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oh, what a nice drug
February 4, 2014 8:45 PM   Subscribe

"Everything is fine and the world is beautiful. It's raining, it's dark, I woke up at 5:30AM, I'm commuting in traffic. I would have had a headache, I would have been miserable, I would have wondered how my life took me to this point. This point I'm at right now. But no, no, everything is fine. Life is beautiful. The rain drops are just falling and in each one I see the reflection of every persons life around me. Humanity is beautiful. In this still frame shot of traffic on this crowded bus I just found love and peace. Heroin is a wonder drug. Heroin is better than everything else. Heroin makes me who I wish I was. Heroin makes life worth living. Heroin is better than everything else."

Voice actor Roy Kelly's dramatic reading of an anonymous response to the question: "what does it feel like to do heroin"

(Some other RK videos: Playground P.I. - Ebert's "I do not fear death" - Jabberwocky - Falling into a Black Hole)

Some noteworthy portrayals of H in the media:
Breaking Bad - The Sopranos - Requiem for a Dream - Trainspotting - The Basketball Diaries - The Wire - Killing Them Softly - Pulp Fiction - LOST

The Velvet Underground - "Heroin" - Lou Reed - "Perfect Day" (with footage of German cult film Christiane F.) - The Stranglers - "Golden Brown" - James Brown - "King Heroin" - John Lennon - "Cold Turkey" - Neil Young - "The Needle and the Damage Done"
Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips speaks frankly and lucidly about his addiction while shooting up in the band documentary Fearless Freaks.

A Reddit throwaway account's months-long slide from arrogance into crippling dependency (and eventual recovery) [shown newest to oldest]

Browse dozens of other tales of dragon-chasing within the vast archives of the Erowid Center's Experience Vaults.

Previously:
Heroin: Art and Culture's Last Taboo
posted by Rhaomi (106 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite

 
Russell Brand: my life without drugs from March, 2013.
posted by figurant at 8:52 PM on February 4 [29 favorites]


Wolfsheim - Heroin She Said (live) ... "Heroin, she said, was the best I've had, no more mountains left to climb..."
posted by filthy light thief at 9:02 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]


I find it hard to understand. I hope these people can find peace.
posted by dfriedman at 9:09 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I had it once and it put me to sleep. I guess I felt quite warm but it was winter in Melbourne and I was in front of a gas heater. It isn't actually as good as it's made out to be - 5mg of Valium is much more relaxing - though I guess I can understand the appeal of lots of napping. And those famous heroin munchies!
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:12 PM on February 4


I'll try just about anything, and this is my personal ultimate "not even once." But I also have this feeling that it's way more boring and pedestrian than it's made out to be. I feel like maybe there's a lot of unjustified romanticization of the drug that contributes to its allure (see, e.g., a bunch of the above links.) (And on preview, the main link seems to anticipate this thought, so I'll show myself out.)
posted by naju at 9:23 PM on February 4 [6 favorites]


I've never used drugs, so I apologize if this question appears ignorant or insensitive. But in watching the video of the Flaming Lips guy, we are presented with a very logical and coherent explanation of what his drug use has done to him. What is it about the addiction that prevents him from acknowledging those awful truths that he's just discussed and walk away from the drug?
posted by dfriedman at 9:33 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


The closest I've come is opiates prescribed as pain killers, a bit floaty and fun but not compelling. I have a lot of sympathy for addicts because they pay such a high price and obviously being able to quit is not at all easy or sometimes even possible.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:33 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I dunno, man, I just got a course of very powerful opioid painkillers myself and they were fantastic. Some addictions, I don't get, but opiates I totally do get. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. It was like being awash in a warm, comfortable ocean of good vibes.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:35 PM on February 4 [17 favorites]


Dig! featuring The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols. Featuring the song Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:38 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


I smoked the tiniest amount of it once out of curiosity and felt it put cool tendrils around me and urge me down into its embrace. It was the creepiest fucking thing.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:38 PM on February 4 [8 favorites]


I never really understood the allure of opiates as anything other than painkillers.

Once, when I was going through my breakup a few years ago, the emotional pain was so deep all I could think was "give me some opium" I wanted something to just... float. Relax and space away. I never looked for it. I once had what someone told me was opium, but it never did anything, I think it was bunk.

I've tried opiates when I wasn't in pain and I really just didn't get any point to it. But when I was in pain, goddamned did it help so much. How many "addicts" are really people who struggle through honest to god pain of some sort, and it really does take the pain away, I'm talking physical pain, not just "self-medicating" emotions?

My sister had opiate addictions. It was so easy for her to get addicted, the problem was she had severe fibromyalgia and other emotional issues that caused a very difficult complex to deal with. In the end, this combination ended up having her commit suicide. The distrust she had to face from doctors, the pain that she couldn't find relief for, the emotional scars of her borderline personality causing severance after severance.

Heroin is scary sad. When I first started livejournal, there was this one guy on there who was a junkie. I loved his writing. You could tell he was smart, really had some deep intense emotions and ways of looking at the world (I still go back to read his stuff now and then). He was going to kick, he said. He kept talking about leaving and knowing that in order to kick, he had to leave everyone and everything he knew behind if he ever was going to do that.

Eventually. He stopped posting. I always wonder whatever happened to him. I wish I knew. I think he probably ended up dying because of heroin, but in my heart, I hope he did end up kicking it and he is somewhere out there doing something amazing with life.
posted by symbioid at 9:40 PM on February 4 [11 favorites]


Jesus. That list of reddit threads is like watching a trainwreck happen in slow-motion.
posted by suedehead at 9:51 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]


I am definitely the addictive personality type person. So like naju says, heroin is on my never ever list. I have had morphine once, when I was in terrible pain in the ER for a gall bladder attack. Oh my goodness it was lovely. I felt like my body and my brain were encased in a nest of warm, soft, fluffy blankets, fresh out of the dryer. If that's anything like heroin then I am right to never even try it. If anything it scared me away even more than before.
posted by Joh at 10:01 PM on February 4


Oh yeah, ketamine? I could see myself taking that shit in my coffee.
posted by turbid dahlia at 10:07 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]



I find it hard to understand. I hope these people can find peace.


they have. that's the problem.
posted by philip-random at 10:08 PM on February 4 [28 favorites]


Opiates scare the shit out of me, and I've only experienced them through painkillers. With any other type of chemical alteration I've experienced, I've always been a) aware that I'm fucked up and b) ok with the fucked-upedness being a temporary condition. With opiates, I feel like myself, but a better version of myself: clearer, calmer, more rational, happier, kinder. I think that if I could just stay this way, I would be a so-much-better person. And that feeling is intensely stronger, and seemingly more logical, than any effect I've gotten from anything else.

Unlike other intoxicants, opiates make me think this perspective is better even when I'm not currently taking them.

I don't let myself take prescription painkillers anymore, and I can't imagine how fast I would spiral downward if I tried heroin.
posted by bibliowench at 10:09 PM on February 4 [5 favorites]


Opiates are the opposite of fun for me. I absolutely hate how they make me feel. I guess that's good.
posted by sweet mister at 10:10 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]


From The Flaming Lips' wikipedia page:

"In the meanwhile, a series of unfortunate incidents (recounted in the 1999 song "The Spiderbite Song") beset the band. Drozd's arm was almost amputated needlessly because of what he claimed was a spider bite (it turned out to be abscessed as a result of Drozd's heroin use)"
posted by Catblack at 10:13 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


It's always sad to me when songs about heroin are used in commercials to sell cruises or jeans or a bank or feminine hygiene products.
posted by peeedro at 10:14 PM on February 4 [7 favorites]


I don't need that shit. I'm drinking $6 champagne and my s/o is dancing to Love and Rockets Express and flipping me off.

Don't do drugs kids.

Well pot is not all that bad and has applications in treating MS sufferers.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:21 PM on February 4 [6 favorites]


The thing is that there are two kinds of pain. One is physical, and the other is mental/emotional. Opiates help both. I don't get opiates, personally--they make me feel kind of warm and sociable but so do a lot of things that help me relax and it doesn't take much to get past relaxed into feeling weird and sleepy but not being able to sleep. Meh. But when you live in 24/7 emotional pain, why should that be different than physical pain? Something that takes away the hurt is going to be a powerful thing for you, and if you don't solve the hurt, you have no chance at all at fixing the addiction, or at best it turns into a different kind.
posted by Sequence at 10:22 PM on February 4 [4 favorites]


I am definitely the addictive personality type person. So like naju says, heroin is on my never ever list.

It's on my "never" list because it seems to be so easy to mess up and kill yourself. Who needs that? And often the people who do die are beginners, lacking in experience, doing it with others that lack experience, who don't know what to do when someone's overdosing.

(hint #1: I'm pretty sure you're supposed to try to keep them conscious, walking around, talking, whatever, but don't take my word for it, it's just something I read)

Other than mucking around with cough syrup a bit when I was dumb teen, my only experience with opiates has been ...

A. some percodan I had for a week when I got my wisdom teeth pulled. That was easy, much like what Joh describes with morphine ... "I felt like my body and my brain were encased in a nest of warm, soft, fluffy blankets, fresh out of the dryer."

B. smoking some opium one night. It didn't seem to have much effect, just a sort of easy drowsiness. And then I woke up early the next morning feeling kind of rotten, went to the bathroom, drank some water, lay back down and proceeded to float in and out of sweet dreams for hours.

My takeaway is that for most of us, the temporary bliss, painlessness, whatever just isn't enough to shrug off all the other stuff we've got going on in our lives (our families, our work, our passions); yet for some, a fairly narrow percentage, it is, it trumps everything.

But still, given the comparatively low odds of suddenly becoming a junkie, why mess with anything that can kill you so easily due to a simple mistake?

(hint #2: if you must try heroin, don't fool yourself that snorting it can't kill you -- it can. I've heard that smoking is the safest bet, but don't take my word for it. It's just something I read.)
posted by philip-random at 10:23 PM on February 4


Me too, sweet mister. I had morphine once in the ER for the worst neck pain I've ever had, I'm talking couldn't move my neck beyond the meridian of my body without experiencing a lancing pain so bad it brought tears to my eyes, and all it did was make me feel itchy and uncomfortable. Percocet that I had on a different occasion for dental work essentially just induced a totally pedestrian and mediocre sleep.

Honestly, on both counts I felt a mixture of relieved and cheated.

(Cyclobenzaprine, incidentally, completely resolved that neck pain in about five minutes.)
posted by en forme de poire at 10:33 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Heroin has always seemed appealing to me, and I've consumed as much literature as I could bear about it: I used to read Trainspotting once every year (and I've read all of Welsh's books, up to Porno, and then, eh;), I've read Basketball Diaries, Requiem for a Dream - lots of books on alcoholism - addictions in general. I was in love with Lou Reed and VU, Iggy and all the others.

When I was younger, I don't know if I really understood the connection between the desire to read about these things, and my own personality, but I've somewhat come to the conclusion that I just have this type of addictive personality and that these stories at least made sense; something I could relate to. Strangely enough, my experiments with drugs other than alcohol are so low in number as to be a rounding error. I can't even have two drinks these days, without feeling regret. I think twice about taken a freakin' aspirin.

But, I still have an addictive personality - and it comes out with physical activity and probably getting into dangerous situations outdoors (adrenaline rush). At least I've got some really great legs, and some amazing stories to tell. I still don't KNOW what to do about it, but it seems that addicts of drugs that are able to get off them, just become addicts of something else. I feel as if I just skipped that first, almost Right of Passage step. And also, maybe I just taught myself that my God is Delayed Gratification, and anything else is a false profit. Drugs most certainly do not have a place in that sort of religion. It's twisted I'll admit, but it's stopped me from doing some pretty stupid shit.

Maybe all this is just weird things that A.C.A.'s think about. I believe it, and I don't believe it. That could also be something entirely different.

I'm in a musical project, the band leader was one of those guys that used to gobble up anything in his path, including (and usually) heroin. He's now 10+ years sober and I'm damn proud of him, even though I never saw him at his darkest times. Seeing him have to plead with the doctor to not, under any circumstances, give him any sort of opiate during a surgery is somewhat heartbreaking. We were all on alert, and would check in, just to make sure he was OK. Those sort of aftershocks sure are scary to just be on this side. I can't even begin to understand what it would be like for him.
posted by alex_skazat at 10:39 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


For sure read Figurant's link to Russell Brandt's article. He writes the truth about addiction. I hope he stays clean, sober and alive for another fifty years. It would be awesome to stay around to see what kind of man he might become. I have a lot of compassion for alcoholics and addicts because I am an alcoholic and I know how they feel. I know how close to death they go and how often and easily they go all the way there. I consider myself extremely lucky that I heeded my mother's caution and never tried heroin even once because, without a doubt, I am an addictive type and fear I would not have survived that. I don't even know how I managed to follow that advice because I ignored almost everything else she told me. I do know I am lucky to have survived and even luckier to have found a way to get sober half a lifetime ago.
posted by Anitanola at 10:41 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


I had a prescription for Demerol for a while when I was trying to get pregnant (NSAIDs increase the risk of miscarriage). I found it amazing for physical pain relief but otherwise a little unsettling. I found the fuzzy, soft, floating, dreamy sensation really disturbing because it felt like I was no longer existing entirely in this dimension; I remember walking around feeling like a ghost. If that sensation is a vast improvement on day-to-day existence for people who become addicted, then their reality must feel pretty awful.
posted by echolalia67 at 10:48 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


I've said it before and I'm saying it again now. Depression and other mental pains are complete and utter filthy fucking liars that you've got to stay on top of and it's a constant battle. There is not a single second that goes by in my existence where I'm not fighting depression. NOT A SINGLE SECOND...and I'm properly medicated on prescriptions that work better than anything I've tried. I'm dealing with life pretty well right now but there is still NOT A SINGLE SECOND WHERE DEPRESSION IS NOT EVER PRESENT and trying to claw its way to the forefront like the asshole that it is.

I'm not saying all addicts are depressed or mentally compromised but I will say that in my life that any addicts I've known have 100% been in complete mental and/or physical pain.

It may have something to do with my chemical makeup/genetics/biology or what have you but percocet and vicodin - rocked my socks off the couple times I had legit scripts for them. Super great floaty feeling from both of those that just does not happen to me naturally, ever. So I completely understand why some people like them at the onset and then end up being reliant on them and/or addicted.

I never tried any hardcore drugs because I know me too well and I know what would happen.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 10:53 PM on February 4 [33 favorites]


The Russel Brand article is good.

That Reddit account? I don't know. It just seems too perfectly orchestrated. Maybe a former heroin user who created an account and "replayed" his experiences in a series of rapid-fire AMAs?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:55 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


It's weird, heroin has been inching up my "well I guess it's not that evil, hey, why not?" drug bingo card over the last couple years. But now after it's back in the news, suddenly I'm not so eager to experiment with it.

I once took codeine recreationally and mostly felt sleepy. Meh.

I would say I'm "not an addictive type", but I tried coke just a few times, know it does very bad things to me, and yet even so every once in a while, when I'm in the right sort of self-destructive mood, it seems like a good idea. Pretty much the only reason I'm not a raging cokehead is that I have no real access to it at this point in my life. And it occurs to me that this line of thought is exactly what causes relapses in people who are "addictive types". Especially if one has the sort of status where they can basically get anything they want, whenever.
posted by Sara C. at 10:56 PM on February 4 [2 favorites]


But I also have this feeling that it's way more boring and pedestrian than it's made out to be

Well it is and it isn't. But that reddit post is pretty good, certainly closer to the truth than what you usually see.
posted by atoxyl at 11:04 PM on February 4


Also, SponaneousH goes from being 24 in the first post to 22 in the last one.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:04 PM on February 4


It's always sad to me when songs about heroin are used in commercials to sell cruises or jeans or a bank or feminine hygiene products.

Me, I think its telling. Because don't think a single one of those companies, if they could get away with it legally, wouldn't immediately shift their entire production over to hardcore addictive narcotics in an instant. Because it's everything a corporation could ever hope to find in a profitable product line.
posted by JHarris at 11:17 PM on February 4 [28 favorites]


Opium. Smoked opium. Muscular tension in the body, tension you didn't know you had until that moment, just evaporates. Your skin, your body, feel as good as new... like a newborn baby. And if someone else shouts, 'flee, the house is on fire!" You'd still lie there... with a grin on your face.
posted by Mister Bijou at 11:24 PM on February 4 [3 favorites]


I was given OxyContin after an operation once and that stuff made me not only feel no pain, but that the world was a lovely place with fluffy clouds and unicorns and what not. No wonder people get addicted if something makes you feel like that. And then they sent me home with Tramadol, which didn't really do anything until I stopped taking it and woke up with twitching arms and thinking I was going to have a heart attack.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:41 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I knew I'd love the stuff. Knew it with every fibre of my opiate-loving body. And wow, lucky me, thrown out of home at sixteen and living with 2.5 junkies, one with a dealer brother.

But I didn't like the way my flatmate picked at her face and scratched random spots on her body. I was repulsed by the leer of the dealer. I was grossly pissed off at all the bent burnt spoons lying amongst the out-of-it crew on the lounge-room floor when I made my cup of tea in the morning. I didn't want to be a thief, to be hanging-out, to be the one who winds up dead in the corner chair and nobody notices. I didn't want to work the street, or deal horse myself, or fuck the leering dealer for fixes. And I hate being constipated.

I wanted escape, just like them. I wanted it badly. I smoked pot and drank beer. I rode my bicycle. I read books and watched TV and waited for my taxi-driver boyfriend to get home. If he joined them in the lounge-room I went to bed. My small set of possessions were safer when I was lying on the mattress that was hiding them.

A bad batch came through town and killed a lot of people including Mack, one of my junkie flatmates. His face-picking girlfriend went off with her dealer brother to work the streets and I broke up with my boyfriend. It was a weird six months but I survived with my dignity and veins intact. I was only 16. I had a lot of living to do. I knew I'd love the stuff that's why I knew I had to say no.

I look back now, decades later, and thank that doin'-it-tough girl for not giving us away to the fantasy of peace and warm interior love. My life would be so so much different. I would be hard, possibly; broken, probably; dead maybe. At the very least I would be very regretful.
posted by Kerasia at 11:53 PM on February 4 [73 favorites]


All I want in life's a little bit of love
To take the pain away
Getting strong today
A giant step each day
posted by Random Person at 12:00 AM on February 5 [8 favorites]


Sebmojo: "I smoked the tiniest amount of it once out of curiosity and felt it put cool tendrils around me and urge me down into its embrace. It was the creepiest fucking thing."

Pretty much my exact experience with it. One joint, probably 90% pot, 10% heroin. Never again.
posted by mannequito at 12:05 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I got some powerful painkillers post a dental visit and it felt like time slowed down and I just felt so much bliss. I was enveloped in bliss as I described it to my work mate. I could not code anymore and had and had to go home where I just spent the afternoon blissed out on the couch. As mentioned up thread, painkiller addiction suddenly made so much sense. That was the last time I took something that strong. It actually frightened me.

One of my cousins kicked his heroin addiction and went back to live in the village (where he had no access) and became an alcoholic soon enough. Reading all these accounts make me realise how lucky he was to make it back and what addictive personalities are like.
posted by viramamunivar at 12:06 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm lucky, because back in the days I was dumb/brave enough to try it on a few occasions I found it fairly dull - not to mention terrible value for money. Of course, this was at the height of my enthusiasm for psychedelic adventures, which always seemed more interesting than lying numb and thoughtless on the floor.

But if the day ever comes that I'm diagnosed with Alzheimer's or something of the sort, I do plan to set about acquiring a lethal dose of smack as my exit ticket.
posted by moorooka at 12:27 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]


The words in this video elucidate clearly heroin's (or opiates') unique appeal. This is not to get high, but for the addict to feel what they think is normal. In fact, it is obviously not normal to automatically love everyone and be content with dark, rainy bus rides and so on. Addicts often experience high levels of aversion and low frustration tolerance. Suddenly, this all disappears and they feel not high, but what they come to think of as 'normal' and they can be more productive at least in the beginning. No wonder it seems like a wonder drug and the answer to all their problems.

'Heroin is better than everything else'.

And it is in the beginning.

After the beginning, everything else is chasing that initial peace and equanimity. But it is elusive and requires more and more desperate means if only, if only, it would just come back, that wonderful peaceful feeling.

It is not often one sees the positive aspects so clearly explained as in this video. One hears about the negative consequences, but it is these joyous moments in the beginning which provide the understandable allure and persistence in recapturing that peace and joy.

That these effects are not universal, leads some to think that an addict's mu receptors may be different-perhaps fewer of them, or the receptors may be in some way defective which could be the genetic link. Non-addicts often find the effects useful for physical pain esp post-op, but don't care for the woozy and other side effects of opiates. So perhaps there is a difference in their brains most likely mu receptors but could be as yet unknown areas of the brain.
posted by claptrap at 12:28 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]


The positive effects are precisely why I'd never even consider using heroin recreationally. It's not that I think I wouldn't like it, it's that I'm scared I'd like it way too much.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:36 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


> Life is beautiful. The rain drops are just falling and in each one I see the reflection of every persons life around me. Humanity is beautiful. In this still frame shot of traffic on this crowded bus I just found love and peace.

It sounds like the best beer buzz of all time, and it's probably a thousand times better than that. At first, anyway.

There is no. Fucking. Way. I would ever try heroin.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:46 AM on February 5


"Erowid" sounds just like "heroin".
posted by telstar at 12:52 AM on February 5


A notable comment from the Reddit thread:
If I may be philosophical for a moment...

Life is all about novelty. It's the novelty of our experiences that make life worth living. You'll remember your whole life who your first crush was, how exciting it was to drive a car the first time, or getting drunk, or getting lucky with that beautiful girl.

But the novelty of any experience will wear out after it's been repeated too much. I wish driving my car each day to work could be as exciting as the first time I got behind the wheel, but it's not. The toys from when I was a kid can't keep my attention any more. The songs I have on my iPod have played themselves too many times.

But, and listen, because this is important, there are other songs out there I can load on my iPod; ones I haven't heard before. There's a girl at a house party that can tell you a joke you've never heard before, and make you feel something different. You can get her number and take her to a movie the two of you have never seen and you'll enjoy it a lot. You can get drunk off alcohol you've never tried before, take her back to your place, and the both of you can try things on one another that haven't been tried before. And you'll have a great story to tell all your friends the next day.

Heroin will be the greatest thing you'll ever experience. That's a striking blow to novelty. Like that old toy in the corner, getting laid doesn't get your attention any more. Who gives a fuck what band is popular this week? They're all the same. So are all those god damn movies they show at the theater. What's the point? And that beautiful girl? Forget the shallow 2-dimensional bitch. There's nothing in it for you. But there's a lot in it in shooting up H. Man that feels great doesn't it? But those come downs sure suck don't they? As your tolerance for H goes up, your tolerance for loneliness goes down. But self-esteem is negligible, isn't it mother fucker?

You're fucked. Sorry to say it. I'm merely using this comment and exploiting your story to tell other people what's worth living for. Will you be able to get off H? Possibly. But will life have any novelty left after you do? I wouldn't bet on it. You've played your own song too many times.
Until that point I was still thinking that I'd like to try it once in my life, to understand what the experience is like. That comment changed my mind.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 1:53 AM on February 5 [26 favorites]


Put me down as another person who, having had opiates in the hospital and found it way too nice, never, ever, ever wants to try heroin.
posted by kyrademon at 2:21 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I wish we could stop pretending that heroin is this cool sacrament. It's like the advertising never stops; every generation writes exactly the same thing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:27 AM on February 5 [20 favorites]


I've seen the needle and the damage done.
I fucking hate it.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:52 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I once had a pre-seizure aura experience that I often think about. One minute I was wrapping presents at the table, the next minute I was floating in space through what felt like golden syrup. My partner came up to me, shook me and yelled - but only whispers penetrated that beautiful golden haze. Get up, get up - but why would I want to get up when everything is beautiful and slow and perfect? I tried saying this but he didn't understand. He pulled me off the floor and I felt the syrupy air slide around me. Next thing I knew, I was on the bed and my partner was on the phone to the ambulance service.

It is the most perfect, beautiful thing I had ever experienced. It was seven years ago and I still yearn for it. I get why people lose themselves to heroin addiction, in other words. Why you'd make that choice. It rattles me to say so but yeah.
posted by kariebookish at 3:14 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]


The best I can describe my reaction to even the smallest amount of opiates is the feeling one has on a very bad amusement ride. Literally I will lie down and feel the entire room is moving accompanied with vomiting. One would say that is great, you get sick from opiates thus you will not seek them out. For me that is correct, I do want to take any, but on the other hand if I really needed a pain killer, say from an accident, opiates would not be in my toolbox.
posted by robbyrobs at 3:27 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


When I finally found codeine cough syrup in this country (dude, it's all made out of treacle and glycerin and nothing that actually really helps when you just want to fucking sleep), I ended up taking a bit more than recommended, and I couldn't leave my bed for half a day because it just all felt so good, just lying there with my arms and legs unable to move and everything just feeling nice.

Yeah, I don't think I could stay away from heroin either.
posted by Katemonkey at 3:28 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


robbyrobs: "The best I can describe my reaction to even the smallest amount of opiates is the feeling one has on a very bad amusement ride. Literally I will lie down and feel the entire room is moving accompanied with vomiting. One would say that is great, you get sick from opiates thus you will not seek them out. For me that is correct, I do want to take any, but on the other hand if I really needed a pain killer, say from an accident, opiates would not be in my toolbox."
I'm intolerant of opiates as well, and there is an injection you can get before the opiates which should control the vomiting. I got it when I was in hospital with a broken leg. Even with the vomiting a shot of morphine is awesome.
posted by brokkr at 3:45 AM on February 5


Obligatory Morphine link: "Cure for Pain".
posted by Gotanda at 4:07 AM on February 5 [8 favorites]


What it's like to do heroin: as narrated by Raphael from Ninja Turtles with vocal fry.
posted by cloeburner at 4:13 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Yeah, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine are all on my personal no-fly list. I've had enough problems with alcohol dependence and recovery and have seen my share of people who are stuck in the cycle of relapse on those three.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:36 AM on February 5


Jason Bateman had a friend describe the sensation of heroin as "God is petting you".
posted by dr_dank at 5:15 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


A long, long time ago I had an annoying roommate, a twisted ankle and some prescription painkillers. I was blissed out on the couch watching garbage TV when the roommate walked in, and for the first time that year my blood pressure didn't spike.

I've thought a lot about that moment and have tried to channel that positive, loving, and tolerant person I was briefly when wrapped in an opium blanket.
posted by whuppy at 5:48 AM on February 5


Heroin will be the greatest thing you'll ever experience.

Until you try MDMA.
posted by walrus at 5:55 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]


At first glance, I thought the headline was "oh, what a nice dog".

I was confused for a few moments. I love my dog, but he doesn't help me see the beauty and the essense of humanity reflected in the rain drops. He just helps me when I need a snuggle.

Dogs can't replace drugs and can't always fill that empty black hole that you sometimes need to pour yourself into, but they can help just a little bit.
posted by math at 6:06 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]


The idea that pain is not central to the human experience, equal to and alongside joy, is the tragedy and has been for ever so long. To yield, to merge, to figure out how to get your arms around it, the crazy mix, that's the trick. To stay vital and true and authentic is healing, to go through not around is healing. The warm mask or blanket or muffled feeling, which is what my own dabbling in opiates produced in me, years ago, eats time, eats it. Stage IV here. Wanting anything other than every real minute is so hard for me to comprehend from my vantage point. So so sad.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:14 AM on February 5 [18 favorites]


My mom was a heroin addict and this led to a lot of instability and custody weirdness in my childhood (I would be a German guy right now if her addiction hadn't led to my American grandparents intervening while she was doing a stint in rehab). After high school, I took my first trip back to Germany since childhood to visit my mother. She drove me around downtown Frankfurt, pointing out the many houses of childhood friends who had died from heroin overdose.

Two of my peers from high school have died of heroin overdoses in the years since I knew them. I've known lots of people who've done lots of different kinds of drugs, but heroin is the only one other than alcohol I personally have known to kill people. Even meth hasn't killed anyone I've personally heard about.

Another friend I recently reconnected with told me all about his personal struggles having gotten hooked on heroin after high school. The way he put it, it wasn't so much that heroin made him feel sooooooo good as it was that he felt so utterly miserable the rest of the time when he wasn't on it, due to the terrible withdrawal. My mom, when I walked in on her shooting up in the bathroom once as a kid, just kept saying "I'm sick--I'm sick! This is my medicine!" but even as a kid, I could see that needle wasn't a cure for anything.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:23 AM on February 5 [10 favorites]


Most people who take opiates/opoids for a prescribed short-term reason don't end up addicted because they have a link to the memory of the pain they were in. Personally the strongest painkiller I've had is Fentanyl, which did a fantastic job of making me not want to die, but memories of it are highly linked with that pain state, so I do not have warm and fuzzy feelings towards the memory of it.

One of the truly horrific things we do as a society is withhold opiates, especially Heroin, from people in terminal and chronic pain and leave them to die in agony-- it's the best painkiller out there, and because it's so very tightly controlled, even in countries that allow it's use in special circumstances, doctors rarely prescribe it.

If we, as a society, stop treating addicts like people who failed a moral test, and rather as a human being with a medical problem, we'd make life better for everyone.
posted by Static Vagabond at 6:33 AM on February 5 [8 favorites]


This has been a rough week. As some of you may know, I'm in recovery for heroin addiction. Last year was tough - in the summer, after years clean, I began relapsing. I honestly don't even remember getting the urge to score or the act of scoring itself. It was like I opened my eyes two weeks later with everyone I care for in this world either pissed or worried or both. I let my guard down, went into autopilot, and ended up in a shooting gallery. It was an eye opener, for sure, a part of my decade-plus addiction I'd yet to see. Before I got clean the first time, I'd never really tried. I'd just run away to a place where I couldn't score, which is fucking stupid. You can score anywhere.

I love that drug as much as I hate it. It's like the most wicked codependent relationship you'll ever know, only instead of ending in tears it ends in death. I've definitely used fentanyl before, both in 'straight' form (lozenges - they make the shit into candy for cancer patients who can't keep down regular meds) and in laced dope. An experienced user can tell there's fentanyl's in it. The high is more bittersweet, kind of like comparing high fructose corn syrup and pure cane sugar. It's a shorter, more intense high, as well, leaving you feeling not nearly as satisfied as 'pure' dope. As of this writing, however, the cops are saying they've found no evidence of fentanyl in PSH's gear. It is interesting that they found Suboxone among his stuff, meaning he likely wanted to stop but even with the strongest known deterring medication at his fingertips, he couldn't do it.

I'm currently doing okay. I managed to finish my studies towards becoming a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor. I'm working a practicum in the HIV ward at a state-funded treatment center. I am always one slip of the mind away from using and I've had to accept that I always will be, forever unending. Vigilance is survival, vigilance is what scoring once was for me. I've come to realize that the only way I'm going to live to be an old man is by surrounding myself with addicts for most of my waking hours. I live with other daily reminders - with normal bloodwork the phlebotomists line up to play whack-a-mole in order to find a vein for a blood draw. I actually have to go in to the lab in an hour to let them try to find one they couldn't locate on Monday.

If anyone here is struggling, please never hesitate to hit me up via memail or email.
posted by item at 6:38 AM on February 5 [94 favorites]


Hang in there, item. We're all cheering for you.
posted by math at 6:49 AM on February 5 [7 favorites]


I am gratefully not an addictive personality. I did recreational coke, meth, pot, MDMA, etc. in my youth and frankly, can do without it all.

But.

I was given Dilaudid for pain a couple of years ago. They delivered it to a vein and I realized exactly what heroin does. Two days later the pain had not ebbed and I went back. They delivered the Dilaudid IM. I was angry for hours that it wasn't the high that I had received two days prior and suddenly I realized what could happen with heroin. It definitely smoothed over all of the bad feelings. All of the depression, all of the anxiety, all of the urge to have to do and go was not gone, but utterly irrelevant. I can't ever do heroin.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:00 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


I was in the hospital a few years back for what ended up being the biggest, most inflamed, gangrenous appendix anyone on my treatment team had ever seen.

Laying on a gurney in the ER, writhing in agony, they finally gave me a shot of morphine. It was the single most amazingly pleasant experience I've ever had in my life. Better than sex. Better than a great meal. Better than being in your loved one's arms. Better than MDMA and boy howdy I loved that shit back in my rave days.

The gurney turned into a warm golden cloud made of unicorn farts and wrapped itself around me and said "There, there. Pain's all gone now. Life is good."

That lasted for about twenty minutes. Then bam, pain back. After that they put me on PCA (patient controlled analgesic) at the highest dose they could (barely) safely allow. A dose so high they had to put me on oxygen at the same time because the morphine was depressing my breathing. And it didn't make me high anymore, just sort of shunted the pain off somewhere I didn't care about it anymore.

That one experience was enough to cement heroin on my 'never' list. Unless I end up in terminal stage something. Then I plan on developing a nice heroin habit for a couple weeks followed by a deliberate overdose--like pTerry, I want to jump off the cliff, not be pushed off, if that time comes.

I've done a lot of drugs, and downers are absolutely my favourite. Anything that turns off the storm in my brain is a wonderful thing. Ketamine, oh god I could rhapsodize for hours about how much I used to love that. Not so much anymore because with the amounts I enjoy(ed) I just feel like a bag of shit for a couple days after, so that's gone regrettably into the "I guess I'm getting too old for that" column, along with MDMA.

I've had a bunch of dental work recently and my dentist tried to prescribe me percs for the pain after. Said I was the first non-addict patient he'd ever had who went "No! Please no. Ibuprofen will be fine thanks." I don't want to taste that golden cloud again, because I know me and I know I won't stop trying to get it. Having a medicine cabinet full of clonazepam and loxapine is temptation enough, and not always resisted.

item, congratulations on fighting the monster. I agree with math above: hang in. We're all cheering for you, we're all here to support you.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:28 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I think different people react very differently to a lot of these drugs. When I've been opiate painkillers for medical reasons I liked the fact that they killed the pain, but apart from that I just felt muzzy-headed and feeble. I didn't have the slightest hint of a temptation to take them recreationally. Clearly they hit some people's pleasure centers in ways that they just don't for others.
posted by yoink at 7:48 AM on February 5 [10 favorites]


I am very, very lucky -- I had vicodin for a badly sprained ankle, and I *loved* it, and I kept taking it even after my ankle didn't hurt any more, and a friend of mine who has a very serious addiction history made an offhand comment in an unrelated conversation about how drugs get you is that you get, say, a headache, and instead of taking ibuprofen or tylenol, you think "Oh, hey, I still have some of that Percoset." Like, that's the very beginning of it. And I realized, oh, shit, that's what I'm doing.

So I immediately put myself on high alert for prescription narcotics abuse. I tell my doctors, my care providers, anyone whom I *know* who has prescription privileges, that I don't have a problem with prescription narcotics solely because I saw it coming and derailed aside, and that they need to know that about me. When I do need prescription painkillers, I have them write me the tiniest scrip they can; I got a 2nd/3rd degree burn on my breast and told the doc to write me a prescription for two vicodin rather than 25. When I need to take painkillers on an ongoing basis, like after my wisdom teeth were out, I have my husband keep them in his pocket and dole them out to me. Because even Vicodin was like getting a hug from God. I need to avoid that shit like the plague.
posted by KathrynT at 8:10 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]


I remember I wrote it one night a couple years ago while on my laptop. I think, like many others, I like to think that I could write something that doesn't suck. If only someday I could find the motivation to pick up a pen. But it's easy to get caught up in life. Getting such positive feedback was so exciting for me, and meant something special. Since that point I left reddit, and I actually just started using MeFi again a few days ago after an extended break (go figure!).

I had many sad and personal experiences that let me write that comment to answer the question in the reddit post from a knowledgable point of view; but ultimately (thankfully) it was fiction.
posted by jjmoney at 8:47 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


I broke my collarbone a few years ago, and the Vicodin was HORRIBLE! Belly-sick, wet wool blanket draped over me, the pits.

I'm a full-on pothead who will smoke any 3 of y'all under the table. I like my beer & bourbon, but I'm careful w them bc I have a few alcoholics in the family, and professionally I get a close-up view of people w bad relationships to alcohol.

But NO RECREATIONAL OPIATES!

Why? Kojak. The episode Sweeter Than Life. That episode taught me that if you get hooked on smack, a bald, Greek NYPD detective uncle will slap you around and drag you to his scary-lookin USMC buddy who runs the discount rehab where there will be NO FUN WHATSOEVER!

They're not Greek or bald, but in 1975 I had my fair share of NYPD uncles & I suspect they new a couple of cold-turkey holes they could have dropped me down if it came to that.

Thank you, Telly Savalas. And hang in there, Item.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:47 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


But NO RECREATIONAL OPIATES!

Why? Kojak.


Just sayin'.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:00 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]


Careful potential Empatho-nauts. Opiates follow MDMA like wolves trail the plushy bunny rabbit in the day glo florest of mid evening.

" Tell me how I fear it
I buy prejudice for my health
Is it worth so much when you taste it?
Enough there ain't enough hidden hurt "
posted by JamesMytton at 9:15 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


"Carmelita hold me tighter
I think I'm sinking down
And I'm all strung out on heroin
On the outskirts of town."

Linda Ronstadt
Dwight Yoakam
G.G. Allin (Yes, THAT G.G. Allin)
Although Warren wrote the song, the original 1972 version was released by Murray McLauchlin
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:37 AM on February 5


Fuck, that Russell Brand piece is good.
posted by marxchivist at 9:49 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


item, you're not the only one here. I've been debating with myself all night what to say. I don't have time to share much right now (seems like something I shouldn't do at work) and I don't plan to share much unbidden but I'll say I'm a young professional, outwardly totally functional, but I'm actually frustrated and scared and might as well be setting my money on fire. I haven't even made it to my first real "recovery" yet.

This is not asking Metafilter for help, or even sympathy. I just want Metafilter to remember how many of us are in plain sight. I suppose I probably have a better/fresher perspective than most people on how exactly one ends up where I am and why. If people are interested and I feel like it maybe I can write something about that.
posted by atoxyl at 9:56 AM on February 5 [18 favorites]


I suppose I probably have a better/fresher perspective than most people on how exactly one ends up where I am and why.

please, do share.
posted by philip-random at 9:58 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


please, do share.

it may be a while, but I will. Not that I can speak for anyone other than myself but all this speculative heroin stuff gets pretty annoying
posted by atoxyl at 10:00 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Fuck, that Russell Brand piece is good.

Yeah, I can't fucking stand Russell Brand, but a good friend sent it to me a couple of days ago (I guess it's been making the rounds) and it's shone a new light on the guy for me. I still don't think I could handle being stuck in an elevator with Brand, but he's got a straight-as-nails insight regarding addiction (and heroin in particular) that everyone should read. I haven't read much else by him on the subject, so I don't know if elsewhere he glamorizes or needlessly romanticizes being a junkie, but that piece really hit home in a way few writings on opiate addiction do.
posted by item at 10:03 AM on February 5


item, you're not the only one here

Oh I know. There are more than a few Mefi users in opiate (and other shit) recovery, and at least a couple of full-blown addicts that I know of. Probably a lot more.

I've thought about setting up an online meeting for Mefites in the past - maybe now's a good time to bring that consideration to the forefront again. I love and trust the community and there's a valuable resource in the shared experiences of such a diverse userbase. I am, however, horrible at organizing this kind of thing.

Again, Memail/email is in my profile.
posted by item at 10:13 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]


Craig Ferguson: "If you could beat this rap with money, rich people wouldn't die."
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:20 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]


I'm reading the Immortal Circus and I'm at the point where the protagonist is tempted by a pixie of having the lives she always wanted, to let go of all her pain and burden, to never have to suffer.she experiences this momentarily and finds bliss for the first time in a long time.

The only thing that stops her from being derailed from her quest - one where she KNOWS she'll be screwed over - is knowing that it's an illusion.

I'm guessing that's how opiates feels like.

I don't know that I'd make the same choice: my story is close to fluffy battle kitten's, and for so long I've wanted something that helps me feel normal, really functional - but it sounds like the normalcy I speak of is more like the fake normalcy you all talk about. When everything you try is not enough and you're still tormented and just want some peace...

I haven't tried hard drugs. I'm slightly worried about my alcohol use and am being as careful as I can (i suppose I could be more careful). I May have an addictive personality, I don't know.

I certainly can't blame anyone for wanting to escape, especially if they feel like they will be screwed over no matter what.
posted by divabat at 10:49 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]


Drugs and alcohol are not my problem, reality is my problem, drugs and alcohol are my solution.

From the Russell Brand article, which is excellent. He mentions the hole inside himself he's trying to fill and that's the key to me. I think everyone who has an addiction has some emptiness in them that they try to fill. I work with some people with addictions and for me it all goes back to attachment issues. The link between the two is going to be the basis for my PhD (one day).

I have an addictive personality and I have had periods of doing different things too much, but luckily never got past the point of no return with any of them. It was for that reason I knew I'd never try heroin because I knew exactly how I'd end up. But I always really wanted to know what the feeling was like, and I admired some artists who took it, and Golden Brown is one of my favourite songs etc. So when people do that thing of asking "what would you do if you had 24 hours left to live?" I always answered "score some heroin". Right up until I developed chronic back pain and and they gave me Tramadol. Man, I was sick as a pig. Just horrible, horrible cold sweats and vomiting and praying for death. When I had an operation a few months ago they gave me morphine and all I remember of my hospital stay is endlessly throwing up. So that's cured me of ever wanting to try it. I'll just stick to some nice weed and a cup of tea.
posted by billiebee at 11:33 AM on February 5 [3 favorites]


I once had the perfect heroin experience...

In the days and months after 9/11, I was in a bit of a state, with my office having been blown up and all that. I was smoking all the pot I could get my hands on, entertaining a cocaine hobby, drinking constantly, etc. I'd also recently had oral surgery (which, incidentally, kept me out of the WTC on that Tuesday morning), that left me with a nice Vicodin script that I cheerfully ground up and snorted for fun.

One day I was hanging out with an ex-junkie friend when we picked up some rice and beans from a Dominican joint on Cleveland Place. He mentioned that he spotted a guy out front peddling H, so with a fuck-all attitude I told him to get some.

We went back to my apartment, dispensed of the rice and beans and started cutting a few lines of heroin. My ex-junkie friend warned me that it wasn't like snorting coke, but I didn't listen and cut myself a generous line.

The next few hours were fucking awful. The moments I was conscious, I was constantly near-vomiting. But I couldn't stay awake. Couldn't hold my head up. Couldn't even keep the drool in my mouth. I had gone on the nod. It didn't even feel good. It was fucking disgusting. Thankfully my buddy sat with me the whole time, just in case I needed some medical attention or whatever.

I finally pulled out of my near comatose state and realized that I had probably nearly overdosed on heroin. It was exactly what I needed to never think of doing it again. It wasn't too long after that I cut ties with the ex-junkie, quit my job, packed my bags and left the city, never to look back.
posted by slogger at 11:48 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]


I've been a first responder for about 7 years. I live in a port city. I've had plenty of adventures, both good and bad, with alcohol, so I'm not one to judge. I'm no angel.

Usually.

I have absolutely no sympathy for heroin ODs. Heroin is a terrible, terrible drug. There is nothing redeeming about it, no reason to take that chance. I've brought people back and I've watched them die. I've worked to save the eventual dead while their junkie buddies stood around or their families wailed in pain. I've seen it tear relationships and lives apart. I've picked up bodies that have been dead for days, bloated and stiff. I've noticed how it has turned me from a generally compassionate human being to a callous asshole.

Fuck heroin.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 12:41 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


It's a little frustrating to hear a lot of people speculate on what they think addiction is. I had a really great therapist once. He was treating me because I was struggling with my dad and brother both being opiate addicts. And he said You're never going to understand addiction, you might want to let go of trying to figure it out. Just take care of yourself.

That was really helpful advice, even years later when my own addiction became full blown and I couldn't explain. I didn't WANT drugs and alcohol so much as I NEEDED them. They were making my life hell, and I wanted to die, and I couldn't, and I wanted to stop and I couldn't. And they had not started out that way. And unless you're an addict, I don't think you understand what it feels like to be compelled to do something you don't want to do. And the raw emotional pain around addiction. Around hating yourself for not making better decisions and then needing to numb the pain of hating yourself somehow.

And even after I got into recovery, and watched my brother almost die, I still couldn't understand how he was doing it to himself. Even though I had done the exact same thing. There's nothing to understand. For some of us it just works so perfectly, and all the pain goes away, and we know we never get to feel that good again. And the cravings get less and less but if you're really an addict they never really go away.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 12:53 PM on February 5 [16 favorites]


My Dad used to run an intensive rehab/methadone clinic when I was young. My Mom would pick us up after school and we'd hang out there until it was time to go home.

To me, the addicts were interesting, I enjoyed them, they were fun, "Hey kid, you ever been married?" They'd smoke and eat sugary stuff and play Spades all day, sometimes I'd play too.

Once, my Dad was weary of it and I remember him saying, "God, they all think they're so unique in their addiction, and every single one of them writes a damn song or poem entitled, "Heroin, my lover." That stuck with me.

Yes, addicts are often sad and in pain, emotional, or physical pain and heroin sure does make all of that go away, but the problem is, it's not permanant.

Eventually, they just can't deal with any feeling that isn't 'high'. And that's where it all ends. If they get clean, they'll always miss the euphoria, if they don't, they'll live between hell and heaven and one day, they'll screw up the dosage.

It's pitiable.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:19 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


I dated and lived with a heroin addict for seven years. I've never even been drunk or smoked a cigarette (though I did drink a lot of Diet Pepsi in my time) so to say I didn't understand was an understatement.

It was like living with two people - the person I loved and the addict. She was cool, but the addict was a monster. I was convinced if I broke up with her, she'd die (classic co-dependency) at least in part because I can think of 10 times when if I hadn't been there to force walk her around she probably would have died.

Part of the issue was her parents - their solution to basically every childhood problem was to medicate her. Often, they would medicate her using drugs that had been prescribed to them and not to her - including drugs for their mental states. The parents really were monsters, but she adored them. One died of a prescription drug overdose while we were still together.

Anyhow, her addiction seemed to be very much tied to her relationship with her parents. If one of them yelled at her (and really they could yell for any reason - got a new job? Yelling. Lost a job? Yelling. Good news? Yelling. etc) she would use even if she'd been clean for months.

Clean was also sort of a loosely defined state as she was generally on a methadon program to ween her off opiates. That required both counseling and a daily trip to the clinic. It was especially frustrating to be paying $400 a month for the clinic and then see her binge for a week and spend another $400 on H.

But this was the thing, I couldn't stop her. At some point, I had to go to work. I couldn't sit and watch her 24/7. I couldn't keep a song coming on the radio that triggered something deep inside her brain. I couldn't get rid of every spoon in her life (because sometimes just seeing a spoon was enough to trigger it). You never knew when you'd be watching a movie and somebody would use. Bam, she's gone to the bathroom but really out of the theatre to the pay phone and where is the fucking car and how am I supposed to get home now?

The first time I heard "This is How It Goes" by Aimee Mann I wept - that's exactly what it was like for me a lot of the time. She couldn't listen to that song because it was just one big huge trigger.

During the years we were together, I have this wart on the bottom of my foot that eventually spread over a three inch section of my foot. Nothing destroyed it, not doctors, not medicine. It kept coming back. After we broke up, it cleared up about four weeks later and never came back. I can't positively say that it was because I was no longer with her, but it seems a possible conclusion. Sometimes the body just has to find a way to express stress and sorrow.

Anyhow, yeah, heroin was my girlfriend's abusive lover on the side. While I don't understand it, I think that it turns you into a sort of stimulus/response machine. Like you become a robot whose prime directive can suddenly change to "fuck everyone get heroin" with the right input without any ability to override the programming. They talk about how addiction rewires the brain and, yeah, I get that.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:23 PM on February 5 [14 favorites]


I'm grateful for this thread, I get what people are saying about not trying to understand addiction unless you've experienced it yourself, but you can't stop people from wondering about how to stop something awful they see.

I come from a large Irish family. Almost all of my male relatives and a few of my female relatives have/had substance abuse issues (some were killed by them). The addiction seems to have passed me by (except for the knock-on effect of being involved with addicts as lovers and friends).

What I do know is the utterly helpless feeling of watching someone you love destroy themselves and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Philip Seymour Hoffman's death has kind of triggered that in me I guess because I can't stop thinking about it.

Two of my brothers have been clean for over 20 years. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to see them go back and destroy themselves in such a short time, as Hoffman apparently did.
posted by maggiemaggie at 1:25 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Most of the comments in here seem likely to increase the forbidden allure of heroin.
posted by telstar at 1:30 PM on February 5


I loved heroin, had what I thought was a healthy respect for what it could do to me (having been an HIV counselor to homeless injection drug users) but one point in my life didn't care much about thriving, or surviving. What stopped me from getting a serious habit was scoring, which is a huge part of the job of being an addict. It was not thrilling, it was frightening, and my vulnerability (to arrest among other things, as I scored on the street) could not have been greater. That scared me worse than the drugs.
posted by goofyfoot at 1:36 PM on February 5


Getting opiates when admitted into the hospital after I'd been in pain for a day and a half was like proof of a benevolent god. But I'm terrified to take the stuff recreationally. Because I bet it would be so so fine. I don't want to know how good it can be.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:40 PM on February 5


walrus: "Heroin will be the greatest thing you'll ever experience.

Until you try MDMA.
"

Yeah - MDMA is... unbelievable. It's been many years, and I've heard that no matter how many times you try or how long it's been that first few times will never come back. The empathogenic bliss wears off and it's just more like an amphetamine. I dunno. I still would love to try it again. I miss it. Thank god it's not addictive in the way H is... not that people don't have problems with it, assuredly they do.

So...

I was reminded of one of our longest dealers in town. Pot, not opiates. But he had a medical injury from a motorcycle accident. Got him on the opiate path for himself. He would regale you stories about all the different kinds of opiates... "Oh, percocet, yeah, it's like this... But fentanyl, oh man... that's yada yada... Hydromorphone? such and such..." I mean the dude knew his opiates.

Over the years we lost touch. Last year or so I tried to find out what he was up to. I found his name. He's in prison. I feel bad for him, I feel worse for the kid his actions killed. He gave him some opiates. The kid turned blue. He did a bunch of things trying to not call the hospital at first. The kid died. I don't know if the kid would have lived if he'd called for help right away or what. An hour later, and after much pleading a neighbor got him to call. He was arrested.

One of the with opiates, that he said, was that you build up a tolerance. That if you build up a tolerance, your body will process it, no matter how big the dose. I'm sure there's an actual limit, of course, but his point was that you can take massive quantities that would kill a normal beginner ten times over (hyperbole here, don't use this for any serious number crunching)...

Now, that might be fine and dandy for someone who can manage their opiates. But for those who can't, and especially when you have an "expert" on the subject doing junk for the first time with a beginner, you might end up with an expert forgetting that they have such a high tolerance and forgetting to tone the dose down for the noob. I think this is what happened that night. It's a bit sad for all involved.

I stop and I think: What would have happened if there was no fear of criminality, if we had a sane and proper system that dealt with addictions and drugs rationally? That young man might still have died. But the chances of him having survived due to removing the fear and stigma of calling for help after an OD might have increased. How many times is that story told over in countless unknown places around the world?
posted by symbioid at 1:47 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I struggled for over a decade with substance abuse.

In those years, I urinated on myself countless times. I shit my pants every so often. I threw up every day. I went days without eating. I got into fights. I crashed cars. I was too messed up to pick up my ex-girlfriend's children at school. I raged at the world. I took hostages that I had somehow convinced that I loved them... but they were just someone to curl up against at night and fight the encroaching cold crash of a fading substance. I crushed these poor women with my endless need for financial and emotional support. I lied daily. I stole daily. I missed work. I broke promises. I faded out of my family's personal lives, as my demands for their assistance grew.

I thought I knew what the problem was... the "stuff."

The glorious stuff that took me away. First the feeling of something warm, spreading from my chest and expanding outwards. The racingcrazyscary thoughts instantly fading. The guilt and shame of yesterday's deeds gone in an instant. But, more importantly, was the satisfaction found in being empowered to fulfill my greatest desire, to itch the scratch, to satisfy the most carnal of cravings. Daily. The excitement I felt on the way home, the impending relief from the physical craving and mental obsession. I felt... complete. That I had abused a substance to the point where my entire life was falling apart, that I did terrible things to people, that I hated myself and even simply being aware of myself, allowed me to fulfill a deep, aimless want that I have had for as long as I remember. Escape was available to me, the worse my life was, the more relief the escape from that life brought. The feeding of the addiction.

But my physical body began to fail. Biology being what it is, cells and receptors in the brain can only take and make so much. Tolerance, physical rejection of the substance, failing health... these all conspired against the endless desire inside my mind. My thoughts, my spirit is limitless, infinite. I was limited by my corporeal self, the finite capacity of the body. Hospitals, Detoxes, "Shake and bakes" at home, became a monthly, then weekly occurrence.

My mind had been the enemy all along. A brain harboring an infinite corruption, which I had been medicating by processing a finite solution (the substance) through my finite body. A solution which was no longer working well. The life consequences be damned, I couldn't get messed up enough to forget anymore.

There is a solution.

I sought help. I didn't let them help me much, but I didn't get messed up for 9 months. Then came the curious mental blank spot of relapse--for me, a combination of the insidious insanity of "It'll be fine..." with the childish anger of "Fuck it, I don't care anymore."

I spent the next two years digging graves for myself and climbing out of them again. I never forgot however, that there was a solution, available to all who wanted it.

Eventually, I found myself in an especially large grave I had dug that I couldn't quite make it out alone from. At the time, it didn't seem to be a blessing, but looking back it was the best thing that had happened in quite some time.

I was desperate for help, any kind of help, and I went to those who I knew would help me. I put in work, I followed suggestions, I did whatever I had to do to rebuild the shell of my life.

Today, I am still hopelessly addicted to my substance, as I will be for the rest of my life.

However, with the solution I have found, I am full.

To me, my drug of choice is no more appetizing than being offered my favorite food ten minutes after Thanksgiving dinner.

Also, strangely enough, every so often in the last few years since I found a new path, I have been fortunate enough to experience the "high" of being right-sized, serene, and perfectly at ease with myself. No substance required.

Also, strangely enough, it feels a hell of a lot like what is being described in this thread-- At perfect peace and ease, awake and unafraid. No better or worse than anyone else, a pervasive feeling of a "perfect day," just like my childhood memory of watching my father play softball from a warm grassy hill just off second base. Again, no substance required.

It was inside of me the whole time. I just had to look.
posted by Debaser626 at 1:58 PM on February 5 [21 favorites]


Kickstart My Heart is about the time Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx OD'd and his heart stopped for about 2 minutes or so.

Apparently the first adrenaline shot didn't take and Sixx's heart just lay there. But the Paramedic was an MC fan, and he thought "Jab him again." Welcome back, Nikki.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:10 PM on February 5


I was repulsed by the leer of the dealer.

Hence my unwritten rule of thumb about drugs: if the people who sell it tend to be cool, then cool; if the people who sell it tend to be dirtbags, then no thanks. In my experience at least, the dealer-to-awfulness correlation has been pretty close.
posted by Rykey at 3:29 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Ruthless Bunny, it's funny you say that. I agree with you 100%. I mentioned in a previous comment, I wrote the comment that was in that video. I have no proof, so you can just take my word (or not--it doesn't really matter). But I also try to write--mostly as a hobby--in my free time, and I'd never write anything like that. That post was nice to write at the time, but it was a flippant comment. I do feel the cliche has been maxxed out, but it was a comment so I thought 'what the hell, let me write my version of that poetic gothy heroin lore.'

But as I mentioned, it was basically fiction. More or less...
posted by jjmoney at 3:42 PM on February 5


robbyrobs, I'm lucky enough to be in the same boat as you. I had a lot of trouble with herniated discs in college, after my second, emergency surgery for MRSA, I woke up with a morphine drip and the little button they give you to control it. I remembered a high school classmate telling me about the time he'd had one, after thoroughly destroying his leg in a skiing accident. I thought, hey, this will be fun. I pushed the button, and felt absolutely awful. Then the pain kicked back up, and I pushed the button again, and then the puking started, and they realized that my body didn't agree with morphine.

Afterwards, I was given vicodin for about a month. My family said that I was pretty unsufferable, that I wouldn't stop talking, and then, when the dose started to wear off, I would get really quiet. I have no memory of that. All I know is that the vicodin did nothing, nothing at all for the pain, but at the end of the thirty days, my body wanted more. It was pretty terrifying, the fact that I was going through withdrawal from something that had given me no positive effect whatsoever.

Later on, I found out more about my father, and exactly why he disappeared from my life for about four years after my parents got divorced when I was four. Evidently, he had a pretty severe heroin addiction, and wasn't allowed anywhere near us. He had visitation rights, but I'm pretty sure there was some discussion of "if you come near the kids, we'll tell the courts you're a junky" and that ended any of those questions. He got clean, and even though he had pretty horrific problems with injuries (he was very, very clumsy) including a torn ACL and a ruptured Achilles, he made sure doctors never prescribed him any opiates, up until he developed lung cancer, and had to have most of one lung removed. The pain was unbearable, and he pretty much had no choice but to take opiates for the pain. His recovery was hard enough, but then after that, at the age of sixty, he had to deal with withdrawal all over again. I wasn't there, but I heard that he went through hell for nearly half a year.

Finding that out, knowing that's in my family, that keeps me away from it.

The thing is, the one painkiller that I had, the one that worked? Demerol. When my first serious pain erupted, the hospital near my college gave me a shot of Demerol. The night before going into the hospital, I had literally been unable to sleep. I couldn't find a single position where I wasn't in agony. The one shot of Demerol took away the pain for days. It was so, so wonderful. If that was in any way readily available, it would be so, so easy to give in. Fucking terrifying.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:32 PM on February 5


If I may speak frankly, Demerol is absolutely magical. With a large enough supply one could easily have the populace of a nation at their beck and call, an army of doped-up minions who don't give a whit about minor inconveniences such as flesh wounds.
posted by item at 4:44 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I've had morphine once, in an ambulance after getting hit by a car. It didn't do much more than oxy/hydrocodone do for me, but the quicker onset was really quite remarkable. The first fifteen seconds are terrifying, though. I felt completely unable to breathe, and I remember thinking at the time that they'd fucked up, given me too much, that I was dying. (The part where the saline and morphine in the IV were both at about 60 °F because it was December and SFFD can't afford IV warmers for their ambulances probably didn't help either.) If that's the "rush" one gets from mainlining opiates, no thanks, I'm good.

This was a bit of a surprise to me as I rather enjoy the warm nothingness I get from Vicodin and the like when I get them for medical reasons. Another aside: having a severe physical injury (separated shoulder) for the first time showed me that yes, there really is pain that mere NSAIDs can't hope to deal with and even lower-grade opiates struggle with. The day I ran out of Vicodin after the accident was not a fun day.

And, since nobody else has said it yet, and I'm shocked it wasn't in the original post (though at over 1000 pages that is somewhat understandable): I consider Infinite Jest to be one of the greater authorities on pain (both physical and mental), drugs and other ways to alter consciousness, and addiction. If you want to understand these things, it's a good place to start.
posted by spitefulcrow at 6:57 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


What a lot of ya'll are describing when it comes to having opiates injected in a hospital setting, directly into a vein, is called an "IV push."

I stumbled upon an ER doctor forum at one point and it was clearly a hot-button issue, because the effect is so immediate and intense that it's not uncommon (from their anecdotes anyway) for patients to become obsessed with getting another one and potentially come back weeks later with some crazy excuse to get it.

I knew a guy like that who literally got into two car accidents on purpose to get access to things like fentanyl patches before he was cut off.

Usually the push is just a one-time "holy shit I'm in the worst pain ever" shot like when my wife had severe tearing after our son's birth and got one fentanyl push that killed the pain for a good 30 minutes and then was relegated to Darvocet, since banned, toxic crappy weak-sauce opiods with liver-toxin acetaminophen to boot. I feel it's humane to give someone a push when they're in crazy severe pain before switching to a drip system or pills, and if they start getting all dope-crazy, there's a warning sign that maybe they're already an addict or are dealing with some other issues or an addictive personality that might be calling out for some humane assistance.

Speaking of pills, my dad had a triple bypass CABG operation and never had a morphine / etc drip after the ICU -- WTF are you making this dude swallow nasty percocet pills with his dry-ass mouth (again with the tylenol too) that can more easily cause nausea and discomfort vs. the drip?

And they'd interrogate him every time from day fucking one to make sure his pain level was 8/10. They gave him the same dosage I had for my wisdom teeth but he was a tough guy about it and didn't seem to care.

Blah
posted by lordaych at 12:29 AM on February 6


I have my apocryphal surgery/hospital tale as well. Something around 20 years ago. Fairly major. I was on a patient managed morphine drip for 3-4 days. Other than not having a bad reaction, I really don't remember a lot about the experience.

I've never been a recreational drug user beyond alcohol. I've always imagined heroin or cocaine to be terribly seductive and thus something I've never wanted to try.

Fast forward to a little over three years ago. I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis after a pretty severe adult onset. I'm on all the most advanced treatments, including biologics and things are only marginally managed. But the pain is still significant. I see a pain management specialist through my rheumatologist and have been on a stable dose of oxycontin for the last year. I'm liable to need some form of daily opiate for the foreseeable future.

I know there's a difference, or at least assume there is. But I worry about dependence.
posted by michswiss at 1:29 AM on February 6


michswiss, my ex boyfriend had AS (slow onset though, not sudden), and pot has been his lifesaver, just FYI.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:31 AM on February 6


Philip Seymour Hoffman's death is a reminder, though, that addiction is indiscriminate. That it is sad, irrational and hard to understand. What it also clearly demonstrates is that we are a culture that does not know how to treat its addicts. Would Hoffman have died if this disease were not so enmeshed in stigma? If we weren't invited to believe that people who suffer from addiction deserve to suffer? Would he have OD'd if drugs were regulated, controlled and professionally administered? Most importantly, if we insisted as a society that what is required for people who suffer from this condition is an environment of support, tolerance and understanding?

The troubling message behind Philip Seymour Hoffman's death, which we all feel without articulating, is that it was unnecessary and we know that something could be done. We also know what that something is and yet, for some traditional, prejudicial, stupid reason we don't do it.


Russell Brand
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:05 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Most of the comments in here seem likely to increase the forbidden allure of heroin.
posted by telstar at 1:30 PM on February 5 [+] [!]

Yes telstar I see what you mean. The last thing I would want to do is to contribute in any way to the allure for the uninitiated. I have far too much experience with addiction and its destructive effects although not personally an addict myself. Heroin addiction is terrible-but so is alcohol addiction. I have watched people self-destruct and die and at times wondered if dying wasn't preferable because of the lives they ruin. For every addict, there are usually many other lives affected and/or ruined. There are always stupid and rebellious young people who think they will be the exception and can handle it-the cool thing to do. The smart ones stay away from it, esp heroin. What is the value in being a heroin addict? A victim? As long as young people's values are influenced by Hollywood type standards (Cobain, Jim Morrison, Courtney Love, Cory Monteith, River Phoenix, Amy Winehouse, Keith Richards, and on and on even Angelina Jolie was at least a user if not an addict) what hope is there?
posted by claptrap at 3:02 AM on February 9


Most of the comments in here seem likely to increase the forbidden allure of heroin.
posted by telstar at 1:30 PM on February 5 [+] [!]


I too feel this way. As a watcher of language, the phrases and words, the impulse to tell the drug tales, the accounts from the front lines, as it were, is so much part of the ritual among my drug- (and alcohol, actually) abusing friends. It's become kind of a cliche, I think, with terrible consequences, because we non-addicts are fascinated and repelled. Drug abusers throughout history have romanticized recreational (is there a more contemporary term? Apologies, I don't know it) drug use and certainly, I've been lured in by the narrative.

Even item, so articulate and self-aware, struggling mightily, weighed in with the decontextualized: Demerol is magic.

Demerol is most certainly not magic. I won't contribute to the drug lore, but many years ago, my post-surgical script, which I shared for "fun," did harm to a friend. That friend is fine today, but it's a night I won't forget.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:39 AM on February 9


The mind of a heroin addict: the struggle to get clean and stay sober

For a heroin addict, recovery is a life-long process. Philip Seymour Hoffman had been clean for 23 years before he relapsed in 2013, and died from an apparent overdose last week.

To many people who have never grappled with addiction, it can be difficult to comprehend the desperate desire to use, even after so many years sober. To gain deeper insight into drug addiction, we asked recovering heroin users to share their experiences with us. Nearly 300 people responded, describing their struggle to get clean, and the ongoing battle to stay sober. Here, we publish a selection of those responses.

posted by Rumple at 2:54 PM on February 11


It's really important to state that heroin is *not* the best thing ever for the vast majority of people who try it. About 1/3 of people find opioids *awful*. Another third find them *meh*. The final third does think they are the most amazing thing ever and about half of them say "it's the most amazing thing ever, better not do again" and the other half say "wheeeee" and become addicts. That final 15-20% is the group at risk. Which means that 80-85% *DO NOT BECOME* addicts. Whether you say "better not do again" or "go for it" probably has a lot to do with the amount of trauma you experienced in the past and the state of your life currently.

All of this stuff advertises heroin and it's really not such a good idea to do that, for those of us in that last 15-20%. I was a heroin and cocaine addict for my early 20s, shooting up 40 times a day, so I know from whence I speak (aside from having covered addiction for 25 years).

Also, Russell Brand should not be admired as a champion of people with addiction and people in recovery. He opposes maintenance, which is the most effective treatment for opioids. It cuts death rates by 70%— so when he goes on about how abstinence is the only real recovery, he's actively doing harm. Some people can do well with abstinence— I'm one of them. but that doesn't mean I go around disparaging the form of recovery that works for others.

What people do not understand is tolerance. Because of tolerance, if you are on a steady dose of opioids (not like an active addict, who takes irregular, widely varying doses), you are not high. You are not impaired. You can drive, parent, love, live life, etc. This is why heroin maintenance can work as well as Suboxone and Methadone. And this is why disparaging this as "not recovery" is a cruel, biased, thing to do. I wouldn't go around saying "chemo is bad" if I were a cancer patient saved by radiation, why do we do this in addictions?

And you know what? For some people, recovery is not a lifelong process. For some it is. To say all addicts feel X is like saying all humans feel X. We're varied. It's heterogeneous. You do not speak for me when you say "all addicts are X" and we wouldn't accept the idea if someone said "all white people are X" so why should we accept it about addiction?
posted by Maias at 5:26 PM on February 15 [12 favorites]


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