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The Culture of Heroin Addiction

hoffman-dark

Over at NRO, reflecting on Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s deadly overdose, Kevin D. Williamson explores the shallow romanticism of opiate culture:

Glamour Junkies

… Every few years I read about how heroin is making a comeback or about how there’s a new surge of heroin addiction, but I am skeptical. Heroin never makes a comeback, because heroin never goes away…

“The belief that there exists some kind of deep and invisible connection between artistic creativity and addiction (or mental illness) is one of the most destructive and most stupid of our contemporary myths.”

hoff-narrow-drker...taking heroin is, at least in part, an act of cultural affiliation. Connoisseurs of the poppy will go on and on about Great Junkies in History — William S. Burroughs, Sid and Nancy, Billie Holiday — though all in all I’d say that heroin addicts are less tedious on the subject of heroin than potheads are on the subject of pot. They do seem to have a particular fascination with the jargon of heroin, as though every conversation is taking place in 1970…

[See also: 50 Bags of Heroin: More Details Emerge on Drug Death of Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman]

I always have a sneaking suspicioun that I could talk people out of deciding to become junkies if only I could get them to read a couple of good books composed with such literary skill as to illuminate the fact that Burroughs was a poseur and a hack. The belief that there exists some kind of deep and invisible connection between artistic creativity and addiction (or mental illness) is one of the most destructive and most stupid of our contemporary myths. I’d blame Thomas De Quincey, author of the 19th-century tell-all Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, if I thought anybody still read him.

sex-pistols-sid-and-nancy [Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy at Amazon]

On the subject of opiate addiction, no more bracing or insightful book has been written than Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy, by Theodore Dalrymple. (One of the most cultivated men I know considers it the best argumentative monograph of its kind on any subject.) Dr. Dalrymple, now known to us as Anthony Daniels, has extensive experience in the field, and he finds both sides of the addiction–treatment ritual ridden with shallow romanticism, as well as a good dose of misinformation and pseudoscience regarding the biology of opiate addiction ..

…Considering the relationship between crime and addiction, he finds that criminals become addicts more frequently than addicts become criminals. His analysis is entirely unsentimental, the precise opposite to most of what is said and written about heroin. It is a reminder that the exercise of compassion first requires ridding ourselves of destructive stupidity…

“Heroin never makes a comeback, because heroin never goes away…”

The model of “rational choice” has taken a beating over the years in the field of economics, and those of us with a broader and less quantitative interest in social questions should take notice. It is hard to develop a rational-choice explanation for junkies unless we consider the very short term, in which case people use heroin for the same reason they use alcohol: They are bored, they are depressed, they are lonely, they cannot sleep, it is a social convention within a certain milieu…

Read the full deal at NRO…

National Review Online

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4 Comments on “The Culture of Heroin Addiction”

  1. […] The Culture of Heroin Addiction (punditfromanotherplanet.com) […]


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