Saturday, May 27, 2006

Heroin doesn't hook people ...

rather people hook heroin ... yet another thought provoking, anti-conventional piece from Theodore Dalrymple: Article | Poppycock
Heroin doesn't hook people; rather, people hook heroin. It is quite untrue that withdrawal from heroin or other opiates is a serious business, so serious that it would justify or at least mitigate the commission of crimes such as mugging. Withdrawal effects from opiates are trivial, medically speaking (unlike those from alcohol, barbiturates or even, on occasion, benzodiazepines such as valium), and experiment demonstrates that they are largely, though not entirely, psychological in origin. Lurid descriptions in books and depictions in films exaggerate them à la De Quincey (and also Coleridge, who was a chronic self-dramatizer).

I have witnessed thousands of addicts withdraw; and, notwithstanding the histrionic displays of suffering, provoked by the presence of someone in a position to prescribe substitute opiates, and which cease when that person is no longer present, I have never had any reason to fear for their safety from the effects of withdrawal. It is well known that addicts present themselves differently according to whether they are speaking to doctors or fellow addicts. In front of doctors, they will emphasize their suffering; but among themselves, they will talk about where to get the best and cheapest heroin.

When, unbeknown to them, I have observed addicts before they entered my office, they were cheerful; in my office, they doubled up in pain and claimed never to have experienced suffering like it, threatening suicide unless I gave them what they wanted. When refused, they often turned abusive, but a few laughed and confessed that it had been worth a try. Somehow, doctors—most of whom have had similar experiences— never draw the appropriate conclusion from all of this. Insofar as there is a causative relation between criminality and opiate addiction, it is more likely that a criminal tendency causes addiction than that addiction causes criminality.

6 comments:

IVY VEINS said...
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Gashwin said...

Sorry --- no profanity on here. And no silly ad-hominen criticisms either.

St. Elizabeth of Cayce said...

Serious question: Is the term "Poppycock" used because the article's conclusions are fallacious, or because they might seem to be, but are in fact true?

It would seem that the ability of some people's minds & bodies to overcome addiction in a hurry (faced with Mao's guns, religious conversion) doesn't mean that heroin is not physically addictive to others. Perhaps there is a dose-response relationship?

I'm not saying that addiction mitigates criminal behavior--just that the article seems to deny the addiction.

Gashwin said...

No idea why he uses the term Poppycock (perhaps as a pun on "poppy"?). I didn't use it --- it's from the article. I too found him to be a bit over-reaching but then I know nothing about drug pharmacology and addictiveness and so on -- however, I like Dalrymple's other stuff, and this seemed to be way anti-conventional which is why I passed it along.

Bob S. said...

Please excuse my french, but as a heroin addict, this is perhaps the biggest piece of BS I have EVER heard. While it is true that opiate withdrawel in itself is rarely life threatining, the absolute horror and pain is REAL. And addicts talk more about it to other addicts than even about where to get the next fix. What country you from anyway???

Gashwin said...

Bob S. As I put it when I quoted that article, it was thought provoking and anti-conventional (enough reasons for me to put it on my blog. Which, if you'd bothered to read my previous comment in response to another one, should have been clear). As you may have noted, I didn't write that piece. So, any ire should be directed at the author of the piece.

I have no idea what my country of origin has to do with anything.

Besides, it takes but a moment of looking around the blog to figure that out.