It may come as no surprise that we have come full circle in our approach to opioid use with damage along the way comparable to our failed attempts at alcohol prohibition.
Religiously-motivated moralism and anti-Chinese racism may have provided the impetus for legislation aimed at shutting down opium dens in the latter half of the 19th century in America. Now, the enlightened attempt to limit harm inflicted by the so-called "war on drugs," (perhaps more accurately a war on those suffering from addiction) includes opening of facilities where those suffering from addictive disease can use their drugs with sterile equipment and easy access to medical help along with exposure to offers of enrollment in treatment for their addiction.
The unfortunate difference: Restrictive drug policy helped build and sustain an unregulated black market in drugs like diacetyl morphine, better known by its original Bayer trade hame as Heroin, arguably much more dangerous than opium.
This raises the question of whether we might turn back the clock -- and further reduce harm -- by doing another First Step -- admitting our powerlessness -- and removing legal prohibition of opium dens.