The life of man is poor and nasty. A few plants give temporary relief: marijuana, alcohol, and opium. After a history of opium, including the 19th-century Opium Wars, we learn of the discovery of heroin; the rest of the film examines heroin trade and addiction in the U.S. Two tons a year enter the U.S., with only 100 pounds interdicted. Most is used in New York City. Interviews with customs officials, prosecutors, medical doctors and junkies provide points of view. The harsh 1956 law and the medically-oriented law of 1966 are contrasted, with the film on the side of treatment and rehabilitation. It ends with advocating reducing use here and finding other cash crops for farmers abroad.