The topic of drugs and their usage has been of great interest to me for the longest time. I never did drugs (and, moreover, have decided to do none early on in my life), but I have sympathy towards those who do. I understand that it's a method of escapism akin to reading, watching films, engaging in extreme driving or mountain-climbing, although a more physiological one, with a more direct effect on the body than any of the aforementioned. I understand, too, that people don't engage in taking drugs unless they have problems they want to escape from in real life, ranging from boredom to aimlessness in living to troubles within relationships to difficult economical situation to the overwhelming fact of death of a close person, and anything in between, before and beyond.
Whenever I encounter as little as the idea of someone taking drugs in reality - in the tangible, proximous reality rather than the ideal, distant, unaffecting reality that exists in the mind - I feel dread. A quiet, but powerful voice within me says "Oh my God RUN! THEY'RE USING DRUGS HERE!!!" - and after that, I lose the ability to sympathize I so eagerly display at a distance, such as when writing the post about it. I know that this voice is false and I know that the person taking drugs is no less a real human being whom I can interact with in much the same way, but at the point of taking drugs they become somewhat alien. They're no longer the people I can have fun with or discuss philosophy - they're now something else, as if an impostor of a human being.
If this is how most people feel about drug users, it's no wonder humane treatment of addicts is so slow to arrive. If my feelings on the subject are anything to go by, people treat drug usage - and drug addiction, by extension - as something so abhorrent it strips the user of any trust and crushes the sympathy one might have established with the addict. People are terrified of addiction and/or of drug usage... but why?
I first got to thinking on the subject when I heard Kurzgesagt talking about addiction, a few months ago. They were using Bruce K. Alexander's Rat Park experiment as a basis for their idea of what drug addiction is. Wikipedia indicates that further studies failed to reproduce Alexander's experiment results, and I didn't dig further, but the idea that isolation cultivates addiction makes intuitive sense to me. It seems reasonable to me to assume that people use narcotics to escape the bad life, even if for just a little, and/or to satisfy the needs unmet by reality. I have a high sexual drive, and while I don't have a sexual partnet, I resort to masturbation; while I do have a partner, though, I enjoy the sex, and any act of masturbation during that period is more sensibly assigned to kink rather than addiction. It doesn't make me any sort of an expert over the subject of addiction, of course, but I understand the underlying principle, and it makes sense that it's not so much of the drug but the life situation that provokes use and abuse.
The next time I've encountered the subject and the idea of humane treatment of drug users is, again, through Kurzgesagt's video on War on Drugs being a huge failure. There, they've mentioned an important point: the Switzerland heroin maintainence program, within which heroin addicts (the group that has exploded in quantity in the 90s) get free treatment and are assisted in reestablishing their lives (mainly by finding them regular jobs). Many of the things the US' War on Drugs suffers from (increased street violence and murders, no decrease in narcotics supply, waste of money with ground-low efficiency etc.) are managed well in Switzerland, according to the video. In the US, drug users are incarcerated; in Switzerland, they're rather treated like human beings in trouble.
I've never witnessed either of the sides personally and am only incurring information from the videos and the superficial Internet research I've done on the matter (mainly because I'm only establishing my ground here and don't want to fall into extremes just by witnessing them sooner). Like I mentioned before, I've never taken any narcotics, either. Therefore, I can't judge the situation with any amount of certainty; but it seems to me that two things are true: people are afraid of drug users and/or addiction; and treating drug users like human beings helps them more than demonizing drugs. On those two simple facts, rests the entire world's relationship with addiction.
Are people afraid of their animal urges - something that they can't control? Many people are similarly afraid of sex and sexuality, and that can't even hurt you (let alone STDs and the shame of being a slut, the latter being purely cultural and, therefore, psychological rather than physiological). Are people afraid of it because it tells them that it could be them (with the little voice telling them "And he's human, just like you!")? How do we reconcile humane treatment of addicts with the bestial anxiety?
First off, the term 'drugs' is as close to useless as you can get. A drug is simply a substance, other than food, that affects body/brain function. Aspirin is a drug. You used the word 'narcotics' which can refer to illegal drugs in general or just opiates/oids, barbiturates, benzos, and the like. Even if we limit ourselves to illegal drugs, we are still talking about a wide range of substances. Legality has next to nothing to do with danger. There are drugs like cannabis which are practically harmless, and there are drugs like oxycodone which are quite dangerous and very addictive.
You seem to think that user == addict, but the two shouldn't be conflated. Whether you actually believe this or not, I don't know, but that's what I read from your post, and it is surely a common misconception. Yes, there are addicts out there, and we should treat them humanely and help them get treatment, but there is also such a thing as responsible drug use. There are plenty of us out there who take safety and addiction very seriously and are very careful with out use.
Here's the thing. There certainly are people out there who use drugs as a form of escape, but there are also those of us out there who use drugs as a form of exploration. This is why I've never really been interested in stims or downers. I might drink some caffeinated beverage in order to pull an all-nighter for a paper or something, or I might get drunk at a new years celebration, but that is the extent of my stim/downer usage. Their effects aren't interesting, and they aren't particularly insightful. Psychedelics and dissociatives on the other hand, can be useful tools for self exploration. Of course, I'm not saying that they will give you some divine insight or something like that, but they can make you think in ways that you might not have thought otherwise. On top of that they are generally fun to do.
Anyway, the point of is this is that no two drug users are the same. We should help those who are addicted, but there is no need to take pity on those of us who use drugs responsibly.