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Published in 1981, “Flowers in the Blood” argues for decriminalization of opiates. The idea remains controversial in 2014. Written by Jeff Goldberg and Dean Latimer, a listener feels misdirected by historical information.
Goldberg and Latimer explain that punishing the addicted with prison is a mistake. Those who succumb to addiction need help; not punishment. One can readily accept that argument but opiate regulation by the government is a step too far. This may be a distinction without a difference but Alcohol and cigarettes are still a private sector choice with government intervention (principally tax increases and education) based on political input.
The loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman in February 2014 comes to mind. Hoffman dies at the age of 46, John Belushi at 33, Kurt Cobain at 27, Billie Holiday at 44, River Phoenix at 23; all from opiate overdoses. If opiates were legalized, would these artists have been saved—who knows? They chose addiction to escape the insecurity and stress of life. Their choice is their choice. Insecurity and stress are facts in every human’s life. America’s failure is related to treatment; not government control of human choice.
“Flowers in the Blood” fails to nuance legalization of opiates. It leans more toward influencing uneducated poor, educated middle class, and idle rich to experiment with addictive drugs.
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This book might also be entitled 'History of the War on Drugs'. It's about legal and illegal drug trade, medically sanctioned drug use and recreational drug use.
Though the author details the politic and commercial circumstances that led to the opium wars in China in the 1800s he doesn't stop there. The book follows the opium trade through the 1960s, especially relevant in light of the current epidemic of new heroin addicts.
As successful traders have learned to repackage opium into more potent and more marketable morphine and heroin, science remains stymied in its attempt to understand and cure addiction.
The author takes us to opium dens in China, to respectable Victorian homes replete with Laudemun, to the fringes of modern urban America where addicts shiver under bridges.
He makes his point, addiction has remained constant and intractable, an old story with no end in sight.
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