Poison pill

Matt and Mark Kleiman are right that we shouldn't shut down Narcan, a nasal spray that can counteract the effects of a heroin overdose. The Feds want to control access to it, apparently on the grounds that this will make it easier to be a heroin addict. As the good professor says:

Why not just go all the way and poison the heroin supply? If withholding Narcan in order to generate more overdoses in order to scare addicts into quitting were proposed as an experiment, it could never get past human-subjects review. But since it's a failure to act rather than an action, there's no rule to require that it be even vaguely rational.



I completely agree, of course, since I favor drug legalization. But isn't this the logic of keeping drugs illegal, a policy Mark favors? We make it dangerous and illegal and costly to be a heroin addict, in order to deter other people from becoming heroin addicts; as a result of this, some people undoubtedly die.

I imagine that poisoning the heroin supply would, in fact, be a pretty effective way to deter future heroin addicts. That doesn't make it good policy, even if the net effect is many saved lives. But our current drug policy seems to me to ground itself, though more obliquely, of the same crude utilitarian calculus.