Drug Abuse Cannot Be Fixed Through Legislation

Every year we’re told about the hot new legal drug that people are abusing. Shortly afterward we’re told about the hot new legislation that is supposed to curtail the abuse. Nobody seems to recognize the pattern though. This year the new drug being abused appears to be Imodium:

They call it the poor man’s methadone.

The epidemic of opioid addiction sweeping the country has led to another form of drug abuse that few experts saw coming: Addicts who cannot lay hands on painkillers are instead turning to Imodium and other anti-diarrhea medications.

The active ingredient, loperamide, offers a cheap high if it is consumed in extraordinary amounts. But in addition to being uncomfortably constipating, it can be toxic, even deadly, to the heart.

Now we just need to wait for the legislation that orders Imodium to be treated the same way as all drugs containing pseudoephedrine.

The cycle of abuse and legislation is counterintuitive. At first glance it seems sensible to restrict access to drugs people abuse. But looking at the cycle with a critical eye reveals a major problem: when one drug is restricted addicts find a substitute.

Restricting opioids didn’t stop addicts from being addicts. It merely pushed them to abuse Imodium instead just as restricting heroine lead to the substitute of easier to produce krokodil. Addiction is a medical issue. It cannot be legislated away. So long as politicians continue to treat addiction as a legal issue addicts will be pushed into finding, often more dangerous, substitutes.