This article discusses various ethical and philosophical aspects of heroin addiction. It arose as a result of the plan by the Amsterdam city council to supply free heroin to drug addicts. The objective of treatment of heroin addicts is ambivalent because what is in fact a socio-cultural problem is transformed into a medical problem. The characteristics of this treatment are made explicit through a philosophical analysis which sees the medical intervention as part of a strategy aimed at achieving social normalisation. The reason why such a social control function is practised by physicians is discussed, as well as the reason why heroin users in particular are the object of such a process. In this paper, heroin addiction is considered primarily as a cultural problem. The consequences of this for treatment and ethics form the conclusion.