I'm an addict. I ran from my pain for twenty years - from thirteen to thirty-three I drank and ingested more substances than I care to think about. The only wonder is that I managed to stay alive long enough to stop. I was lucky. So I'm not about to tell you that drugs are romantic or that being a drunk or an addict anything special. There's nothing romantic about having to steal from those you love in order to fulfill an addiction; there's no excuse for a betrayal of trust of that magnitude.
Yet I don't think I was evil, or that those who are addicted are criminals. Addictions can cause criminal behaviour because the need they create in the person has to be met, but the addiction itself is an illness that needs to be treated. That doesn't meant that an addict is not responsible for their criminal behaviour because they are, but there must be a distinction made between the illness and the criminal behaviour. I went to jail for my criminal behaviour which was right, but I was not punished for being sick which was also right.
Like I said before I was lucky. Of course it didn't hurt that by the time I was before the courts I had already begun to seek help on my own - but I was still fortunate that the judge who sentenced me was compassionate, and understood that I was already making an effort to get clear. He could have sentenced me to a year in jail, instead he sentenced me to seven weekends, four of which I served in a halfway house. That way I was able to continue going to therapy and receiving treatment for the root cause of my addictions.
In 2003 the city of Vancouver, in British Columbia, Canada, was given permission by the federal government to open Insite, a safe injection facility. Addicts are allowed to come there with their drugs and inject under the supervision of nurses, using clean needles, and without fear of arrest. It was originally given a three year exemption from the Federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and has had two one year extensions granted while international research was reviewed and new research was conducted in order to gauge the facility's effectiveness.