prohibition, or an argument in favor of legalizing all drugs. However, prohibiting Heroin is clearly unnecessary, and legalization bears very little risk to society or individual health. Unbeknown to even hardcore drug legalization advocates, Heroin is not the "hard, dangerous drug" both sides tend to acknowledge it as being. Rather, it is one of the more benign drugs, and utterly incomparable to drugs such as Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Tobacco, or even alcohol in the category of physical and psychological harm.


Greetings, and thank you to my opponent for starting this debate. This will in fact be my first debate and I thank him for the opportunity and wish him the best of luck. (also I apologize for being a little late but I've been extremely busy the past couple days.)
In this round I will present my offense as to why heroin should remain as it is, illegal to purchase and use in the United States.

-----The Offense-----

1. Overdose

my opponent argues that the overwhelming majority of deaths related to heroin addiction comes from an un-pure production of the drug itself. Therefore the logical thing to do would be legalize the production of it so that we can get standards on what's being circulated in the market. As stands only about 1% of heroin users die of "True" overdose. That still means that out of the roughly 560,000 people who use heroin 5600 of them will still die every year. What about those people? Do they not count? Legalizing Heroin isn't going to help that statistic. The best you can hope for is to reduce the number of deaths cause by "impure" drugs. If anything the legalization of heroin will lead to an even larger number of "True" overdoses due to its increased accessibility to all people. We can easily look back at the Prohibition of alcohol and see that contrary to popular belief the consumption of alcohol did decline during that period. This means that we can't expect making heroin easily attainable to reduce the number of people who use it but on the contrary actually raise the numbers and also the frightening statistics that go along with it. [6] [4] [5]

2. Health Issues / Criminal Activity

The possible health issues accompanied with the use of heroin are quite extensive as my opponent lays out. This list grows even larger when considering other areas of peoples everyday life. For instance the use of heroin while somebody is pregnant can result in poor nutrition for the infant, inadequate prenatal care, low birth weight, serious medical complications and even unplanned abortions. While it seems pretty obvious to not take heroin when being pregnant it's right to overlook that area when considering the powerful addictive properties heroin holds. (which I'll get into later). The most serious health problems on the list comprise of overdose, HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis. Most of these are linked to the problem of sharing needles. The use of heroin in the form of injection is the easiest way to get an instant and powerful euphoria granted from the drug itself in the form of morphine connecting to receptors in the brain. The complete legalization of the drug itself couldn't stop the use of needles unless it wrote in some policy to state how the drug must be administered. This still wouldn't help the problem as people are already using injection as the method of choice when it is illegal already. Legalizing it would only give them a cheaper, higher quality drug to inject. Smoking heroin or applying it orally will actually make them lose 1/3 of the morphine created by the drug itself when traveling to the blood-brain barrier, which is exactly why most people don't use that method. Also after using opiates like heroin, users enter a "nodding out" period where they become drowsy and space in and out. This would mean it would be another drug we would have to regulate even though it was legalized. After all it would be irresponsible of us to allow anyone to use this drug while say driving or operating any sort of machinery. They could hurt themselves or more importantly other people with this dangerous habit. We see the other issue when looking at it from the criminal standpoint. Unless completely unregulated as to how much heroin somebody can obtain, its impossible to say that you can feed somebodys addiction. Naturally people grow a tolerance to the use of heroin and therefore need more to achieve the same euphoria granted originally. Now unless the government goes completely hands off, then users will still be forced to look for their *extra* heroin elsewhere, thereby not at all avoiding the issue of criminal activities granted related to heroin addiction. Our great nation would only be helping to feed their addictions. [1] [7]

3. Price/Injection

While price would in fact drop for people who feel the need to use heroin it wouldn't necessarily help the whole lot of us. we will now have the pleasure of paying for peoples heroin addictions with our tax paying dollars. Not to mention it's not possible to stop the "illegal" sale of drugs because people will always be trying to sell impure versions of heroin for cheaper than you can buy it at the store, and there is always somebody desperate enough to buy it. As for the method used to inject the drug, cost really holds very little relevance. As I stated earlier, it may seem safer to smoke the drug and it may even help for a little while. However, our bodies naturally build up a tolerance to this drug. Therefore people either have to buy more of the substance to maintain the equivalent euphoria, or use a stronger method of injection, which is in fact what lead to the use of injection in the first place. Once again legalization would do nothing to truly solve these problems. [7]

4. Addiction

When talking about addiction there are many ways to define it. For an overall view we need to look at the power of the withdrawal effects, the strength of the reoccurring need to continue to use the drug, the tolerance buildup, the dependence factor, and the intoxication levels. Now when studies where conducted to test the addictive qualities of heroin it ranked increasingly higher than Nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, marijuana, and even cocaine. What's interesting is that the majority of people who use heroin for the first time won't even like it. In fact they aren't even likely to try it ever again. However for the people that do like it, its extremely addictive and therefore extremely dangerous. Luckily there are a variety of options to help treat the addiction of heroin. The underlying problem is however, that if we are acknowledging that heroin addiction must be treated, then why would we ever distribute it to the public knowing it could open the doors for more people to be effected. [8] [2]

Heroin is dangerous and the negative effects strongly outweigh any positive gain we may get from it. As i have stated legalizing it wont in any way help solve any of these issues, but may in fact contribute to making them worse. We shouldn't waste our time, money, or resources in the process of developing this legal distribution of heroin as a fix the the problem its created in our society. It seems we both recognize that the presence of heroin as it is, is in fact a determent to our society. I believe, and i encourage everyone else to see that the solution doesn't lay in giving up the fight of banning heroin and legalizing the drug but in looking for better solutions.

Because of the overwhelming evidence i urge a Con Vote on this argument!

Debate Round No. 1


1. Overdose

My opponent claims that 1% of Heroin addicts die of "true" overdoes. This is false. This statistic includes all deaths labeled as "overdose", even false overdoses. This is explained in the article:

"No doubt, some overdoses are a result of mixing heroin with other drugs, but appear to result from a sudden loss of tolerance. Addicts have been killed one day by a dose that was readily tolerated the day before."

While this article is interesting and provides useful data, it is inaccurate as demonstrated by the Consumer's Union Report. The Report sets three solid statements regarding alleged Heroin overdose. They are:

(1) The deaths cannot be due to overdose.
(2) There has never been any evidence that they are due to overdose.
(3) There has long been a plethora of evidence demonstrating that they are not due to overdose.

According to Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Baden "The majority of deaths are due to an acute reaction to the intravenous injection of the heroin-quinine-sugar mixture. This type of death is often referred to as an 'overdose,' which is a misnomer. Death is not due to a pharmacological overdose in the vast majority of cases." He found that the overwhelming majority of alleged overdoses did not fit the physiological criteria or show the signs of a true opiate overdoes. Rather, he found that many of the deaths resulted from the body reacting to the injected material as if it were going into shock. In many cases, the needles are actually found still inserted into the vein. This does not in any way shape or form resemble an opiate overdose. A true overdoes fatality takes between 1-12 hours to occur, with the physical cause of death usually being respiratory failure.

2. Health Issues / Criminal Activity

My opponent claims that people will continue to use injunction as the primary method of choice even if Heroin becomes legal and cheap. There is a very large pool of evidence contradicting this claim. During the Vietnam War, soldier had ready access to very cheap, high quality Heroin. During a period of tolerance in which soldiers were allowed to use the drug, the vast majority did not inject. Over 95% of users snorted or smoked it, with a smaller minority taking it orally or mixing it with drink. Once the military cracked down on Heroin use, things began to change:

"The increase in intravenous use," Dr. Zinberg comments, "suggests that perhaps as a result of the Army's righteous efforts to stamp out heroin entirely, the drug scene has turned nastier, with potentially unpleasant consequences. When a widely used drug suddenly becomes difficult to obtain, users will conserve their supplies for the greatest effect."

I would also disagree with my opponents assessment that injection is the "easiest" way to use Heroin. While it is the most efficient, it is NOT the easiest. Even injecting with dangerously poor form requires equipment and practice. Other methods of Heroin use can be done very easily, with the primary downside being the lack of efficiency. If Heroin was legal, this would not be a problem. One pure gram of Heroin costs approximately $10 in a fair market. This same amount would cost roughly $2000 in the black market, despite being diluted and cut numerous times. One can simply consume more Heroin rather than switch to injecting.

I'm not sure what my opponent means by the statement "unless the government go completley hands off...". As far as the supply side of Heroin distribution goes, the government should treat Heroin similar to alcohol.

3. Price/Injection

My opponent claims that taxpayers would be forced to bear the brunt of people's addictions. I do not see how this could be the case. A single gram of medical grade Heroin can last an addict for days, and only costs ten dollars. Compared to a nicotine addict, the Heroin addict has it made. My opponent also claims that addicts will cycle from less efficient methods to more efficient methods in order to bypass developed tolerance. However, history has shown that addicts will not inject unless the price and availability of Heroin forces them to do so. After all, if what my opponent stated were true, Alcoholics wold be mainlining Alcohol in order to get more drunk. Furthermore, tolerance plateaus, with the average addict plateauing at approximately 350-500 mg per day. At this point, the user will not require any more drug than he did the day before. There is also the claim that we cannot stop the sale of "illegal" Heroin. This argument is pure fantasy and makes no economic sense. There is no way for a dealer to realistically compete with a pharmaceutical distributor. I'm assuming that my opponent believes that an unscrupulous person would buy the drug legally, cut it, and then re-sell it. However, buyers have no incentive to buy from this person. Regardless of the volume of product he is selling, the total amount of actual Heroin being sold is the same, and they have no guarantee of the content. Furthermore, even if one were somehow able to trick people into buying, there is no incentive to enter the market. Black market Heroin markup is over 1000%. Fair market Heroin would be just like any other non patented pharmaceutical. In order to make a living selling Heroin in a legal market, one would need to sell an absurd amount of Heroin every day. If this type of business worked, people would be standing on street corners selling watered down beers to alcoholics.

My opponent contests my claim regarding nicotine addiction vs Heroin addiction. I do not feel that this is an important point, as most medical authorities agree that the two come close, even if the particular order of severity is disputed. My opponent seems to be under the belief that I think that Heroin addiction must be treated. I do not believe this at all. Heroin, like most opiates, is within itself a relatively benign drug. Even if one is to become addicted, one can still live a very functional and happy life, especially when compared to those who are addicted to alcohol and cigarettes. The only reason one should be compelled to quit is their own self determination to do so. Heroin usage within itself does not come close to causing the same health effects or social costs as alcohol or cigarettes. In fact, many doctors encouraged seemingly incurable alcoholics to switch to opiates as an alternative to their much more destructive addiction prior to the War on Drugs.


acidburnn forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


My opponent has forfeit his turn and leaves me with more time to fortify my argument.

As I stated in the previous rounds, Heroin is a relatively benign drug, with the most major side effects including constipation and nausea. My opponent brought up the very valid concern of Heroin abuse in pregnant women. While it is important to stress that there is no single chemical that is 100% safe for all women, opiates are not associated with any physical birth defects. The primary concern is that opiates are passed from the mother to the baby, causing the baby to become addicted and experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms themselves can be harmful to young children, but this problem can be easily avoided by switching to a methadone substitute during the pregnancy.

Before Heroin and other opiates were criminalized, they were hardly even seen as a public health problem. Most people believed that opiate use was simply morally wrong, akin to dancing or sexuality at the time. Even still, it did not have the same stigma about it as alcohol did, and rightfully so. It was seen as a luxury good, a symbols of excess, not as a symbol of social deviancy.

Legalizing Heroin would decrease the profit margins of terrorist groups, and allow for Afghanistan to have a legitimate economy that did not rely on illegal goods. If this is accomplished, terrorist groups will loose a massive source of revenue, one that simply cannot be recouped by focusing on other drugs. The entire Heroin market would fall out beneath them, and their artificial monopoly would crumble.


acidburnn forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by acidburnn 7 years ago
Even though many of you i'm sure could figure out what i was trying to say i just wanted to clarify in my first post:
"While it seems pretty obvious to not take heroin when being pregnant it's right to overlook that area when considering the powerful addictive properties heroin holds."

it's is meant to say "It isn't" I apologize for rushing the post but i just wanted to make sure nobody was confused
Posted by Sam_Lowry 7 years ago
Yep, I've no problem with waiting.
Posted by acidburnn 7 years ago
Just wanted to let you know that i'm extremely interested in taking this debate... it would in fact be my first though so bear with me... if i do take it i'll try to pick it up tomorrow but i gotta make sure i'm gonna have the time in my schedule to properly do this so i'll be sure to get back to you soon.
Posted by Sam_Lowry 7 years ago
Yep, I have no problem with waiting. I would actually prefer waiting for a coherent and well researched argument as apposed to what I'm used to.
Posted by jaweber1 7 years ago
I reviewed this debate on it's first run through with Matt and I wasn't impressed with his performance. As you have already prepared the research for this topic, you should be fairly prepared to start an argument at anytime. I, however, will probably use most of the time alloted this round to acquire information. The following rounds will be much quicker. Just a forewarning, I appreciate your patience.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Sam_Lowry 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:60