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April 13th, 2009
08:00 AM ET

Heroin cheaper than six-pack of beer

CNN's Carol Costello reports on who Mexican drug cartels are preying upon.
CNN's Carol Costello reports on who Mexican drug cartels are preying upon.

By Ronni Berke and Carol Costello

Massapequa, New York (CNN) - Doreen and Victor Ciappa thought they got a second chance when their 18-year-old daughter, Natalie, survived a heroin overdose last May.

Her mother recalled how, after the overdose, Natalie promised to stop using, insisting she didn't need rehab.

"She said 'oh no, I'm not going. I'll get myself off it,'" Doreen said.

Doreen Ciappa says she had no idea the packets she found among Natalie's belongings after her first overdose were actually heroin. "I had spent hours on the internet trying to figure out what they were."

During the year before the overdose, Natalie had changed. The straight-A student, cheerleader and accomplished singer had lost weight and began seeing less and less of her old friends. She was spending a lot of time alone in her room, writing songs and poetry. She started hanging out with a new boyfriend. Soon, she was missing curfew and fighting frequently with her parents. Despite their suspicions, the Ciappas say it never occurred to them Natalie was using heroin.

Within weeks of the first overdose, she went out to a party and never came home. Natalie had overdosed again, this time fatally.

Law enforcement officials say a tiny, one-dose bag of heroin, costing $5-$10, is cheaper than highly controlled synthetic opiates like Oxycontin or Hydrocodone - and easily accessible to teenagers.

"Unfortunately, today, a bag of heroin can be cheaper than a 6 pack of beer," said John Gilbride, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency's New York Field Division.

Vote! Should drugs be legal in the U.S.?

And this cheap heroin is deadlier than ever, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center.  Unlike a generation ago, when the street drug was less than 10 percent pure - today's version can be upwards of 70 percent pure. Teenagers are snorting it, smoking it in joints, and getting hooked faster, and overdosing more.

"Try heroin once, and you may not have the opportunity to try it again," Gilbride says.

Wayne O'Connell, Managing Director of the Daytop drug treatment program's outreach center on Long Island, says they are seeing teens as young as 13 using heroin.

According to the Justice Department's National Drug Threat Assessment (2009), Mexican criminal groups are expanding Mexican heroin distribution in eastern states, taking over the South American heroin market. Mexican heroin production increased 105 percent from 1999 to 2007, while Colombian heroin production decreased 47 percent during about the same period. (1999-2006)

The NDTA says more than half of heroin arrests nationwide happen in mid-Atlantic and Northeast states – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. In the Northeast states, the Department of Health reports that in 2006, almost twice as many heroin users sought treatment than all other regions combined (173,728 vs. 90,405).

On Long Island's Nassau County, where the Ciappas live, police made 211 heroin-related arrests in 2008. So far in the first three months of this year, police say, they have made 135 such arrests.

Officials and drug counselors say heroin is luring middle-class teenagers like Natalie Ciappa, because they don't feel the stigma associated with the image of the heroin addict as an IV-drug user.

"I think we skipped a generation in education," said Detective Lt. Peter Donohue of the Nassau County Police Department's Narcotics Vice Squad. "The young kids don't see the perils with heroin."

Parents, too, may be unaware of the perils of heroin. The Ciappas have channeled their grief into a mission to save other children from Natalie's fate. Above all, they want school districts to send home warnings to parents when there are reports of heroin use or arrests.

"They teach the kids about everything and update them on everything. They tell parents about head lice and pinkeye, and yet they're keeping quiet about this."

The Ciappas helped pass Long Island's "Natalie's Law," which requires officials to post on the web heroin related arrests by location, frequency, and age of those arrested.

Appearing at a local civic association meeting, Doreen Ciappa pointed to a poster of Natalie and told parents: "This picture was taken nine days before my daughter died. This is today's heroin addict. This is what they look like. They look like everybody's kids."

Some districts are reaching out to parents. Alan Groveman, Superintendent of the Connetquot School District, also spoke at the meeting the Ciappas attended.

"Schools in some cases are concerned that it will give them a reputation of a drug haven or an outlaw building that is problematic," Groveman said. "We've taken the opposite approach," he said. "The children are at stake and that's really the issue."

Victor Ciappa says his daughter had everything going for her, until heroin came into her life. "She had everything to live for. And I just never wondered 'cause I never thought it was an issue. I never thought a kid like that would ever dabble with something as scary as heroin."

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Filed under: Drugs
soundoff (383 Responses)
  1. calso

    Kate.. so sorry for your loss. Go to learn 2cope support group
    out of Brockton Mass.... There are people their that would love to
    talk to you.....They too have been there. My son is in jail.. Heroin....
    God Bless you...

    April 13, 2009 at 1:20 pm |
  2. Randy

    I have read all these postings with great interest, having been a former drug user. I was never a heroin user, cocaine was my drug of choice, but I can certainly relate to Allen's comment about the availability of a $5 high being both enticing and terrifying at the same time. I know I could never go back to being a "casual" cocaine user. If I were to do just one line of coke, it would never be enough.

    The amount of money I spent on coke over the years just sickens me. The coke was pretty much freely available to me, or so it seemed at the time. I had a great job (emphasis on had), and money was not an issue for me. I was lucky to get out alive, and with my family still intact. I never realized the negative effects coke use was having on me and my friends until it was too late for some of them. Failed marriages, traffic accidents, lost jobs, jail, and death. I was above it all, enjoying the "high". But sooner or later, you either quit or die. I am indeed one of the lucky ones. My family convinced me to quit. Sure, I had a couple relapses, but I knew I had to quit for good or lose it all.

    I think the big question in all of this, is what was the "gateway drug" that led to my cocaine use. The gateway for me, was alcohol. I was never a big alcohol user and was scared to death of "pills and powder" but had smoked pot casually for years. Then there was the big push to eradicate pot in the late 70's, and pot became very hard to find. Instead of smoking a joint with friends after work, we would go to the bar, and when you are under the influence of alcohol, even the worst idea doesn't sound so bad. Somebody talked me into trying coke, and the rest is history.

    I would like to see marijuana legalized, taxed, and sold in much the same way as alcohol is today, but not in convenience stores. Perhaps just at the liquor store or tobacco shop. We all know what the pluses and negatives would be on this, and the pluses far outweigh the negatives.

    On the heroin, coke, etc. side of things, I would prefer to err on the side of caution. Granted, what we are doing now isn't working, but people would still die when they overdose on regulated drugs available at the corner store. I say, decriminalize, educate, and the drugs are only available via a clinic. Maybe not the best course of action, but certainly better than what we have done in the last 50 years. The best thing we would have going for us on this, is the fact that the drug problem would then be out in the open, and we could address it, not to mention the fact that it would remove motivation for the criminal element to continue to promote drug use to our children.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  3. K.W.

    Legalizing heroin are you serious??? After struggling with an oxycotton and heroin addiction I had my eyes opened I have watched 4 close friends die from heroin overdoses legalizing heroin would just make the problem worse from my eyes im a 21 year old who was offered "black" Or heroin in other words as a 10 grader in high school I guess the reason im writing this comment is cause i dont want to see kids make the same mistakes i made they got me no where in life drugs hold you back and get you in debt just to support a habit i didnt need I lost my family and friends i lost a girl who i reallly loved i gave up every thing for one habit thats not worth it kids dont do it to your parents I hurt my parents so badly i will never forgive myself for it Signs of heroin abuse are easy to spot dont be afried to ask your kids or question them . . i have been clean for over a year and a half now and love life im still recovering every day is a new day im thankfull to have i will never let my self go back down that dark and mysterious road i once traveled again SOBAR is the only way to life

    April 13, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  4. ken sawyer

    What we need to worry about is why our young want to be in a drunken stupor. This will eventually destroy the country.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  5. KWR

    This article needs to be reprinted and sent home to every parent in every school – I think people have gotten numb to the drug issues and just don't think of heroin as being an issue. People are cluess as to what their "good" kids are doing – totally clueless. Everyone is just too busy to stop and really look.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  6. DaveR

    There will NEVER be anything done about the prohabition of sttreet drugs. The shadow government in the USA won't allow it. Who cares if children are poisoned by the stuff. The religious zelots and industral interests preside over logic in the USA. I have no doubts that 20 years from now we will still have a war on drugs. The war on drugs started in 1972 by Richard Nixon, he was reacting to the viet nam vets, trying to punish them for they brought back the new habit, loosing the war...

    “Prohibition… goes beyond the bound of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded” -Abraham Lincoln

    I find those that opose the legaizing street drugs making moranic statements. What difference does it make, the war on drugs will go for another 50 years. The fact that children get poisoned will not change the course of the interests of the shadow government. There is alittle chance that Obama will change things, perhaps in a second term but this issue is off-limits and too politically incorrect to discuse because the USA is run by a shadow government. Do you see anything happening with the borders, healthcare, street drugs? We have talked about these issues for decades.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  7. F$@k the war on drugs!

    Hmmm...you have to wonder how Afghanistan produces over 50% of the worlds poppy and we as americans consume over 80% of the worlds poppy. How is is that all the dope makes it here? Hmmm? The Taliban for the years prior to our illegal invasion, were burning poppy fields, knowing that the illegal ops being conducted (drugs for arms, remember Ollie North, he even mentioned Bin Laden during the Iran Contra hearings) were supporting terrorist-style secret military operations in the middle east. Guns aren't made in Compton, Cocaine doesn't grow in Miami and Heroin is not grown in North America today (The Chinese did introduce it and grow in BC, Canada many years ago). The people that are bringing you these wonderful treats (sarcasim)...are the same people that are arresting you for these treats. The War on Drugs is a multi-billion $$ industry. YES folks...it is a business. Think about Oklahoma...the number one employer in the state is the government, mostly for those employed through the state and federal prison systems. Again...YES...more people in the state of Oklahoma work in prisons then anything else. So...what do you do with their jobs when you stop arresting everyone for non-violent drug use and put them in rehab where they belong? See what I'm saying...

    The powers that be want control...if not money, drugs. If not drugs, by keeping folks poor and under-educated. Either way, keeping the masses in check through drugs, money (stealin our 401k) , education (or lack there of) or just plain lying, it seems to be working.

    We the people need to stand and fight against the select few (the uber rich) that continue to write new policies and follow old ones so that only their own coffers can be filled, as we the people have to continue reading stories about everyday hardworking people and their families that are continually dragged into the middle of this war...not the war on drugs...but the war wagged by a select few (uber rich) to control the masses for their own greed and power.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  8. K

    The choice between prohibition and legalization is not an easy one. There will be winners and losers with both choices; but that means that we have to more honestly look at what has been going on and perhaps admit we need to choose the lesser of two evils.

    I used to only be for the legalization of marijuana (which as a non-user I could go on and on about as far as taxes, lack of danger, hemp products, hemp oil being 80-90% more efficient than corn ethanol, etc.), but really, the trick here, as many have pointed out, is the control of the DISTRIBUTION.

    As a teenager in PA in late 90s early 00s, pot was everywhere. We definitely had beer at parties, but it was a LOT harder to come by, as were cigarettes. Why? Because we had to find someone of age willing to buy it to us and then distribute it to a minor. I also was a product of DARE, where I learned what every drug was and how to use it, I didn't even know what pot was before 5th grade DARE (but I did know about heroine because an extra pure hit of it had just left my four cousins without a mother). My aunt dying was the only campaign I ever needed to never do a hard drug, although I can easily find them.

    What this says to me is legalizing might enable a few more conscience-minded people to try a hard drug, but very few. Legalizing will allow us to more easily monitor where people are getting drugs and what is in them. Laced drugs and different potency are normally what kill people (although people can always go overboard, alcohol as a great example).

    Therefore, while I think it is a hard choice to make, we might as well TRY legalization for a few years. I don't know if it would be worse, but at least we wouldn't be trying a policy that we know is failing. Or at least we would know it was time to go back to a policy that was doing a little better.

    I loved the point someone made about cigarette usage decreasing with ad campaigns and education. Hiding illegal drugs underground and adding that stigma doesn't help. A stigma of users will always exist, but lets control and mold that stigma to prevent more users, instead of shroud it in mystery.

    People will always use. Let's make it harder to take advantage of minors and at least try to make safer for those who make that personal, adult, decision. Clean out the jails, stop making sick people (addicts) criminals, and spend the money on education campaigns and rehab.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  9. jojo

    my son was found dead twice and revived twice...herion dealers should take their own drug as punishment...jail time will not deter the users or dealers to stop...jail time only gives them new contacts to expand their little businesses....my son means nothing to these dealers, therefore they should use their own drugs as punishment

    April 13, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  10. troy

    interesting commentary at the end of this article re legalizing drugs.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  11. Bob

    For those who think that cartels will still sell drugs after they are legalized and regulated let me ask you this:

    When was the last time a bootlegger asked you if you wanted to buy a bottle of moonshine?

    When was the last time someone was hanging out side the tobacco store offering you some of his homegrown tobacco?

    It doesn't happen. When drugs are legalized and regulated, the economies of scale will run illegal distribution out of the market. Period. I'm sure there were a few moonshiners even after prohibition ended, but five years later they were gone.

    And for the people who think that suddenly 50% of the population will start using cocaine or heroin if it's legal, let me ask you:

    Will you go out and buy heroin if it's legal? Will your spouse? Will your friends, and family? Anyone who wants to do "hard" drugs already are. Prohibition is not stopping ANYONE from using drugs. If you want to do them, you already are. And if you don't (like 80% of the population), then you're not going to suddenly start.

    The least we can do is take the money away from street gangs and cartels, regulate the purity to make it safer to use, and redirect our prison and WoD spending to treatment.

    Enough with the "think about the children" moral crap.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  12. Brian O'Reilly

    Re: Legalization Problems

    I have heard three main issues being taken up vis-a-vis legalization.
    They are:

    1.) Making drugs legal will make them easier for kids to acquire.

    2.) Legalizing Drugs like pot will increase fatal accidents, like fatal DUIs, in the U.S.

    3.) Drugs are bad.

    In response to one: That is not in any way necessarily true. Prohibiting drugs to be sold only from licensed vendors will make it harder, not easier, for them to be acquired first hand. I attend a prestigious University located just outside of Boston, MA (on the red line), and can more easily acquire pot on my campus than cigarettes. Why? Cigarettes are not sold on campus, and are only sold by vendors. I can buy pot from any of the three drug dealers I know of in my dorm, no questions asked. By making drugs legal, and raising the legal age on the most destructive ones to 23 or 24, they will be unable for college students to acquire. These drugs will be much cheaper than illegal imports, as well (smuggling raises prices), and will destroy illegal growth. Again, I can buy coke rather easily, if I desired – I cannot buy liquor on campus.

    In response to 2: This idea goes hand in hand with increasing the penalties of all behavior-related offenses for drug use. Significantly.

    In response to 3: Then we should stop making them "cool" as a culture. Face it, teenagers are and will always be rebellious. _Increase_ the social stigma against drug addiction, increase education on the mind-boggling stupidity of becoming an addict, and control the distribution. You cannot stop a reasonably sneaky teenager who wants to from trying _any_ street drug. You can set up a social climate where being a regular user is not glamorous. See the comment by Bert from the Netherlands, above.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:08 pm |
  13. Andrea M

    While I give my condolences to the family for their loss, it must be noted that the traditional notion with heroin that it makes you an "instant addict" is not necessarily true. I do not deny that heroin, opium, and synthetic pharmaceutical opiates can be very addictive, I've played with that fire myself, but it's rarely a matter of "instant addiction." The human body must be subjected to the drug numerous times -perhaps in short succession, but numerous times none the less- before it's chemistry changes so that the person becomes physically addicted in that the body needs the drug to function. Many drugs can let you have enough of a good time that you want to do it again as soon as possible. Some such as LSD and MDMA are inherently self-limiting in the way they work, but they are not the majority. The drugs that are not self-limiting such as cocaine, meth, and opiates tend to be the more dangerous ones.

    As a young person, I think it is wise for parents to remain current and know what's going on in drug culture hence a quick lesson. Marijuana is considered normal. Pills are where it's at. Ecstasy is not seen as bad, but the real fun is in "pharmies." Pharmaceutical drugs that are easily available in the medicine cabinet that can be sold and traded like anything else. The general symptoms of ecstasy use are a big smile, lots of affection, enlarged pupils, staying awake till 4 or 5 in the morning, and attending raves, though most kids are smart enough not to tell their parents they're going to a rave. Glowsticks, LED finger lights, fuzzy leg warmers, "kandi" bracelets made of colorful plastic and foam beads, and pacifiers are the paraphernalia. Ecstasy generally comes in tablets stamped with simple designs such as letters, numbers, crowns, stars, ladies and occasional cartoon characters. Sometimes ecstasy also comes in powder form in caplets. Pharmie use isn't as easy to pin down. Symptoms are generally those of the individual pharmaceutical. phe pills of course look like regular percocet, klonopen, or whatever else you have. The best defense against pharmie usage is to keep track of your pills. Discard all medication after you no longer need it or if you plan to keep it, count the number of pills left in the bottle and periodically re-check to make sure they're all still there.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:07 pm |
  14. Ron

    My heart goes out to the family of this child. Drugs and alcohol are killing so many people. Everyone, please talk with your children, and better yet anyone that is important to you. This situation can happen to anybody. I blame the media for glamorizing it. We see it all of the time in the tv, reality shows, movies, and what do we do about it? I will tell you....we spend our hard earned money and watch more. We chase it and we love it. I could just cry right now, because it does not have to happen. Again I urge you all to pray for your friends and your families and talk to them about the consequences.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:06 pm |
  15. Adam

    Legalize all drugs now. The war on drugs is a complete failure that wil never ever be won. Legalize drugs and take the criminal element out of it. Dispense and tax the drugs and control them through government pharmacies. The war on drugs is a complete waste of time and money. Alcohol is by far the most deadly and damaging substance on the earth and accounts for more deaths that any other substance.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  16. rob

    Good for Japan. I think they are doing the right thing by kicking out the 2 parentswho lied, falsified official docs, and continued to break the law. The 13 year old girl is lucky that Japan is allowing her to stay,I think that he should be ashamed, as ashamed as the people who sell things to kids that reek havoc on our schools. I call on every reading this to shut down the people selling stink bombs at http://www.dirtyrottenpranks.com they are low lifes.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:03 pm |
  17. David

    So for the last 30 years and this so called war on drugs by the US government has been a sham.

    If it were not this type of story would not even make the list.

    The mexican border with the US is still wide open and tons of crap comes into this country and yet there are arguments that the border should not be fenced.

    Think again.

    April 13, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  18. Rick

    You know what I like? Scotch drinkers sitting around the bar talking about how bad drugs are

    April 13, 2009 at 1:01 pm |
  19. Michael Zlogar

    War on Drugs. Let's make it a true war! If someone uses drugs, then they are the emeny. The first time they are caught, they must turn over their supplier's and serve one year in a prison camp. The second time they are sent to a prison camp in the middle of the desert. They stay there until the war is over. Anyone caught selling drugs receives the death penalty.
    End of War

    April 13, 2009 at 1:00 pm |
  20. John Hogeski

    The question is why do teenagers, kids and college students think they have to try drugs? The argument I have heard again and again and again from these kids are that they want to satisfy a curiosity. If they don't try herion, cocaine, pot whatever, they will always feel like they are missing out on something, even if they don't like it, they need to know what it is like. How could they be so dumb, really. Sound harsh? Harsh is these kids dying. I am 25 and never felt the urge to do drugs, even when most of my high school class used. Everyone, I mean everyone knew they were bad, but for some reason, only a few of us had the sense to relize that bad is bad, not that well its bad but still why not try it. Dumb

    April 13, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
  21. Troy

    We don't want to make our Mexican neighbors angry by actually securing our Southern Border. It's so important that the Hotel, Agriculture, Food Service and Construction industry that contribute so generously to political campaigns have a cheap exploitable source of labor. We don't want to interfere with their business interests. Look at all Hilton and Tyson do for America. And if the drug cartels are smart enough to exploit this egregious lapse then its a worthwhile trade off right? I mean what can a few thousand tons of narcotics hurt?
    We would never want to anger our Southern neighbors would we?
    Aren't the profits for a few powerful interest more important than our national security or the interest of a few American families?
    Isn't that why we elect smart people to public office, so they can make careers out of not solving problems?

    April 13, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  22. Cindy

    To Anna in the Three Village Distrct:
    I lost my son and his girlfriend last May 3rd to heroin overdose. I (and her parents) had no clue they were using. They were both outstanding college students and had just received summer jobs. I was the one to find them on that horrifying Saturday morning. Yes they are the best liars. My life will never be the same. I pray for any addict to get HELP. It is out there..

    April 13, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  23. manta

    That's the point.
    Keep it illegal and you can change nothing. It is for young people even more attractive to use illegal drugs. Even so I see a problem with legalizing all drugs but what do we win by keeping the users of illegal drugs in the shadow of our society? We can not help them and we can not stop their behavior hurting themselves.
    We need to think seriously about solving the drug problem and if one of the solutions is to legalize all drugs then we might have to go this route.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:52 pm |
  24. Dave in VA

    Natalie Ciappa is dead because she put a deadly substance in her body. She did so because she managed to acquire that substance. Legalization would increase the frequency of such tragedies.

    The ease with which decriminalization advocates ignore the human cost of addiction and make the spurious case for the financial benefits is appalling. If paying tens of billions of dollars is the cost society bears for keeping drug-addled menaces away from my kids, then it's a small price to pay. If you're willing to allow your kid to "experiment" with heroin just as you would let them have a beer in your house, under your supervision, well, I'm afraid no amount of sense can be wasted on you. Drugs and alcohol are not the same in effect or consequence, and equating either their effects or suggesting that if one is legal, then all ought to be, is logically fallacious.

    The "legalization" side fails to consider one terrible, real consequence of the implementation of their program: the fact that a great many inexperienced first-time users are going to kill themselves trying drugs after decriminalization. If we as a society can legislate this collective suicide into possibility–and that's what it'll be, and mostly among the young–then we've really come to a sorry pass.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:49 pm |
  25. Robert

    That Republican war on drugs is really succeeding. How many more innocent children will we let be murdered of overdoses or gunshot wounds before we start helping drug abusers instead of trying to turn them into criminals just so they can't vote for Democrats.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:48 pm |
  26. Raoul

    The problem is "lessons not learned" the war on drugs should maintain a constant front aimed at the newest generation and be "psychological". Every other generation in America will be forced to learn over and over the lessons of addictive drugs until society mounts a sustained campaign to keep it's use to a minimum.

    Now after the horrors of the 60's heroin is becoming popular again because these parents, like other's, assume their kids know about how dangerous this is. It is poison and should be marketed as such.

    Schools, churches, civic groups as well as goverments should be repeating the message drugs are a crap shoot, at best an unnecessary problem you create for yourself, a death sentence at worst, it murders futures and generally waste time better put to making the next step to eventual happiness and self preservation.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:48 pm |
  27. Anon

    I've got an idea, annex Mexico and Columbia–drug problem solved! No seriously, I lost my best friend to a heroin induced suicide a year after she started using. I don't see legalizing pot bringing her back any time in the next century. I also don't see a non-marijuana user fighting for legalization, so, there's your statistic.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:47 pm |
  28. RJ

    A lot of talk about legalizing marijuana – that's good. But this article is about HEROIN. On this page, I have read from Criminal Justice career-types that advocate for the legalization of pot. This is probably a very good idea but has NOTHING to do with heroin.
    People say the war on drugs is not working and that we should legalize narcotics and take the profit out of the equation.
    What would that accomplish – (and I am not talking about pot)? How are you to legalize heroin? And how is it dispensed? And how much would a private company charge? You're telling me that a little packet that goes on the street for around 5-10 dollars is going to be available to a junkie for that price once it gets legalized. Get real.

    Private companies will see the angle and jack up the costs. Once you have a market, you can drive the price. The makers of Oxycontin can attest to that.

    Yes – legalize pot. It should not be part of the war on drugs. But the war on drugs in new. It wasn't around 20 years ago. Give it a chance. We cannot allow these narcotics to slip into the mainstream of life – legal or not.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:47 pm |
  29. Tommy

    It is tragic to hear of this family's loss. It is also clear that law enforcement alone cannot solve this problem.
    As many comments here allude to, the "war on drugs" has failed. It has failed to curb either the supply or demand for drugs. Some even say that the "war on drugs" has even made things worse, encouraging a booming black market of unregulated, deadly products.
    The only thing the drug was has not failed at is making money. The amount of money spend on drug enforcement is incredible. Our law enforcement agencies are bloated.
    Every time I see someone pulled over for a simple traffic stop, there are multiple police cars "on the scene." Every time a young person gets pulled over, you can expect an arbitrary search for drugs with the flimsiest of premises. Why? Because it makes a lot of money. Besides, if the police don't use up all the federal money they got this year, they can't ask for more next year, right?
    It seems that the central idea of the "war on drugs" is not to fight the use of drugs, but to make money from it.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  30. Jeremy B.

    Americans need to start having a rational and reasoned discussion on better ways to handle our drug consumption. Prohibition has failed and the harm done by its enforcement is FAR worse than what it intended to protect us from. Bring drug distribution and regulation into the sunshine and these criminal empires will collapse overnight just like they did at the end of alcohol prohibition.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  31. Learn to Cope

    Dear Bill ...

    The heroin "sold" in the early 1900's was not 80 – 90% pure

    The weed that we smoked back 30 years ago was not hydroponically modified.

    Technology changes all things...

    Opiates kill .

    http://www.learn2cope.org

    April 13, 2009 at 12:40 pm |
  32. pat

    Make pot legal so I can have some right now.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:39 pm |
  33. Christina

    Come on, CNN, you can do better than that. Not ONE of you thought it might be inappropriate to run a story about a girl's death via heroin overdose under the heading "AM Fix?"
    It's a sad and powerful story – which deserves more thoughtful placement.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:38 pm |
  34. ThinkAboutIt

    Legalizing drugs will not fix the problem. People abuse prescription drugs (which are legal) just as they abuse illegal ones.

    My prayers go out to this family. Parents need to open the lines of communication with their kids and show them stories such as this one so they realize that the risks are real. Those that have loved ones addicted to heroin need to know that withdrawal from heroin can be deadly and that it is best done in a faciliy with medical assistance.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:37 pm |
  35. Tony Dunne

    I hate to admitt this.............. but for a country that can send men to the moon, four decades ago ! how difficult can it be stop this problem
    This country has a drug industry both legal and illegal that is out of control, and so I can not see how this can ever be brought under control........ unless of course its in the governments " best intrests"
    So who will really reform health care ,and do something about the drug epedimic !

    April 13, 2009 at 12:36 pm |
  36. michael james hawk

    i love the irony of the name "amFIX" to this heroin story.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:36 pm |
  37. Steve G

    And our wonderful politicians such as His Majesty, Sheldon Silver wants to redo our drug laws and let many offenders out of jail. That's an absolutely great idea, this way they can resume selling this poison to our kids. He wants to release "non-violent" offenders with convictions as high as Class "B" felonies. All these offenders are "non-violent". Why should they have to be violent? All they have to do is peddle this stuff non-violently. There is too much money involved in this stuff. It's an easy way to make big bucks.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
  38. Kate

    I've never heard of anyone getting into an accident caused by MARIJUANA! But yet look at the alcohol related accidents! People who smoke marijuana eat and sleep, they don't worry me. My daughter was out on a Saturday in a club and there say 5 police officers, all drinking. When they left she ran outside to see who was driving, sadly they all were!

    April 13, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
  39. Chryssa

    Well the parents really screwed up, didn't they? Even a half-wit knows you can't just "take yourself off" heroin. They should have put their daughter in rehab.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
  40. Suzanne

    The war on drugs has always been a big part of the problem. True, I am hesitant to think about the idea of legalizing hard drugs like heroin, but if they were tightly controlled it would make it much harder for kids to get them. As far as marijuana, it should most certainly be legalized, taxed and sold to adults. I'm not a pothead – I don't buy the stuff- I smoke maybe 2 or 3 times a year if I go to a party where it happens to be available. As such, I can attest it is much less of a problem than alcohol.
    Bert makes a great point about the Netherlands. Take the drugs out of the hands of criminals and use tax proceeds for education purposes and many of your problems are solved. Drug addicts are people with deep psychological problems. They need help, not prison.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:35 pm |
  41. Morg in Tombstone

    It's been true forever: There are kids who are survivors, and there are kids who will self-destruct at the earliest opportunity.

    We don't have to repeal the drug laws. We just have to stop enforcing them. Let's accelerate this thinning of the herd. Survival of the fittest. At the end of this, only survivors will remain, and the drug dealers will have to get a real job.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:34 pm |
  42. Keith

    Tragic story.

    One question... why the HELL would CNN run a story with a headline "Heroin cheaper than six-pack of beer". Way to promote a cheap high you idiots.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:30 pm |
  43. Bobby Nakka

    I love how everyone quotes saying "I used to drive on marijuana its ok". Everything seems to be fine until something dangerous happens. Like I thought I could drive drunk in college and one nite I stopped in the middle of the intersection at the red light. Thank heavens there was no traffic because I had friends in the car with me.

    It is very easy to claim the number of fatalities because of pot are zero, an illegal drug never has accurate stats. The chances of a "pot smoker" wanting to stay home in comfort and not going out to buy more stuff is because the drug is illegal and hence risky to be seen in public. Make it legal and you will see tons of them out there thinking they are sober enough to drive.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  44. Matthew

    My heart goes out to this family, this is a sad and terrible story, however I think it points out that kids want to party, and they party with whatever is available. You deny them beer and marijuana, now you introduce something "better" and cheaper that we (the responsible adults) have never even seen and concieved (snortable, smokable, injectable high quality heroin). Is this what we've driven our children to?

    April 13, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  45. Renelle

    "For every one hundred women ages 18 to 44, thirty five had antidepressants prescribed, seventeen had narcotic painkillers prescribed. From the ages 44 to 64 the numbers are 58 and 28, respectively.
    For every one hundred men ages 18 to 44, eighteen had antidepressants prescribed and eleven has narcotic pain killers prescribed. From the ages 44 to 64 the numbers are 30 and 23."
    -The Happiness Myth

    We need to rethink what drugs are considered socially acceptable, and therefore not criminal, when everyone who uses drugs legally or illegally are just looking for the same thing, short term happiness. The same thing that is sought with your morning cup of coffee or cigarette.
    I believe that when something is hard to get, it makes someone want it that much more. In wanting whatever feeling it gives you, the user tries to get the best feeling possible because they have been denied it for so long, which would lead to the majority of overdoses.
    If drugs were legalized, even in weaker forms, im sure this problem would drop dramatically.
    What makes a drugs good or bad is a cultural issue.
    I can't explain it better than the book The Happiness Myth (Why what we think is right is wrong) by Jennifer Michael Hecht.
    Read it! you won't regret it, and it may just change your ideas.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:27 pm |
  46. Bradford

    whatever happened to getting drunk and passing out as opposed to overdosing on some nasty street drug. use alcohol not drugs. it may not be cheaper but it's more fun!

    April 13, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  47. HeyZues

    If you legalize the marijuana several things would happen. First, the #1 cash crop for drub cartels goes down the toilet. it becomes utterly worthless to them, seeing that you would be able to buy a clean/untampered version at any gas station in a 20 pack. You raise tax money, as now the 'potheads' would now buy it legally and be taxed with it. It could also be regulated better. noone under 18 can smoke grass, etc.

    A few other things come to mind. I have never once seen, nor heard of a person that smoked a joint ever robbing a gas-station, pharmacy, bank. I have heard of several people being killed though when they mistakenly walked up on a illegal farm growing the stuff. It would also allow a more open debate on the fears, and actual harms of the stuff, instead of that garbage 'reefer madness' that the government and most religious groups talk about.. We would not see a dramatic move to grass. I think this is the biggest mis-information out htere, just because you make something legal, doesn;t mean people are going to flock to it. Cigarettes are legal, and so is booze, but not everyone smokes or drinks.. That argument is a fallacy.

    Any finally, think of the bottom line for people like McDonalds, Wendy's, White Castle.. They'll see exponential growth.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  48. Bigman

    I think people miss the perception about marijuana and all drugs out there. Plain and simple....IT IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU AND YOUR HEALTH!!! GET THIS THROUGH YOUR EVERY WHICH WAY THINKING! Why do people think they have to debate what the benefits are for doing it? THERE ARE NO BENEFITS! THE ONLY BENEFITS YOU GET FROM IT IS ALZHEIMERS AND, OR LUNG CANCER, AND OR BRAIN CANCER, AND OR OTHER RELATED DISEASES TO GO ALONG WITH IT. ALSO, SLEEPING ALL DAY IS ANOTHER DISEASE. LAZINESS IS ANOTHER DISEASE. PULLING BACK FROM SOCIETY IS ANOTHER, BI-POLAR, CHEMICAL IMBALANCES, DEPRESSION, SCIZOPHRENIA. COME ON PEOPLE...WAKE THE HELL UP!! STOP FOOLING YOURSELVES!

    April 13, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  49. Linc

    People who think prohibition just adds to the problem are naive and ignorant and do not take into account that at one time all these drugs like heroin, cocaine and other banned substances were at one time legal and sold to anyone with money to buy and try. This resulted in not only an epidemic of addiction and deaths from Ill suited use but also the formation of what we now know as the DEA and other government agencies who now monitor the introduction of new drugs that can be prescribed for medicinal use to the public. . At some point whole countries were helpless in their efforts to control their drug problems and in this culture we have no one who can honestly say that our with the state of our education efforts and the failure of our media(Cinema,Television) to be responsible in helping to raise a anti-drug culture especially among our teens, that once the door was open for anyone to get high and addicted that it would be the greatest sin against our future one could ever conceive.

    if a certain drug is easier to get, the more possible addicts will come into contact with it.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  50. Matt Jensen

    To Jack:
    Your claims are ridiculous. Just because something is made legal does not deem it acceptable to youth. I live in Canada, where, obviously, tobacco products are legal. However, you can rest 100% sure that each pack of cigarettes has some warning ranging from "It can kill your children" to "This is what your heart looks like after smoking cigarettes" with a beautiful picture of a dark black heart. In fact, making drugs appear acceptable is illegal. There aren't TV commercials talking about how cool it is to smoke anymore. I am nineteen years old and I can tell you first hand that the reason people don't use drugs like heroine is NOT because it is illegal. If anything, that is WHY they use drugs. Teenagers and young adults can easily find somewhere to, without fear of being arrested, do illegal things. Young people who use drugs fit, to me, in two classes: Those who were bound do to it, and those who do it because of indirect pressure from their peers.
    Also, you stated that "very few people driving upon consumption of 1 to 2 drinks will die, but people might die from 1 to 2 doses of heroine, especially if they drive". OBVIOUSLY the legality of hard drugs like heroine come with HARD illegalities with regards to driving under the influence, being under the influence in public, and maybe most importantly, selling the hard drug (that will be left to the government). The FDA is not going to release a version that you can still drive after taking a dose or two, so people will face the same consequences, maybe even harsher, that people experience when driving under the influence of previously illegal drugs like alcohol.
    There are clearly both pros and cons to legalizing and maintaining in their illegal state, hard drugs. However, this has proven to me and many others to be a situation where the pros of legalizing drugs highly overshadows the cons.
    Contrary to popular belief, not all people who smoke weed frequently or "potheads" want marijuana to be legal solely for the purpose of walking down the street smoking a joint. No, we (as I may fall into that category) want to see it legalized for the many reasons other people have posted above. Potheads are not the slums of society, some are very successful. When an opportunity to make our government more profitable without taking money from the taxpayers, why not take it?

    April 13, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  51. D. Kay

    I am from Salt Lake City, Everyone knows whats going on, but no one talks about it. Teens – Young Adults justify using prescription meds becouse ( a doctor gave them to me) than with the large mexican population here.... turn to cheeper heroin, its everywhere in our streets, I have been clean since october with no intrest in going back to my old life. We need to put more funding into the Drug Court Systems, they work.....

    April 13, 2009 at 12:25 pm |
  52. Liz

    None of the above comments address the many ethical issues of drug use. Everyone is so set on debating legalization vs. keep drugs illegal that they ignore this important part of the problem. When kids are taught about drugs in school they never learn about how their mindless choice will impact communities in other parts of the world, as well as inner city ghettoes in the US plagued by gang violence. What they buy and put into their bodies does not just effect them selves and their families. Of course if the world ethical impact of drug use in America was taught in our schools, then we would also need to address other ethical issues of our mindless consumerism and no one wants to do that.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:24 pm |
  53. Matt

    Marijuana is a plant. Heroine, meth and ecstacy are drugs which are manufactured by combining certain chemicals. Last year spinach killed more people then marijuana, but has it been banned? Alcohol and tobacco are both legal, yet are to blame for thousands of deaths yearly, yet how many deaths are linked to marijuana? Im pretty sure everyone reading this is intelligent enough to realize that the tobacco and liquer companies would lose billions if marijuana were legalized tomorrow. So it's safe to say that all these ignorant anti marijuanna ads we see on tv are paid for by them..they are in fact the masters of deceptive advertisement.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:21 pm |
  54. Robert Fisterpun

    This article does not demonstrate the danger of drugs as it does the stupidity of people. First of all how dense do you have to be to not send your daughter, who has just overdosed on heroin to rehab? Anyone with the slightest tinge of common sense knows that any addict unwilling to get help will not admit they are addicted. That's the point of addiction your body will trick you in to believing you need a substance. Any responsible parent wouldn't have sent their child to treatment. Secondly America's drug education program is absolutely absurd. Ask any teenager who has been through D.A.R.E or and similar program about drug use, they say the programs are ineffective. In many cases students will tell you programs such as these made them more likely to explore drug use. The programs often harp on negativity and do not educate. The programs use scare tactics to try and influence children and many do not respond well. Drug education should be honest, rather than a Disney channel special. Information about drugs need to come from someone who students can trust and respect, not from a system that they aren't sure of. And lastly whoever decided it would be a good idea to put known heroin users on a website for the public to see is a TERRORIST. People have the right to live private lives in this country and not be subjected to scrutiny by the powers to be. However tragic a drug related death is we must not forget that it is a persons individual right to chose to do a drug or not. While it may be hard for the deceased's family it was her choice to use drugs, live by the sword, die by the sword. Furthermore and again if her parents had had an ounce of brain cells they would have sent her to treatment and she might not have died. THERE IS NO NEED FOR INTRUSIVE LAWS such as this one. Parents in this country need to get off their fat asses and start raising their children instead of letting TV and a failing education system to do it for them.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  55. david

    This is in response to Harold's comment which he's hinting at making all drugs legal.

    It's absolutely absurd, and more or less a complete waste of time to suggest that all drugs be legalized in this country, or any other country for that matter. Can you seriously imagine the dangers that would be added to our society if we could go to the drug store and buy a bag of herion, or cocaine, or PHP?

    It may seem like the logical approach to "legalize everything" with the hopes that it will deter some individuals from using, but then again, smoking kills its users, and that doesn't stop people from smoking, why would making it legal to buy a $5 bag from Sinclair stop people from using herion?

    April 13, 2009 at 12:18 pm |
  56. Moe

    AWESOME! hope all the drug addicts OD. stop wasting my space, breathing my air and consuming MY RESOURCES you miserable excuses for human life. Your corpse isnt even fit for pothole filler or kitty litter.

    So shoot up! Snort up! whatever ever it takes to get the heck off my planet. You are useful as worm food and fertilizer. that's it.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:16 pm |
  57. Parnell Meagre

    My sympathy to the family.

    I am impressed by the overall thoughtful nature of most of these posts. Almost all seem to have come to the conclusion that the laws must change. Isn't it time for our lawmakers to catch up to the people?

    April 13, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  58. John

    A tragic ending for a beautiful young girl. It appears difficult to support legalization when tragedies like this are occurring all around us.

    But it should be obvious by now that the more repression we exert towards eradication, the more valuable these commodities become. More money means more profit and more of the very people we are trying to eliminate. Prohibition appears like quicksand to me.

    If we legalized drugs, perhaps we could change the situation from a criminal problem to a medical problem. Having control of these substances would allow for the regulation of the purity of drugs like heroin. Legalizing marijuana now, would go a long way towards removing the bulk of the profits that the gangs realize from illegal drugs. Then we could move on to how best to handle the others...

    April 13, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  59. scott

    legalize, cut prison population down, pump money into education, treatment, infrastructure.

    NOW!

    prohibition *is* multifaceted terrorism.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:14 pm |
  60. Evan

    The idea of legalizing all drugs is absolutely ridiculous. Certain drugs such as marijuana should be legalized due to the risk associated. Marijuana does little harm to the user and the user usually does not exhibit aggressive behavior. For marijuana the dangers come from the people who sell it; not all, but some of the marijuana dealers are violent. Anyone who thinks cocaine, heroin, meth, and any other highly manipulated or processed drug should be legal is an idiot. The drug cartels would attack the farmers, hijack shipments, attack the factories that make the drugs legally, and then sell it back to us. Also people who do drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or meth exhibit violent or criminal behaviors. A heroin addict would still steal or kill to get heroin even if it is legal. People who say it should be legalized don't understand the lethality of these drugs and how hard it is to quit. We already have two highly dangerous and addictive drugs that are legal, should we add more to that list? We had these drugs legal at one point and that didn't work, we now have them all illegal and that also isn't working. Picking the least dangerous ones, and making them legal would be the best choice. Marijuana and mushrooms are two drugs that should be legalized. Anyone who has gone mushroom picking and eaten mushrooms understands why they should be legal, education on how to use it and the safest way to use it is what needs to occur. Most other drugs should still be illegal; these drugs are dangerous and making them legal does not decrease the dangers associated with them.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:13 pm |
  61. Christian

    For those of you advocating drugs have obviously never used the hardcore drugs like heroin. Pot is one thing but the more hardcore drugs will be just as devastating if legalized as they are today.

    1. For those of you who think it will be harder for teens to get drugs are not being honest with themselves. Just as alcohol is illegal for anyone under 21; more hardcore drugs will be just as easy to get.

    2. Legalizing pot will not stop people from wanting or trying more hardcore drugs. Even though drinking is illegal for people under 21 teens are still turning to other substances. Both alcohol and pot are considered gateway drugs to their more powerful cousins.

    3. In reality the justice system will lose money if drugs are legalized. If anyone doubts this please visit your local courthouse and sit through some proceedings of drug court and total the amount of money collected from court fees and restitution's. Then imagine that nation wide and you will see the actual amount of money the court systems bring in to US coffers.

    4. Education is the key and just not education targeted at teens and children. Even adults need to be educated about the effects of drugs on our nation.

    5. Many people have overdosed from alcohol or died because of alcohol related accidents but that will be nothing compared to deaths related to legalized heroin or cocaine. They have the power to kill with the first use and are much more addictive. Tobacco companies today modify the nicotine content of cigarettes, wait until they get a hold of heroin or cocaine. You may say that the government will regulate the strength of street drugs but look at how well they control tobacco companies. Legalizing drugs will just create more powerful "drug companies" with more influence on US policy because now they will have a stake in the manufacture and distribution of drugs. What will be the difference between them and the drug cartels of the today.

    6. In addition, you will create destabilizing forces in the countries that produce drugs now. Unfortunately the US does not support the kind of environment for some drugs so we will have to still rely on outside markets.

    7. Finally, anyone who have never used heroin I suggest you try it before you make any informed decisions. Heroin is much more physically addictive than any other drug out there. What happens you create a nation of heroin addicts who cannot help but use because they are too sick to do anything else. Wake up one morning and realize that you cannot do anything until you have to get your first "gate shot" in the morning. Life takes second place to your addiction. That includes your families, work, health; everything you hold dear will not seem as important. If you think I am being dramatic ask someone you know who is using heroin or crack. If you don't know anyone visit a local drug rehab and talk to a counselor or too. You will notice also that many of the addicts in the rehab are not you common everyday bums, crack heads, or dope fiends but doctors, lawyers, and housewives.

    A lot more is at stake. I pray that it is never legalized.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:08 pm |
  62. Doug

    Freedom and responsibility must be balanced or our society will continue to self-destruct!

    Let's legalize drugs for adults and make the users fully responsible for the results. Use taxes from drug sales strictly for education, rehab and to compensate those of us that are victimized by drug users.

    Go ahead and destroy your life, but stop using the power of government to make the rest of us suffer because of your or other people's bad choices.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  63. KF

    There is an abundance of evidence that drug need to be legalized and controlled. Regardless of whether or not you legalize drugs, there will always be drug addicts. That is true of anything, alcohol is legal and we still have alcoholics, prescription drugs are legal and we still have people addicted to those. By default America might as well focus on controlling them and making the money that currently drug dealers are making off of them.

    Also, to touch on a point about Europe and thei policies. I grew up in Europe and I am an American. The drinking age where I lived with 16. Pot was also legal where I grew up. I have never smoked pot and I was drunk one time as a teenager. I moved to America for College and I have never seen a more drunk and stoned population of youth as I have in America. You take the stigma away and all the restrictions it will be much less of a problem than it is right now.

    Get with the times America.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  64. jpeak

    We need to make smart choices about ending the war on drugs.....it has not worked even a little bit. If anything, there are probably more people using drugs than in the early 1900's when many drugs were legal. Lets see what the Dutch have done and compare our drug numbers with them. I would bet that we have more drug problems, overdoses, addiction than the Dutch. I just hope that Obama will make the change that needs to be made and end that war on drugs.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  65. Kevin

    Sane Steps

    1. Legalize all drugs.
    2. Set same age restrictions as alcohol (21) (older friends will always give drug access to younger friends)
    3. Drugs made to FDA standards (quality control)
    4. Known purity creates known results
    5. Decriminalization reduces prison population, reduces expense of law enforcement, criminal trial proceedings, etc, etc.
    6. Decriminalization eliminates drug lords overnight.
    7. Decriminalization eliminates the functions of most gangs.
    8. Drugs are now taxed like any other product. Billions in net gain between this and 5.
    9. Current laws dealing with DWI already handle users under the influence.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  66. Lewis

    If not legalize or decriminalize or a shift to treatment and education then another option is to ramp up law enforcement. More money for prisons, police, courts, prosecuters, burial plots, etc. In A.A. or N.A. they say to the same thing over and over again, expecting different results is insanity. Either way, when is it time going to commit to a stragtegy. Current enforcement efforts are like draining a lake one glass at a time in the rain, though it may keep a lot of people employed. What is the end game anyway?(this definitely is not a game) Is it to end drug use(demand)? Is it to stop trafficking and distribution(supply)? Does anybody even know? CURRENT POLICIES AIN'T WORKING!!!!

    April 13, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  67. Linda

    There are those here advocating legalization of drugs: take away the profit; if the person wants to burn their own brain, let them. Etc. Problem is, people who do drugs hurt others around them. It is a selfish pursuit, but not a personal one. Some one gets high on drugs, climbs into the car, runs a red light and plows into another car or pedestrians in a crosswalk. Let's look at the track record on legalizing immoral behaviour with some for instances: alcohol = DUI's, which can lead to deaths of others; gambling to raise more city taxes = more crime, spending money you don't have while the money never goes to where it was intended (here in Los Angeles, the school system); tobacco = health problems (my dad had emphasema when he died and my mom had lung cancer from smoking); pornographic film industry (another way to up city taxes) = stepping stone to criminal behaviour such as prostitution of children, women etc; prescription drugs = rampant legal and illegal usage that poisons body and environment. Every time ethically wrong/immoral behaviour has been decriminalized, our social fabric has been torn a bit more. It encourages a further pushing of boundaries and a gradual acceptance of wrong behaviour. We don't need to legalize immoral behaviour, we need to change our way of thinking. If we were a people first society (instead of money/success first), we would not have half the problems we have today. Think about it.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  68. MB

    We have these problems because of the rebellious nature of kids. We also have kids looking for an escape. Parents are too busy chasing the mighty dollar and don't spend the time they should with their children providing them with the love, guidance, and attention they crave.
    I don't believe in legalizing drugs, but the logical side says legalize pot and give the kids something. They pressure not to use has to come from within the sub-cultures using the stuff. You can't stop it by saying, "Don't use it". Bring it out into the open and deal with it as a society. By legalizing pot we can tax it and the cartels will take a HUGE hit. Take the money from it and fund education programs. Not like cigarettes where the tax is used for everything but smoking cessation programs. If kids need an escape, they'll find one, but better one that's less likely to result in death until the issues driving the behavior can be addressed.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  69. Dan

    Does anyone actually think Barack Obama cares???

    The moral thing is to do is legalize marijuana...

    Our government has no morals..................

    April 13, 2009 at 12:00 pm |
  70. Kirk Muse

    Decriminalization of drugs is not the answer. Full legalization is the answer to the vast majority of our drug problems. Only fully legal products can be regulated, taxed and controlled by any government agency.

    Only fully legal drugs will put the drug cartels out of business.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:00 pm |
  71. patrick murphy

    my name is patrick and i am a recovering alcoholic.. I have many friends who have been or are currently addicted and using herione. It has become not just a "low income drug" but a drug that is cheap and accessible and highly potent to all types of persons.. ... our government has avoided dealing with the addiction problem for so long, now, the price of dope has been driven down and anyone can afford it.. dope dealers need to be locked away for 25 plus years if they are caught....our drug policy needs to ante up and deal with this herion epidemic...

    April 13, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  72. Mike

    Heroin is not fun. There is nothing about heroin that can possibly be recreational. Hard drugs like heroin and crack and methamphetamine are dangerous escapes from a reality that has become too warped for rational minds to deal with.

    Now these harder drugs are making their way further into society because it seems to me that more people simply don't know how to handle today's world anymore.

    We aren't talking about your 70's spiritual, chill out man stuff. This gets around the middle man and cheats your body into feeling good directly, without any reason other than buying a $10 baggie filled with who-knows-what. Its perverse what our society has come to when kids who should be enjoying themselves naturally have to resort to this to escape.

    Drugs are NOT the dissease. Drugs are a symptom of a bigger problem that most of us can't or wont see. Our civillization is hurting and we will be broken if we don't take an honest look at whats happening not later, not at the next election, but NOW.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:57 am |
  73. SidearmS

    Social attitudes the way they are today, why does this surprise anyone?

    Bigger, faster, leaner, prettier, younger – it is not just the social drugs now. Botox is accepted. Smart drinks (five hour energy) are common now. If you are not taking something, THEN something MUST BE wrong with you. Pot is almost timid compared to just about everything else, but do you ever see repeated stories on the dangers of Botox or over the counter supplements? Nope, only the stuff we DO NOT TAX, like heroin. Heroin – one of the biggest drugs to come out of where? Afghanistan. If pot came from there, the story above would be how a young girl stumbled into the dangers of pot (which to this day, no one has ever OD'ed on pot).

    Again, this starts at the top. I mean, if governors, senators, and other political officials get away with it all, why should the common person NOT want to dabble in such things?

    A governor/senator with a hooker and coke habit is only an advertisement to the common person that it must be ok if that person is doing it.

    In the age of trying to be perfect, you would be surprised at how much propping up of one's flaws there is these days. If we as a society was not in the a rush to be "perfect" (Angelina, Octo-mom, Oprah, most 1990s male actors who helped ruin it as well, you get the idea...), we as a society could be doing so much more for ourselves.

    But being perfect is "in", which is why a lot of us are left "out". And you thought NOT PAYING YOUR TAXES was the real problem.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  74. Billy Badazz

    People keep expecting the "Government" to do something about this problem. Maybe its time the "People" start taking control and confront this problem head on, that is of course provided the "Courts" dont get in the way... Yall know what I'm saying.

    Later Dayz

    April 13, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  75. Drew

    actually "NoWay" you are quite wrong on the prices. most experts estimate that with legalization the drug price will be 1/4 of what it is on the street now, and we could tax for an additional 1/4 which would effectively cut the price in half to those who choose to buy in comparison to what the average is paying now. In addition those that couldn't afford or preferred to cultivate their own, could do so. It would be regulated, and yes it is not a perfect world, there are minors who will collaborate with irresponsible adults to get "hooked up". Stats now show that minors have incredibly easier access to weed, cocaine, heroine, and various prescription medications than they do tobacco or alcohol. The prescription companies are lobbying to keep marijuana illegal as it is a cheap alternative solution for thousands of ailments and conditions, it is 100% natural and comes without the nasty side effects of internal bleeding, and the 100's of others you see in the disclaimers on medications.

    Weed is no more a gateway than cigarettes, alcohol, or oxygen for that matter. Education is a much better method of a "free country" to address a problem by prohibiting things that are believed to harm oneself.

    Like prohibition of alcohol enabled the Al Capone's, prohibition of drugs enables not just the Mexican cartels, but criminals in our streets, and yes, even the prescription industry!! (which stats show these are the most abused drugs, and yet this industry markets incredibly hard to the public, to the doctors while they gouge the prices to almost unattainable levels assisting in weighing down our health care system.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  76. lee pearson

    To Mr. Archibald's comment, I want to thank him for a thoughtful, reasonable, articulate discussion of this important issue.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:53 am |
  77. frank ward

    We have better things to do with our money,legalize, regulate and tax all drugs, use the money saved from trying to enforce outdated drug laws ,free up the over crowded prisons, use money saved for treatment centers, ,people are always attracted to something they cannot have,drug use will go up and first ,then level out and decline.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:52 am |
  78. Mike

    It's sad when my 16yr old pot selling neighbor makes more than I do working for a fortune 500 company.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  79. former_student

    I went through the Massapequa school system not too long ago, and from the perspective of a former student, rather than a parent or police officer, everything being said is entirely true. I cannot think of a friend I had who did not try an illegal drug at some point, and the stories about classmates I heard through the grapevine were pretty ridiculous. Someone I graduated with and knew pretty well at one point just died of an overdose. So this isn't about "the clash of generations" or anything stupid like that: this is about decent kids getting tricked by those around them into believing illegal drugs will up their coolness factor. It's a terrible thing and needs to be addressed.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  80. duck

    Pat:

    "Also,. attempting to tax it wil only result in non-legal and nontaxed means of acquiring it. (likley the same / similar illegal means as now). Thus the same problems are not eliminated as some previous comments have predicted would happen. "

    How many cigarette smokers do you know who grow their own tobacco? Legal monoculture will produce hemp at a cost that no druglord or common citizen can rival.

    "Also don’t underestimated the effects of its use. It is still a drug and look at how our youth abuse alcohol. Do you think somehow that Marijuana would be any different? Maybe its not worse than alcohol I don’t know"

    Maybe you should do some research before you post on websites. Marijuana has medically proven to be less harmful and addictive than alcohol. The main concern is lung damage due to particulate matter and hot gasses being inhaled. This can be solved by other methods of ingestion. In fact, a chemical compound present in marijuana, Cannibidol, has recently shown signs of attacking cancer cells, and may fight breast and lung cancer.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  81. chris

    I know we're talking about heroin here not marijuana, but, there might be a reason a lot of children don't seem to believe that they will most likely eventually die from heroin if they "try" it.

    Here's my argument:

    As long as we classify heroin and marijuana together all warnings about heroin are going to be ignored – most children will smoke marijuana by high school and realize that they did not have thoughts of robbery and murder like they were "warned" about if they smoke marijuana. Because of that – fewer children are going to believe heroin is as bad as anyone says until they are already hooked.

    It's really simple. Every heard of crying wolf?

    Stop lying to people by telling them marijuana will ruin your life, make you less intelligent, rape, kill, steel and go crazy. Maybe people will take it seriously when warned about heroin.

    Yes, I do smoke marijuana, never done heroin – but, at least 10 friends and acquaintances of mine since high school have died from heroin overdoses. They did not believe heroin was that addictive until it was too late. Mostly because of the loss of credibility in the governments "warnings" about marijuana.

    My best friend from high school is dying. Thanks for giving us some quality protection America! Go f*** yourself!

    April 13, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  82. Jon

    I agree the with all the past comments..addiction is a tremdously difcult battle to deal with today as it has always been...the abilty to not clearly see thewhole picture of emenent destruction of ones life and the damages of those around you can be so dificult to see till the hard punch hits (bottom)...we need more education and for starters in all areas....drug clounselors need to be upfront and forthright to break the denial with walking the fine line of lossing the clent out the door...theres many issues with this problem from the loss of hope in our current society for all people...we are strugling right now in a new form of change and there will be anixeity and a wanting to excape...we will make it through to a beter world im very sure of it!

    April 13, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  83. JonDie

    Under Ronald Reagan, who began the "war on drugs" in earnest in the 1980s, the price of cocaine fell about 90%. However, the prison industry benefitted nicely.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  84. Megan H

    Good job, CNN... advertising how cheap drugs are!
    You're doin half the job for drug dealers.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  85. Libby

    If we legalized all drugs, what would the prison-building (and prison-running) lobbyists do?

    Unfortunately, building and running prisons is the most profitable industry in our country - with a huge number of lobbysists pushing on their behalf. (And people like to complain about how their tax dollars are spent...)

    http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=867

    April 13, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  86. kevv

    america you have done this to yourselves....the war on drugs is the war on your own citizens....americans!!! wake up and take charge of your lives,your children and your future..the american dream is only a dream until you make it a reality....are you so incompetent that you must be protected from yourselves...Instill strong values within your lives and others will look to you for inspiration...you wanted to be leaders then take the lead....

    April 13, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  87. Dave

    The mothers first mistake was to allow her child to attempt quitting one of the most powerful addictive substances by herself.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  88. Steve

    I think convicted drug dealers, especially to teens, should be given the death penalty. There are way too many drug dealers coming from that damn country Mexico into our neighborhoods to deal with this in a lesser way. Why should we have to pour millions of taxpayer dollars to take care of those damn Mexicans who are here illegally to sell drugs?? I say we should execute them!!

    April 13, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  89. David

    Ha, you morons! Don't you realize that there's a ton of money in it for our government, when people are addicted to "illegal" drugs? Think about it. The "war on drugs" has funded millions of careers for "special agents" and "managers" and "project managers" and "law enforcement officers". Are you really dumb enough to imagine that the government would ever let go of such a cash cow? You fools! If I had a scam going this long – all in the name of "morality" – in a country that talks big morals and acts very differently (because of the whole "forgiveness" mentality ascribed to the ruling religion) – there's NO WAY I would let go of this money maker.

    Airplanes, cars, fancy spy equipment. . . . Are you joking? Make drugs legal? You must be kidding. If you love law enforcement, or just love being employed by a government agency – THIS IS A DREAM JOB!

    Anyone who gets killed in the line of duty is a hero. Anyone who gets killed by the drugs is collateral damage. What a great story. . . Do you really think it's just going to go away? If you think the war on drugs will ever end, then it's time to put down whatever it is you're smoking and re-read what I just wrote.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  90. Ken Adams

    In China, drug dealers are executed on the spot; They really don't have much of a drug problem.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  91. Casey

    You tell kids "don't do drugs" and include marijuana with cocaine and heroin in this statement and it sends a mixed message that teenagers see right through. "Marijuana is innocuous and they are calling it a drug, maybe heroin is just as innocuous?" these teenagers conclude. The drug war in this country is a complete and total failure at the cost of lives like this little girl's.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  92. Joe

    Drugs such as heroin, cocaine and meth finance terrorist armys. Even marijuana from mexico goes in the pockects of terrorists. One solution would be to legalize marijuana. Marijuana is safer then alcohol and has many more uses. Keep the money that is made from it in America. Whenever I see the DEA bust medical marijuana stores in California, I always wonder why they are not going after the drugs that are killing people and financing terrorism. The government spends millions of dollars to arrest people for marijuana and it is a waste. For example, Tommy Chong did 9 months in prison for his son's business selling bongs on the internet. Its costs on average 25,000 to 50,000 a year to house someone in prison not including medical costs and people in prison all are coverage with free medical insurance paid by you. Considering how bankrupt this government is a person would think they might want to find ways to save money and improve the economy. Instead of housing a taxing paying marijuana users or growers in prison which takes away from the economy, legalize marijuana which will add to the economy. The marijuana in these medical stores is home grown and high quality. Legalizing marijuana is good for the economy because people that grow it will have to spend more for the supplies.
    As for the family of this poor girl, I think they are idiots for not knowing that the girl was on dope. It does not take hours on the internet to research what heroin is. It would take the average person five minutes, if that, to research heroin on the internet. The mother and father are morons and let this poor girl walk to her death.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:37 am |
  93. RMart

    There will always be drug users. Decriminalizing drugs is not a good idea, not the least because the drug trade would remain in the hands of the cartels and armed gangs. On the other hand, legalizing (and taxing) drugs would take most of the drug trade from these criminal organizations. I would begin with marijuana, the drug that does the least harm to individuals. Then, after a period of, say, five years, move on to legalize other, more harmful drugs. A new kind of commercial establishments would have to be created for the legal drug trade, because selling them in, say, regular drugstores would increase the insurance cost for these establishments and create other problems. Users of more dangerous drugs would be required to register as such at local or state health authorities; the same regulations applied for alcohol users in cases such as DUI or absenteism at work should apply to drug users as well. This scheme would require a lot of political courage from any government.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:37 am |
  94. GenTwelve

    Can the corporations compete? I doubt that the government will produce the products as we are a capatilist (ok mixed economy). Therefore it will be the "legal" businessmen" vs. the "illegal" business men. If it can be produced and sold for a lower price than the profit margained and taxed legal mechanism, then guess which product will be purchased? Do you actually think that the illegal producers are going to say aw shoot it's legal now, we're out of business, guess I'll have to produce and distribute something else?

    April 13, 2009 at 11:37 am |
  95. David in Chicagoland

    Our family just buried an 18 year old member last week from a heroin overdose. A bright kid who everyone liked. Involved in playing music and hockey.

    It seems this country likes to spend money fighIting wars and never winning them. The war on drugs is 40 years old, expensive, family busting and it is getting worse. We need to get smarter and do something different.

    I do not know if establishing safe houses for people to come and use drugs of any kind, as was used in Denmark, is the answer, but I do believe it would take the profit from the drug cartels and at least offer help to those looking for it.

    The stigma of using drugs needs to be changed so people can go and obtain free/safe use of drugs and needles without prosecution. They would also not have to commit crimes or deal to support their habit and give them a real chance to get clean.

    If the above works and the profit is taken away from the drug cartels, they will find something else to make easy big money at our expense, maybe something new to effect our kids. When we know or suspect who they are and I am sure we have many solid ideas of who they are, the World court in the Hage should put them on trial and if guilty put them and all associated with them away for good.

    It is too painful to see the effects of heroin. It is either them or our kids. The decision should be easy, once you take politics and money out of the decision.

    I agree with the person who says we need to increase our warnings to kids in schools at the youngest of ages. When kids can understand they need to know the risks. Do it now, before it is too late.

    April 13, 2009 at 11:36 am |
  96. Sue

    Marijuiana is a HUGE part of the economy in No. Calif. In Mendocino Co., you don't drive on small public roads for fear of being met with a shotgun - and people find their acreage has been planted with dope without their being aware of it. Legalizing it may take away the financial incentive and make it start to dry up. HOWEVER: what message are we sending? we want to stamp out cigarettes, but we legalize dope at the same time? We need to step back and look at our culture: drug use and abuse is now tightly woven into the American fabric. It's all over every TV show, in our music, our magazines - kids who are 10, 11 think taking drugs is like drinking water. THAT'S where we need to start - and with the thousands of parents who don't think it's a "big deal" when their 14-year old has a beer or comes home stoned. Do some research on brain development and youll learn in a heartbeat JUST how dangerous it is for kids this age to be using these things. Teenagers' brains are still growing - would you watch someone slam your 13-yr old's head repeatedly into a wall - and think that was "amusing"?!

    April 13, 2009 at 11:36 am |
  97. steven

    The message seems to be lost with some of the comments. Make Heroine legal. Would that keep the girl a straight A student and withdrawing from friends and family? Would she be a productive member of society? Would she still be an addict yes. The drugs are cheap so and do not have the stigma of being IV use anymore. You can make it legal like alcohol but will be people be driving into people killing them high on heroine like a drunk driver. When a person develops a higher and higher tolerance over time and needs more and more to get high will they overdose yes. Will people need to get more but can't get them from the legal source because they have reached the legal limit for the month will they need to turn to another source for the high most likely. Will you call your employer and tell them I am sorry I can't come in to work today I am too high on legal drugs today. Will you still want to keep them as an employee? We fire people for using alcohol on the job what about legal pot or heroine. Perhaps we are loosing the message that drugs legal or otherwise can lead to bad results. Legal or not she and others would wind up dead she was not killed by prohibition she overdosed on something she was addicted to and craved so much it killed her. Demand is a problem make it legal will that take away the demand or just make more users?

    April 13, 2009 at 11:36 am |
  98. Vicky Bevis

    As a member of the vanguard of the "Boomer" generation, aged 62, a retired nurse AND a Mom of grown kids, I see many sides to this problem. I know addiction much much better than I had ever wanted to-no not my kids, but my husband who has been sober 26 yrs. thanks to God & AA. Alcohol was his drug-of-choce & I KNOW all the pain & misery that goes along with it! However, I also grew up in a town mob-run & we knew where the drugs were, but like in the "Godfather", they wouldn't sell to kids. It was heroin & marijuana at that time. But we saw junkies even on the streets ( mostly alleyways) & it really didn't look appealing. Maybe that's one of the major reasons kids are doing drugs we wouldn't have dreamed of doing. Maybe their lives are so empty it fills a need. We had something they didn't: SECURITY. We had a network of parents, families, neighbors, teachers, religious leaders, etc. who all tried to set examples for us & even if we did have the typical teen angst & the acting out that inevitably comes with being a teen, we felt wanted, loved & the generation that millions died for to give us the best this country has to offer.

    We managed to give our kids that also, and judged by their successes in life that they have, we made it., too. So, essentiallly this is what is lacking today and is a big part of the drug problem. I have a neighbor who is a State Patrolman with 5 of the greatest kids going-polite, nice kids whom I see outside with their Dad playing ball on their front lawn from time-to-time. And they are involved with all kinds of extra activities after school. So, don't say it can't be done today; it's just harder unfortunately!

    Kids are going to do "illegals" whether it is cigs., alcohol, or M.J. which my generation found out really isn't what "Reffer Maddness" would have you blieve it is. I personally resent the lie that movie generated. Teach kids truth! I know many in my generation who smoke/d pot & drink recreationally. They hold down very responsible jobs, volunteer in the community, pay their bills and in general, aren't the heroin, crack, or any other physically addictive drug users that the powers-that-be would have everyone believe pot smokers are. Maybe for some, it is a gateway to more addictive drugs, but for many more it is not any more addictive than the alcohol which I partake occasionally . No one ever overdosed on M.J. And the medical uses are well dovumented.

    The ONLY way illegal drugs will be minimized ( we will never completely erradicate them) is if we just don't have a market for them through kids wanting to escape a lousy world. And with wht has just transpired in the last couple of yrs., I don't know how anyone could feel that the United States is the best country in the world-a belief we grew up with!

    April 13, 2009 at 11:36 am |
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