Drug policy dead-ends

I would like to revive an earlier thread that we had going regarding drug policy. There was obvious disagreement among commentators with regard to whether or not drug should be legalized and under what conditions.

My son, having recently returned from out-of-state, recently came across an old high school friend who ran off a list of all the kids with whom they had gone through high school that are now dead from drug overdoses. Heroin is a huge problem in the wealthier Chicago neighborhoods. From what we have learned, one hit of high purity heroin is so addictive that it condemns one to a lifetime addiction: recovery rates for addicts are less-than 1%. Knowing this, Chicago drug pushers are now mixing heroin in with cocaine, knowing that one snort can now generate a lifetime (albeit short lifetime) customer. These addicts soon have to steal to support their habits. I suspect the same could be said for crack cocaine and methamphetamine.

We have had some personal experience with this, having extended a helping hand to a young woman we knew when she was a kid. She came from a wealthy albeit totally dysfunctional family in the area. After abandonment and her parents’ nasty divorce, she ran wild and developed a heroin addiction that eventually led her to steal money to support her habit. She went straight to jail. She is very articulate and book-smart should normally be looking at a very bright and productive future. Intellectually, she knows that she totally screwed up and that she now has a heroin habit. Not long ago, she was released from prison only to be discovered using heroin again.¬†Once again, she is in jail. She does not yet know that she is almost certainly doomed: heroin addicts don’t live long.

She cannot stay away from the heroin. When she leaves prison, there will be virtually no jobs open to her (as a felon) and the price of heroin combined with the need for a fix will inevitably force her back into crime, prison and, eventually, death. All this will cost society (taxpayers) huge sums of money.

What do we do with these drug users? Incarcerate them for life? Rotate them in and out of prison? Sell them their drugs dirt cheap to undermine the criminal element?

Does anyone have any good ideas?