Join 3,382 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Memoires of a Heroin-head
October 10, 2011 2:21 PM   Subscribe

"On the 28th October 1975 my mother gave birth to a heroinhead - that was/is me. My father was a young Glaswegian junkie nicknamed Puggy. I was born with heroin in my veins. 7 years after my birth, my father was brutally murdered by infamous British serial-killer Dennis Nilsen.

MY mother had a breakdown and turned to alcohol... I turned to solitude, vandalism, and violence. At the age of 13 the educational system gave up on me. At 14 I started smoking weed and by 15 I was also using LSD and speed. At 17 I tried Subutex (a heroin substitute). I felt like I had found God. By 24 I was a heroin and crack addict and a year later I was injecting. Today I live in Lyon, France and am still a Heroinhead. This is me and these are my memoirs."

'Memoires of a Heroinhead' - Absolutely fascinating journals from a self-confessed heroin addict, covering the whole gamut of the world of addiction - from fairly low-hanging fruit, like sharing needles and withdrawal, to less immediately obvious hazards, like setting your house on fire.
posted by metaxa (36 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read the first post about Marge and had to stop before I got to the end. Thanks for the panic attack. I'll file this blog under 'things I never want to read/see again,' along with the movie Requiem for a Dream. Addict stories really hurt my feelings and fire up my anxiety response. I should have known better than to click.
posted by dchrssyr at 2:35 PM on October 10, 2011


Yeah, I am going to give it a pass, as it is likely to trigger bad memories. I can say that, based on my experience, if there is one thing that heroin users love nearly as much as heroin, it's talking and writing about heroin.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:38 PM on October 10, 2011 [10 favorites]


To add: I respect the author's voice and I'm glad he's out there writing this stuff. I just can't stomach it.
posted by dchrssyr at 2:38 PM on October 10, 2011


Man, I hate that drug.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:39 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can say that, based on my experience, if there is one thing that heroin users love nearly as much as heroin, it's talking and writing about heroin.

Before she shot herself, my best friend got hooked on heroin (very bad rape, followed by the guy she married after that was a big user, went downhill from there), and one of the things she just wouldn't stop talking about was heroin. Tried to get me to do it, which is amazing i didn't even let myself try, but then i have always had a pretty big anxiety about drugs (even as far as drinking and smoking, i guess it saved me a lot of trouble though). Anyway, i get why people do it, the attraction and how she described it, but i hate the way they talk about it, and romanticize it in a way.

Funny thing though, in the times she stopped doing it, she couldn't stop smoking even though she tried. No moral to that story, just an odd note.

These posts are rough for me to read, because i kept picturing her in the stories. :P
posted by usagizero at 2:45 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


(Gah - if a friendly admin would like to fix my typo of 'Heroin', that'd be just great, yeah, thanks)
posted by metaxa at 2:55 PM on October 10, 2011


Anyway, i get why people do it, the attraction and how she described it, but i hate the way they talk about it, and romanticize it in a way.

I always remember that William Burrough always said that someone had to somehow want to be addicted to heroin. I've tried heroin (not in a rail, up the nose, a hundred dollars over an evening) and I didn't enjoy it and wouldn't do it again. Not because it was scary or profound or anything like that, it was just numbing in a way which was uninteresting to me. It was a drug I felt I didn't really need. It wasn't entertaining enough for me I guess. I have had a number of heroin addicts as "friends" (I don't know if a non-user can ever be really close with a user because the user is a different world than the non-user a lot of the time) and interact with addicts or recovering addicts all the time and I think a major part of the addiction is the mystique of heroin, at first at least. One thing is definitely for sure, until heroin eats the last bits of a person's life away, addicts seem to enjoy the narratives that junk forces on their life as something perversely special about them. I don't know if it's the drug or the personalities that the drug most appeals to.
posted by fuq at 3:12 PM on October 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don't know if a non-user can ever be really close with a user because the user is a different world than the non-user a lot of the time

I read somewhere that only about 30% of the population are at risk for opiate addiction. The rest just don't like it that much. I was on Demerol after an injury, and it did a great job of disassociating me from my pain, but it disassociated me from everything else, and -- well, that was not for me -- so perhaps it's just the luck of not being wired for it that made me decline to try heroin back when it was quite abundant in my life.

That aside, for me the thing that really stuck out about junkies (and something that I thought Trainspotting caught almost perfectly) was the way in which junkies... it's not that they don't like you or care for you or even love you, but heroin is always number one. Always. And then there is a big gap, and then there is anything else. So, even if you are in bed with your lover, as close as you can be to a person, your lover (assuming you are unlucky enough to have a junky for a lover) is in bed with heroin first, and you are a distant second. Maybe. And, over time, that shit is corrosive to you.

And, yeah, the mystique is part of it, because getting your fix ready is a ritual, with all the sacramental longing that people raised in religion feel for their services. And since heroin doesn't eat away your talent quite as quickly as some other drugs, a bunch of really clever people have written really clever books and songs about it, and that adds to the attraction. "Hey, these cool and clever people shot up; I shoot up; I'm part of the club!"

See, I write to complain about it, and I'm making it sound sacramental. Fuck heroin.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:26 PM on October 10, 2011 [14 favorites]


it was just numbing in a way which was uninteresting to me.

that's what was attractive to her, that it let her forget the traumas and pains, even if for a little while. I've got dissociative disorders in my past, from abuse, and i would try to avoid feeling that way if i could, but if it's a choice of that and pain (physical and mental) that drives one to suicide, i'd not be sure which is better. But then i'm biased, and miss my friend terribly still three years later, even if she really put the drug first. If that makes any sense.
posted by usagizero at 3:31 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


it was just numbing in a way which was uninteresting to me

that was pretty much my experience with various opiates prescribed as pain killers - they did a fine job killing the pain, but i didn't really feel that "high", and they really slowed my mind and body down

once my prescriptions ran out, i was no longer in pain, and i didn't miss them a bit

of course, i can understand why some people might want to feel numb and slow ...
posted by pyramid termite at 3:36 PM on October 10, 2011


I read somewhere that only about 30% of the population are at risk for opiate addiction. The rest just don't like it that much.

I've heard this said before -- that opiates kill pain in almost everyone, but only some percentage of the population experiences OMG ultimate euphoria -- and it certainly agrees with my not-euphoric experience on morphine in the hospital after surgery. Can anybody provide a link with more detail, though? Some cursory searches around Wikipedia didn't turn anything up.
posted by The Tensor at 4:06 PM on October 10, 2011


I can totally believe that there are differing responses to opiates, especially strong opiates ... but I'm not sure that I'd go so far as to say that only some percentage of the population are at risk for addiction. It might be that only some subset of people have such a strong reaction to opiates that they'd choose, on their own, to seek it out enough to become addicted, just on their own ... but there are other ways to become addicted to opiates other than recreational use.

I was addicted to opiates (Fentanyl) at one point. Prescribed, monitored doses. They just happened to be rather high doses, because apparently there was a consensus opinion that I was dead, but then I didn't end up dead, and the Fentanyl withdrawal was a bitch. I don't recall the drug itself being particularly pleasant nor something I'd do again, but the physical withdrawal was very, very real. (To the point that, ironically, I don't remember the recovery from the supposedly death-defying injuries that I landed in the hospital for as being all that bad ... but the painkiller withdrawal... shudder.)

Anyway, I bring that up because I think there's a certain amount of danger in saying that 'only some people can become addicted,' because that might lead others to think that they can mess with opiates without worry, as long as they think they're on the right side of the fence. And I think that's probably not true -- just about anybody can become addicted to the stuff, because it's really fucking physically addictive, it messes with your brain chemistry that way, if you do enough of it that you allow it to gain that foothold. Whether that foothold comes as a result of a prescription for legitimate pain, or peer pressure, or whatever, it strikes me that it would be very easy to get to a point where it would be easier to continue doing the stuff than to stop.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:16 PM on October 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've heard this said before -- that opiates kill pain in almost everyone, but only some percentage of the population experiences OMG ultimate euphoria

This article in Wikipedia may be a start. It may have something to do with preexisting conditions:

Studies show that most opioid dependent patients suffer from at least one severe psychiatric comorbidity.[2] Since opioids used in pain therapy rarely cause any of these conditions, they are assumed to have existed prior to the development of dependence. Opioids are known to have strong antidepressive, anxiolytic and antipsychotic effects and thus opioid dependence often develops as a result of self medication.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:17 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of all the possible horror stories that have ever been written or told in all of human history, none can make me shudder and recoil like these.
posted by Xoebe at 4:27 PM on October 10, 2011


When I went into the ER for what turned out to be a gallstone attack, they gave me morphine for the pain. I was aware that it's an opioid, like heroin, and was a little worried about possible addiction. When the pain just... stopped happening, I thought, "This is nice, but other than a lot of pain being the reason, why would anyone take this normally? It's not THAT interesting." (I was told my speech was a little harder to understand, as the numbing effect apparently extended to my kinesthetic senses and all my motions including mouth were kind of off.)

This puts it in a terrible perspective, that I was just not wired for it.
posted by mephron at 4:35 PM on October 10, 2011


I read somewhere that only about 30% of the population are at risk for opiate addiction. The rest just don't like it that much. I was on Demerol after an injury, and it did a great job of disassociating me from my pain, but it disassociated me from everything else, and -- well, that was not for me -- so perhaps it's just the luck of not being wired for it that made me decline to try heroin back when it was quite abundant in my life.

I have a similar experience with opioids. I had horrifying tactile hallucintions (my arms were covered in a tar that was actually congealed blood that I couldn't get off my skin) on morphiene after a car accident.

Later, Demerol was prescribed for the brutal migraines I suffered while I was pregnant because it's actually less risky for the baby than NSAIDs are. The doctor continued me on Demerol for a few years while I was trying to conceive a second child because NSAIDs can interfere with implantation and can cause spontaneous abortions.

The doctor told me to treat every headache as if it were a migraine to lessen the chances of it turning into one. This meant that I took Demerol at least 15 days out of any given month. It made me feel confused & detached from the surrounding world. I couldn't actually sleep while I was on it because I was unable to turn off my thoughts - I would have an awful shambling, disjointed train of thoughts and images that just went round and round all night. While it's definitely effective for treating pain, I can't imagine taking that stuff for fun. ((shudder))
posted by echolalia67 at 4:39 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


My reaction to cocaine was "I can stay up all night, talking total bollocks - it's who I am - why pay for drugs?" whereas my reaction to hallucinogenics was "I want more now", which I think means it's good that I didn't get them.

That said: Denis Nilsen - we in Britain should admit we do really scary and idiosyncratic serial killers.
posted by Grangousier at 4:40 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


My sister gave me one of the milder opiates once when I had a migraine coming on and couldn't drive home like I had planned. Oh the relief was so sweet. I slept for a couple hours woke up and the pain was gone.

I tried some opium from our pot dealer (he loved opiates), but I got nothing from it. LIke literally nothing. I dunno if it was because I was smoking it wrong or I'm not wired, but it just felt like bunk, so maybe that was it.

The only time in my life where I wanted it and wanted something like Opium so bad was back in March when my girlfriend broke up w/me. I was in so much emotional pain I just wanted to numb it out in a dreamy haze of nothingness.

So I can see why some people might want that.

That said I'd much rather do E...

I had a friend on LJ back in the day who claimed to be a junkie. He wrote a lot. I'm not sure if it all made sense. But he seemed fairly decent. Then one day he just stopped writing and I always wonder if he OD'd.

Anyone watch Breaking Bad? That scene w/Walt? And the Girlfriend? I don't wanna give spoilers, but... DAMN!
posted by symbioid at 4:43 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Am I wrong in that every few months the blue gets on with a heroin memoir style post? I'm feeling like I've read a couple of them in the last year, and then it hits me that they might have all come from Metafilter.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 4:45 PM on October 10, 2011


addiction is a beast and I hope the best for all who may be suffering it.
posted by localhuman at 4:47 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is one of the best literary sites I've seen. The writing is incandescent.
posted by telstar at 7:17 PM on October 10, 2011


Heroin addicts about 15-20% of users, just like alcohol. If someone is over 30 or so and hasn't become an addict or alcoholic of any type prior to that, exposure to opioid painkillers will lead about 1% of people to develop new addictions. But that can't happen "by accident"— you have to do more than prescribed repeatedly and in binge like patterns to get anything other than physically dependent. (Addiction is compulsive use despite negative consequences, physical dependence is neither necessary nor sufficient to define it).

Physically dependent is simply needing the drug to function and that physiologically happens to most people after a month of daily use. First time withdrawal is typically unpleasant, but it is rarely the horrific agony seen in junkie movies for the most part because that tends to come only after repeated withdrawals.

In fact, most pain patients going through it don't even realize it if they are tapered properly and the pain has been cured; it's like the flu with insomnia for them, basically. The horrible version seen in addicts is more linked to anxiety over giving up that "lover" forever, rather than anything specifically physical: like the loss of any love, it can be overwhelming.

And, basically, if you aren't in emotional or existential pain, the numbness heroin creates is not euphoric, but off-puttting. Whereas, if you feel unloved and unloveable or simply uncomfortable and oversensitive to life, the numbness will be ecstatic and feel like warm buttery ease. Parental and romantic love is expressed in the brain via opioids: if you can feel this love naturally, you tend to find opioids distancing and not so cool. If you lack that sense of being warm, safe and loved, they can fill the void. There are genetic influences as well, clearly.
posted by Maias at 7:50 PM on October 10, 2011 [20 favorites]


It's strange: most people associate opioid use with relaxing on the couch, comfortably numb to the world and all inner problems.

But for some, the euphoria of the high leads to increased activity and friendliness and creativity in the sense that meth/coke users experience.

Of course, addiction trumps all of the seemingly positive effects of any drug. And that includes ganja, in my opinion, despite its apparently benign nature and absence of physical (although not psychological) withdrawal symptoms.
posted by kozad at 8:22 PM on October 10, 2011


What is it about being a heroin addict that makes people think we want to read about that stuff?
posted by grounded at 8:55 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I both envy and sort of pity those of you who don't get the appeal of opiates after having tried them. The best description I ever heard (Drugstore Cowboy maybe? I forget) was "you wanna call up the phone company just to tell 'em how good a job they're doing". Maybe they only appeal to those who seek oblivion, thanatos over eros, whatever. There's a sick reckless component to it too. I've been reading this blog for hours and where you recoil in horror it kinda makes me... itch.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:14 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maias brings it. Thanks.
posted by filchyboy at 11:08 PM on October 10, 2011


A 6'3" ballet dancer? Really?
posted by fshgrl at 11:17 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know...reading these kind of memoirs after awhile is like eating a case of those little chocolate-dipped donuts. It's all interesting in a sordid gorging wickedness kind of way at first, but then you feel sick and bored and really can't remember what the point was.
posted by moneyjane at 12:44 AM on October 11, 2011


What is it about being a heroin addict that makes people think we want to read about that stuff?

Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:53 AM on October 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I tried heroin once (smoked it from some alfoil) and took a swig of methadone once. I felt really stoned but didn't get the euphoria. I got some kind of mind-numbing drug in hospital after having an abscessed tooth pulled - took about an hour to come on but then I was swept away on a wave of nausea and disassociation. Would.not.do.again.

I admit to having a weakness for reading about users, although having lived with someone who was battling an addiction really puts it all in perspective for me. I was lucky in that he was right at the end of it when we connected - on methadone but occasionally hitting up when we met, a few relapses over the years and then back on methadone during the end of our relationship so none of the total desperation of the unrepentant addict. He's now at 13 years without a hit - we're still friends, but we live different lives now.

The giving up a lover thing is almost verbatim what he said to me at one point. I guess I was lucky in that he was fundamentally a good chap going through bad times and although he probably would have shared if pushed, I was such a naif at the time the whole idea of being a slave to such a potentially lethal habit (and having seen his eyes turn to pinpoints and the constant scratching after a hit and then the desperation of going through withdrawals) it never appealed to me at all. I can remember dicksizing with him, when we first met, about how my sticky bud was the best thing ever (I'd only been smoking for a short while) and he was all nuh-uh. Different strokes.

I really love the Irvine Welsh novels and 'Candy' and several other books that I've read over the years and "Requiem For a Dream" is one of my favourite movies, although I can only watch it sparingly (it's the Ellen Burstyn storyline that really gets to me) but I haven't read much non-fiction stuff, admittedly.

This guy is telling his story. It's a heroin story. Enter at your own risk.
posted by h00py at 2:34 AM on October 11, 2011


If opiates have a 30% chance of being addictive to a first-time user, that is still terrifyingly high.


The only ever time I had any was in the hospital after an operation. I noticed the pain rush in when the drugs wore off, then noticed the pain vanish again when the drugs were administered via the IV again, like a light-switch.
posted by Theta States at 8:14 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can say that, based on my experience, if there is one thing that heroin users love nearly as much as heroin, it's talking and writing about heroin.

It's an obsession. How could an addiction not be an obsession on some level? I should mention, however, that the obsession can severed from the addiction itself; such that the addict can continue to live without the drug, but keep the obsession. Infatuation without compulsion.
posted by aretesophist at 1:59 PM on October 11, 2011


I probably am at risk with opiates. When I got morphine+Tylenol after my C-section I Jonesed bad after a few days. I use EXTREME caution with painkillers. The opiates just feel so damn good, and I remain pretty functional. That is dangerous.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:31 PM on October 11, 2011


If opiates have a 30% chance of being addictive to a first-time user, that is still terrifyingly high.

And not true.
posted by Maias at 4:00 PM on October 11, 2011


Here's another aspect of heroin addiction: an incredibly boring and stuck life. People familiar with heroin addiction on the South Shore of MA know what I'm talking about.

Some of the 'poetry' of heroin use occurs when the addiction brings people to tragic new lows. It makes the audience think that you learn something about yourself by exploring how low you can go.

Heroin addiction does not always bring forth an exciting plunge to new depths of depravity. If you get addicted, you can wind up living with your doting mom the rest of your life and not being able to hold down a job making pizzas because you miss so much work.

That's not a sad or tragic life. It's a mild one. If you do heroin you can wind up a boring, normal person---more of an anonymous nobody than anyone you see stuck in traffic during rush hour. Lots of boring people start doing heroin and stay boring.

All of this being said, I really did like this post. This writer may not be perfect, but he's got some spirit, he knows how to tell a story, and it comes off much more vital than a lot of writing people post on the net. Folks, tell me if you know of similar reads.
posted by shushufindi at 10:28 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"If you get addicted, you can wind up living with your doting mom the rest of your life and not being able to hold down a job making pizzas because you miss so much work.
...
Lots of boring people start doing heroin and stay boring.

I think this angle is worth repeating. This would have been an effective tactic on some of us in high school. The whole "drugs=death" angle wasn't working too well, but saying "drug addiction will often land you in your mom's basement when 35 because you can't hold down a pizza job" would have.
posted by Theta States at 6:19 AM on October 12, 2011


« Older John Carpenter's THE THING: THE MUSICAL...  |  The sign-holders are a minorit... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments