25/10/2011 05:54 BST | Updated 24/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Don't Incarcerate Opponents of Drug Legalization and Harm Reduction - they need compassion and therapy

How to explain resistance in many quarters to something like harm reduction? Anyone who opposes the reduction of harm is certainly a troublemaker, a delinquent out to mess up the lives of others. Similarly, consider drug prohibition: a horrendous policy that wastes untold amounts of money, puts millions in jail needlessly across the globe, and is associated with bloodshed both on the streets of Europe and America as well as in the developing world. To oppose its repeal is surely evidence of serious pathology, and of a type that respects few social barriers - recent evidence suggests alarmingly high rates within the UK government itself.

What are we to do with these social misfits? Of course, there was a time when miscreants were put to death, and maybe even tortured before the execution. More recently, troublemakers such as this might have been incarcerated.

Today, however, we are moving in the direction of a more enlightened view, a benign approach to our dealings with ne'er-do-wells - no matter how vile their misdeeds. Indeed, opposing harm reduction practices and supporting callous repression in the name of prohibition is enough to make many good citizens shudder. Nonetheless, the targets of our ire should be perceived as troubled rather than evil. It is incumbent upon an enlightened civilization (such as ours) to help these unfortunates, and to afford them the same compassion and care we offer to anyone with mental health issues.

Dr. Pete says: Opposition to drug legalization and harm reduction is not a vice, but a disease.

I am convinced that there is hope for these lost souls. They simply need to be weaned off their addiction to self-righteous tripe. Those who can't do it on their own should receive counseling, and antipsychotic medication if need be. Let us try to help rather than condemn. Only in extreme cases - for example continuing in the mischievous quest to oppose rational reform even after extensive therapy - should legal sanction be invoked. Sure, given the harm these people cause, if all else fails then maybe they should be locked up. See, I'm no bleeding heart. I simply think that everyone ought to be given a chance.

I urge every good citizen to take an enlightened, progressive view, and to support the caring professions in their heroic efforts to help all right-wing nutjobs to recover from their illness and become acceptable members of society. For those who are not ready to change completely, we should consider gradual reduction with final goals to be determined by the client. So, for example, if someone wishes to be preachy and annoying once a week rather than all day long, we should assist him or her in the achievement of that recovery goal.

While it is tempting to invoke strict prohibition of such behaviors and attitudes, and simply to throw nogoodniks in jail, such measures would be imprudent. Advocates of drug prohibition are not bad people - they are sick, and hence deserving of help, compassion and, of course, lots and lots of treatment at the state's expense.

The money we save by nixing this stupid drug war will be plenty.