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The Ninth Floor
July 9, 2007 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Jessica Dimmock: I was approached by a cocaine dealer who made it clear that he was a dealer. Over the course of the conversation he made it clear that if I wanted to follow him and photograph him I could. He took me to a variety of places - parties, people's apartments, the owner of an escort service. The last place he ever took me was the apartment where the project starts. Jessica Dimmock is the 2006 recipient of the Inge Morath Award to encourage young female photojournalists. Her series, The Ninth Floor is epic in its savage and true depiction of the reality of drugs in New York City. NSFW.
posted by parmanparman (160 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:04 AM on July 9, 2007


It's a hell of a drug.
posted by pruner at 8:11 AM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


There's no romanticizing that shit. Powerful stuff.
posted by carsonb at 8:11 AM on July 9, 2007


Cocaine is a hell of drug.
posted by Mr_Zero at 8:12 AM on July 9, 2007


Damn you pruner.
posted by Mr_Zero at 8:13 AM on July 9, 2007


Reminds me of Requiem for a Dream. Which I think is one of the most powerful movies ever made.
posted by Mr_Zero at 8:14 AM on July 9, 2007


Reminds me of Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo.
posted by andendau at 8:22 AM on July 9, 2007


Why must photographers always punish the visitors to their websites? Why?

I enabled flash and javascript and allowed a new window to be opened and then I looked at 2 or 3 painfully slow loading images and gave up.

Why do people do this?
posted by srboisvert at 8:23 AM on July 9, 2007 [23 favorites]


This is pretty incredible.
posted by dismas at 8:23 AM on July 9, 2007


Yes, cocaine is a bad drug. However, it is the only drug of its kind that could possibly be considered a "party drug." Think about it - if someone is doing heroin or meth, there's a 90% chance that they're an addict. Cocaine, on the other hand - I've known many "normal" people who don't make a habit of doing cocaine, but would consider, say, doing it at a party if someone put a free line in front of them. There's no doubt that people get addicted to it, but I would argue that it's less addictive then, say, cigarettes.
posted by Elmo Oxygen at 8:24 AM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I would argue that it's less addictive then, say, cigarettes.

Oh, let's not make this chatfilter. But I know people who have come off cocaine and it's not a 72-hour withdrawal. Sure, nicotine is addictive, but more addictive? I don't think you can find any rational public health professional who would side with you, Elmo.
posted by parmanparman at 8:27 AM on July 9, 2007


Powerful stuff.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:29 AM on July 9, 2007


Well, it depends on how you define "more addictive." When I said "more addictive," I meant that someone who tries cigarettes and tries cocaine is more likely to become addicted to the cigarettes. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've seen studies to that effect.

I'm sure that once someone is addicted to cocaine, however, it's a much harder addiction to break, although I would guess that nicotine has a higher relapse rate.
posted by Elmo Oxygen at 8:30 AM on July 9, 2007


See also the classic Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue.
posted by The Straightener at 8:32 AM on July 9, 2007


Great series, really gritty and obviously good considering the slim chance for access to such a world, but individually, I only liked 2 or 3 pictures that told a story by themselves, but overall it was great.

If that was coke, what was with all the needles? It looked like a bunch of heroin addicts to my untrained eye.
posted by mathowie at 8:33 AM on July 9, 2007


These are terrific photos, both in terms of the moments they capture and the technical proficiency of the shots (the lighting in these areas must have been awful).
posted by brain_drain at 8:35 AM on July 9, 2007


Erm, just to clarify: the dealer who first took her to that apartment, may well have been a cocaine dealer, but the inhabitants you see in those pictures are addicted to heroin.

Visually, this really reminded me of Zurbaran and the Carracci.

Also: someone please get that kid out of there...
posted by progosk at 8:36 AM on July 9, 2007


Well, it depends on how you define "more addictive."

In other words, it depends upon the criteria you use.
posted by googly at 8:38 AM on July 9, 2007


If that was coke, what was with all the needles? It looked like a bunch of heroin addicts to my untrained eye.

There are users who continue to prefer to inject cocaine despite the fact that the sensation provided by crack is nearly identical and without the associated dangers that come with injecting like abscesses and HIV.
posted by The Straightener at 8:39 AM on July 9, 2007


Some of these photos are stunning as both documentary and art. Many, however, seem to be a rehash of Nan Goldin's work and premised on a sort of "LOLADDICTZ" voyeurism that gives any act normally considered transgressive, illegal, or deeply private artistic merit by mere virtue of a little "arting up."

Thanks, nonetheless, for introducing me to the work of this talented new photographer.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 8:40 AM on July 9, 2007 [6 favorites]


They might've been speedballing, mathowie.

Yep, this is another good example of me being glad that my sister did all of my drugs for me. As a little kid, I remember thinking to myself that drugs turned people really, really ugly & that I didn't want anything to do with them.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:40 AM on July 9, 2007


This type of gritty realism makes me despair for photography as an art and humanity -- at least the humanity this side of the lens -- as a species.

Somewhat more seriously, quite a few of these are remarkable. Of course one can't escape the knowledge of all the hundreds of frames, or gigabytes, I suppose, that we never see. Like an art that claims to represent reality, photojournalism is in truth the controlled subjectivity of the artist held up as objective truth. One must ask is this image, deliberate, intentional, biased as it is a truer thing, a more earnest thing than the thing itself?

Of course then one must slap one's self rather violently for being a pretentious ass.

Oh, and 'savage?' what's so savage about it. It struck me as rather intimate and sympathetic. A savage depiction requires violence, not passivity. Nor is it epic, quite the opposite. No definition of epic applies. I see no heroic deeds, no "Arma virumque cano." Plenty of drama, but personal dramas, tragic yes, uncommon no. Small, lamentable, pathetic tragedies.

Now I want to try cocaine. Oh dear, I have to look like I'm working. In case it isn't obvious, I'm mostly playing around. These are very good. good post.
posted by Grod at 8:41 AM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Great photos. They make me angry and sad at the same time.
posted by MarshallPoe at 8:41 AM on July 9, 2007


the heroin info is from her bio; srboisvert: direct links to the pictures: 1 to 44.
posted by progosk at 8:42 AM on July 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


*I* decide the size and shape of my browser window, but thanks anyway. I'll check these photos out when they are put on a less obtrusive site.
posted by mike_bling at 8:43 AM on July 9, 2007 [5 favorites]


Think about it - if someone is doing heroin or meth, there's a 90% chance that they're an addict.

That's total bullshit. There are plenty of people who 'chip' heroin or occasionally take methamphetamines. Their lives just aren't screwed up enough to provide the opportunity to win prestigious awards for photojournalism by documenting them.

I've known plenty of 'normal' people who would happily do a free bump of meth or heroin (or just about anything else) if you put it in front of them, at a party or elsewhere. These 'normals' wouldn't ever buy personal stashes of hard drugs, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't do them.

If cocaine is the only 'party drug' you know of, maybe we don't go to the same kinds of parties.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:46 AM on July 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


premised on a sort of "LOLADDICTZ" voyeurism that gives any act normally considered transgressive, illegal, or deeply private artistic merit by mere virtue of a little "arting up."

Jesus Christ, yes.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:46 AM on July 9, 2007


After looking at the first few I thought they were taken in the 60s, but then I saw all the tattoos. Incredible photos.
posted by PHINC at 8:47 AM on July 9, 2007


I wish we could all collectively stop defining everything as LOL______Z.

I don't know... when a website or people's comments are the subject, that's one thing, but when we're discussing things non-internet related, like a photojournalist's body of creative work about hardcore drug use? It just doesn't really seem appropriate to me. Any more than it would seem right calling "The Killing Fields" LOLCAMBODIANZ or something.

That's my take, anyhow. YMMV.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:48 AM on July 9, 2007 [12 favorites]


shooting is a more direct and therefore most intense method of ingesting a wide range of drugs. pharmacokinetics differ vastly between administration methods.

personally i disliked requiem for a dream, because not only the repetitive music but the title itself gave away the film's ending.
posted by sponge at 8:49 AM on July 9, 2007


Nice pictures but really, really horrible site.
posted by unixrat at 8:49 AM on July 9, 2007


The photos are very good, and I love this kind of stuff in general (Alberto Garcia-Alix is one of my favourite photographers these days), but there are a few things that seems a little exploitative here. Some of these situations are very intimate and revealing, and I believe in the photographer's (or journalist's) duty to protect people from themselves when they're not capable of looking out for their own best interests. I'm not sure that's what the photographer was doing in this case.

Then again, having a photo of themselves naked and fucking with a booze bottle in one hand might be the least of these people's problems.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:52 AM on July 9, 2007


If cocaine is the only 'party drug' you know of, maybe we don't go to the same kinds of parties.

Didn't say that it was the only party drug I know of. I said that it's the only drug of its kind (hard drugs) that could be considered a "party drug." Obviously there are other drugs that fit under the rubric of "party drug"- alcohol, marijuana, and ecstasy to name a few.

And it sounds like we probably do go to different parties. The only time I knew non-addicts who did meth or heroin was back when I was a teenager, and those people were mostly just trying it for the first or second time.
posted by Elmo Oxygen at 8:52 AM on July 9, 2007


Disturbingly intimate.

The pictures could have benefitted from a text passage or two to help give context, such as what's going on in #9. It feels wrong to see them as in such a personal way and not even know their name.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:53 AM on July 9, 2007


Ok, this one absolutely haunts me.
posted by killThisKid at 8:54 AM on July 9, 2007


Some of the many things the War on Drugs obscures,

1)there's no 'intrinsic' addictive potential for *any* drug. Route of administration, partly due to varying pharmacokinetics and partly due to pharmacodynamics, can make a difference of night and day. Cocaine, when injected or smoked is a very potent reinforcer. Cocaine, when snorted, is a moderate reinforcer, in the same ballpark as alcohol, if not a bit lower actually. Cocaine taken orally as a liquid, like caffeine, is no more remarkable.

2)The proportion of the cocaine-using population liable to develop dependence is within the same ballpark as alcohol. There's no difference of kind or degree.
posted by daksya at 8:55 AM on July 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


That's cold, mike_bling, look at these people, they don't get to decide the size and shape of their browser window.

/glib
posted by klaatu at 8:57 AM on July 9, 2007


Direct links to photos:
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 18 - 19 - 20 - 21 - 22 - 23 - 24 - 25 - 26 - 27 - 28 - 29 - 30 - 31 - 32 - 33 - 34 - 35 - 36 - 37 - 38 - 39 - 40 - 41 - 42 - 43 - 44
posted by killThisKid at 9:03 AM on July 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


I've known plenty of 'normal' people who would happily do a free bump of meth or heroin

Same here, though I would never ever join them there.

From everything I know, from friends throughout the years, heroin addiction, just like Burroughs describes it in "Junky" is first a conscious desicion and lifestyle choice before it develops into a physical dependency. One does not become addicted automatically after using it casually a couple of times, unlike what those films in 9th great health class would have us believe.

I certainly wouldn't do it myself, and wouldn't recommend it to others, but I do think think the half-truths and hyperbole surrounding these things, in a strange way, kind of deepens their allure, rather then frightening people away from them.

Or, on preview, what daksya said.
posted by psmealey at 9:07 AM on July 9, 2007


I kept thinking of Nan Goldin, too, and I thought of how many empty calories this is. Nothing against Dimmock, she's doing what she was trained to do, but the public is inured, I think, to this sort of photojournalism. It is no longer either art nor activism, in the way that Lewis Hine's work changed public sentiment and laws.

If foxy_hedgehog is right that people look at these photos with a voyeurism that is tinged with a smug attitude that "this could never happen to me or my family" then ultimately these photos are empty. They aren't shocking--we've seen much worse; they merely then convey the message that drugs will fuck you up. I don't think anyone's surprised by that, either.

I don't mean to sound as if I have compassion fatigue, because I don't. But I think that the awards showered on Dimmock give those organizations that provided them a way to feel good about doing something about the problem portrayed here and they haven't, unless keeping Jessica Dimmock off of drugs counts.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:07 AM on July 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Think of all that dope money they wasted on tattoos.
posted by davebush at 9:09 AM on July 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


I wish we could all collectively stop defining everything as LOL______Z.

I actually used it very deliberately here. My sense of the term is that it refers to moments when the subject of the discussion, photography, FPP etc. is purported to be worthy of note only because the group or demographic in question is inherently funny or gawk-worthy (i.e. Fattiez, Muslimz, etc., and in this case, Drug Addictz).

I agree that when used as an all-purpose chat-room version of Library of Congress subject headings designation it gets annoying.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 9:12 AM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I agree that when used as an all-purpose chat-room version of Library of Congress subject headings designation it gets annoying.

Oops. Eliminate "designation."
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 9:16 AM on July 9, 2007


Ok, this one absolutely haunts me.
posted by killThisKid at 8:54 AM on July 9 [+] [!]


Sadly eponysterical.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:27 AM on July 9, 2007


Some guy got killed on my street this weekend, in some way related to the drug trade going on there. Really sad.
posted by salvia at 9:34 AM on July 9, 2007


killThisKid, thanks for the direct links. I wonder why anything "optimized for..." ends invariably up much less usable than plain html. Guess geek breeders are churning out too many of the flash variety and too little of the less is better kind.
posted by Laotic at 9:42 AM on July 9, 2007


>>Ok, this one absolutely haunts me.

That kid was me 30-odd years ago. @#$%, it makes me ache with tears to think about children being caught up in that life.
posted by SaintCynr at 9:45 AM on July 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


Ok, this one absolutely haunts me.

I've known some vile, vile people in my life, but I was astounded by how absolutely disgusting those people are to mix a child into their own wanton destruction. You're well within your rights to make whatever misery you want for yourself, but not for other people, including your children.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:46 AM on July 9, 2007


Love the photos, hate the site. Can't have everything I guess!
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:49 AM on July 9, 2007


I kept thinking of Nan Goldin, too, and I thought of how many empty calories this is. Nothing against Dimmock, she's doing what she was trained to do, but the public is inured, I think, to this sort of photojournalism.

I know that I'm not "inured" or whatever to this sort of journalism, and I know that, like most MeFites, I've seen a lot of stuff while trolling for the "best of the web."

It was a fascinating and somewhat disgusting look into the world of "drug users." It's not a world I get to see every day. As for feeling smug, well, I felt more compassion and, dare I say it, pity, than anything else.

Living in a room full of filth is not an alternative lifestyle.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:50 AM on July 9, 2007


Yea, I'm with srboisvert. Why do photogs ALWAYS have to have crapalicious flash sites? I can't even get this stupid one to work in Firefox.

Shopping for wedding photographers right now, I'm this close to just going with the one that doesn't have a fancy, slow, frigging awful site. Jesus, people.

I think it's that deep inside every photographer is the desire to be a film director, and this is just a manifestation of that unconscious desire.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:54 AM on July 9, 2007


Wow. Some of these are so perfectly framed, so cinematic, that it's hard to believe they're candid; on the other hand, the faces, the bodies, the expressions, etc., all seem to indicate that absolutely nothing has been staged. I think it's precisely this tension that makes the work so haunting -- yet it also quite consciously evokes the specter of voyeurism, thus implicating and raising the stakes for the viewer (i.e., making it more difficult for the viewer to view these comfortably from afar).
posted by treepour at 9:55 AM on July 9, 2007


"There's no romanticizing that shit."

Oh, but I beg to differ. In certaion ways, these photos do romanticize that shit, especially the ones that employ dramatic sidelighting against a dark background, and to a lesser extent, the ones that focus on the bony, imperfect faces of the subjects.

The lighting evokes film noir quite directly, which is nothing if not a romantic genre, and the faces of the subjects recall earlier documentarian photography, such as well-known photos from the 1930's dustbowl migration. Those images, again, are most familiar to us via films, in particular "The Grapes of Wrath."

There's nothing wrong with insisting on a high degree of aesthetic quality when creating jouralistic imagery. It most certainly, however, is romanticizing.
posted by mwhybark at 9:58 AM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Or they just want to have absolute control over how you view their images.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:59 AM on July 9, 2007


Mayor Curley -

You know, you don't exactly think all that clearly, under those circumstances. I had a bit of a problem with meth.

Okay, not a bit of a problem. Nearly got killed. And I'd still do it if I allowed myself around it.

Anyway, the lifestyle clouds your head so some things that make no sense at all seem perfectly sane and rational.

This isn't an excuse, but an explanation.

Let's just hope that kid gets some help before it's too late.
posted by Samizdata at 10:00 AM on July 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Heartbreaking ...
posted by carter at 10:01 AM on July 9, 2007


Or they just want to have absolute control over how you view their images.

Ding, ding, we have a winner. Artists can be insane in this way, which can be good or bad.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:07 AM on July 9, 2007


Living in a room full of filth is not an alternative lifestyle.

When I encounter filthy living conditions in the field it always makes me wonder what must be at work beyond extreme poverty to break someone so badly that they live like that. I've been in homes that would blow your mind, where I won't even lean against a wall, take my coat off in the middle of winter or sit even for a second because every surface is totally coated in filth and crawling with roaches. When I meet a prospective client like this I always excuse myself to use the bathroom in order to take a cursory glance around the house for drug paraphenalia. I always carry hand sanitizer and use it liberally.

But I've met families where there was no evidence or discernable history of drug abuse that lived in conditions like this. It has really made me start to seriously wonder if there is a broad population of undiagnosed mentally ill (primarily) women living in extreme poverty, whose poor living conditions are exacerbated by their mental condition. In fact, I was going to email someone asking if she knows of any research on that this morning.

I don't believe that people without some other extent, untreated condition live like this. I've worked with families that would appear to have chosen these kind of conditions but over time the mental and behavioral problems start to come to the surface. You start to hear about the domestic violence histories and the insane environments they were raised in as children and the picture starts to make more sense.
posted by The Straightener at 10:14 AM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


If foxy_hedgehog is right that people look at these photos with a voyeurism that is tinged with a smug attitude that "this could never happen to me or my family" then ultimately these photos are empty. They aren't shocking--we've seen much worse; they merely then convey the message that drugs will fuck you up. I don't think anyone's surprised by that, either.

"this could never happen to me or my family" is one way to see them, but my reaction was more of a reminder that "there but for the grace of circumstance/luck/god go I". Does that make me naive?
posted by juv3nal at 10:17 AM on July 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Straightener - this may be what you're looking for.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:24 AM on July 9, 2007


This just in: People look bad with bad lighting!

You're looking at the effects of poverty and a lack of self-respect. Not drugs.
posted by delmoi at 10:24 AM on July 9, 2007


There's no doubt that people get addicted to it, but I would argue that it's less addictive then, say, cigarettes.

It's the other way around, in fact niccotine is more chemically addictive then cocaine or heroin, but not meth (here is one source on that, scroll to the bottom and look at the 'dependance' field)
posted by delmoi at 10:28 AM on July 9, 2007


Although I think it is just one of the many lost causes of the non-conversation that makes up the public discourse on "the drug problem," it seems to me the differentiation of "party drugs," "hard drugs," "recreational drugs" and the rest. A catastrophic alcoholic is not one iota less damaged and dissolute than any of the people represented in these pictures. Most of the issues particular to this represented group are the result of the illegality of their drugs of abuse, not the intrinsic addictive or intoxicant qualities of the drug itself.

Comparative addictive potentials are usually gauged by relapse rates which are obviously a very questionable method of judging, say, the biological addictive potential of a substance (if indeed such a thing could be discreetly measured). Another way of looking at things is the degree to which a very high percentage of the total consumption of a substance is accounted for by a very small percentage of users (i.e. serious addicts) - though it is likewise hard to judge the degree to which these patterns are influenced by illegality (chipping heroin is obviously less accessible than social drinking, primarily because of illegality: when laudanum was routinely available for a price similar to alcohol the patterns of use and abuse were more similar, though good figures aren't available, and the comparison of laudanum and heroin is obviously arguable).

Blanket legalization does not strike me as attainable or necessarily desirable, but I do think that whatever progress is possible in the face of the basic reality of human potential for drug abuse and the essential impossibility of total and effective prohibition of any drug until society starts coming to terms with these distinctions: the basic biological effects of drug abuse, for example, versus the social and behavioral impacts of being enmeshed in a subculture of illegality, and in a black market economy of extraordinarily inflated prices and completely unregulated coercive practices.
posted by nanojath at 10:29 AM on July 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


"I believe in the photographer's (or journalist's) duty to protect people from themselves."

I believe you're confusing photographer (or journalist) with other jobs like social worker (or psychotherapist), and "protecting people from themselves" is something I'm ambivalent- to- antagonistic toward. (E.g., "Friends don't let friends abstain from anarchist revolution.")

My personal reaction when looking at this photos though is 'Yuck, these people make ME look "whole and normal," even at my worst (which was bad enough).'
posted by davy at 10:34 AM on July 9, 2007


drugs bad. ok. site difficult to handle, as noted, and so I gave up, right after seeing the young guy with Hofstra on his sweatshirt. See what happens when you don't get into Ivy schools?
posted by Postroad at 10:35 AM on July 9, 2007


Drug use must be the new black. Drug users can be dismissed and considered incapable of normal functioning even in polite discussion such as the blue without anyone even blinking an eye.

I propose that this photoset is a biased piece of propaganda, that serves no purpose other than facilitating feeling smug by looking down on drug users and reinforcing one's prejudices in this circle jerk of offended sensibilities.

I propose that for each of those horror shots i could produce 10 drug glamour shots just from my own memories in which you see such delight and enjoyment of life, such pleasures as to make you reconsider your life. If you really need to, dismiss what i said as nonsense - it will give you peace of mind.

I propose that most drug users lead normal lives and hide that fact from YOU.

Finally, i propose that a simple argument that controlled drug use makes you a better person could be constructed if one accepts Bertrand Russell's observation that "The good life, as I conceive it, is a happy life. I do not mean that if you are good you will be happy - I mean that if you are happy you will be good."

Yes these are drug users! Look how miserable and dirty they are! We exclude them from society, we invest the GDP of a small country to make sure they are delivered to the Rape Centers in mass numbers, and still they won't shape up and get on with the order of business. They surelly mustn't know better.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 10:38 AM on July 9, 2007 [11 favorites]


Elmo Oxygen: When I said "more addictive," I meant that someone who tries cigarettes and tries cocaine is more likely to become addicted to the cigarettes. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've seen studies to that effect.

The availability of cigarettes in every corner shop has something to do with that I think.
posted by hupp at 10:40 AM on July 9, 2007


my reaction was more of a reminder that "there but for the grace of circumstance/luck/god go I". Does that make me naive?

No. That makes you compassionate. Which is good thing, IMO.
posted by psmealey at 10:41 AM on July 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


I don't get how a photographer could take "candid" shots like these without all the junk and other people getting in the way -- I'd want to set little "webcams" or something all over and cut the frames into stills -- and I can't believe anybody let themselves be photographed "candidly" like this without "camping it up" for the camera regardless of whether they were shooting up in a rats' nest or not.

And I second CautionToTheWind 's comment.
posted by davy at 10:43 AM on July 9, 2007


The availability of cigarettes in every corner shop has something to do with that I think.

There are many factors at work. The comedown from a cocaine bender is one of the worst experiences that a human being can have. I think that this, alone, is enough to deter most casual users from developing a cocaine addiction.
posted by Elmo Oxygen at 10:48 AM on July 9, 2007


Mayor Curley writes "was astounded by how absolutely disgusting those people are to mix a child into their own wanton destruction. "

Oh fer Chris sake, Mayor ! The bucket has to stop somewhere and indeed it stops with the parents, but I wonder what makes you think they actually _desired_ to mix the child in their decadence. Not every addict has a desire to self-destruct or to destruct others along their path, but many can't help it.

Just pointing out that they'd better not include innocents suggest complete lack of understanding of their _condition_ and a blanket condemnation of every addiction as if every addict was , ultimately, an egotic hedonist.

Context, for the f'kin love of god if there is any , context ! You'd be suprised by the amount of people I think are drinking alcoholics to _medicate_ themselves from conditions that are _not visibile_ , even people that have no reason _at all_ to feel bad, rich and affluent and rather successful people.

---

As for the slideshow, that's haunting...I wonder if the pusher really is a pusher, is he afraid of being recognized ?
posted by elpapacito at 10:49 AM on July 9, 2007


Drug users can be dismissed and considered incapable of normal functioning even in polite discussion such as the blue without anyone even blinking an eye.


Incapable of normal functioning


Besides, we're not talking about "drug users", we're talking about "chronic substance abusers." There is a difference, y'know.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:52 AM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Excellent defense of soma there, CautionToTheWind. Unfortunately, it doesn't exist. Whether or not you can hide it from me, the delight and enjoyment of life you speak of has nothing to do with life: If we gave enough free cocaine to prisoners in solitary confinement, they'd never want to leave. Too much enjoyment, you see.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 10:58 AM on July 9, 2007


Mayor Curley: I've known some vile, vile people in my life, but I was astounded by how absolutely disgusting those people are to mix a child into their own wanton destruction. You're well within your rights to make whatever misery you want for yourself, but not for other people, including your children.

This seems a bit harsh. Aside from the drugs we know nothing about their lives and, as hard as it might be to believe, there are many drug addicts who work very hard to support their addictions and their families. Look at the fridge. This is a family in their home, not degenerates in a shooting gallery. You see 'vile' people. I see sick people who may or may not be trying to get better.

I do have to wonder if you would react with the same fervor if the image was of an affluent alcoholic soccer mom living in a McMansion or some celebutante parent seeking redemption through rehab and childcare via nanny. These peoples lives are often as much a result of poverty as addiction and there are plenty of addicts out there who are blessed with the wherewithal to maintain a decent standard of living.

Anyway, what's astounding? Bad decision making and an inability to manage life is the very definition of addiction and these people didn't grow up saying, "Hey, I'm going to live in squalor, shoot dope and raise a bunch of half-naked rugrats." Bad shit happens when you have a disease.
posted by cedar at 11:10 AM on July 9, 2007


To be honest, StrikeTheViol, the very notion of having cocaine while in confinement (solitary!) made a shiver go down my spine. You non-drug users presume way too much. Drug use is not an ON/OFF switch in which you disconnect reality and enter paradise. Drug use is much more rewarding if you are confortable, peaceful and in a pleasant environment, and if your real life is not something that worries you a lot. If you have serious real life problems, you may find some drugs to be quite unpleasant.

About soma, even a moderate incursion into drug experimenting would have revealed cannabis, which is a consequence free as any drug can get, with the added benefit that instead of making you tolerate totalitarianism, it opens your mind to new perspectives and to the very treasures that lie hidden at the end of the forbidden rainbow. If the Brave New World proves something, is that Soma is much more dangerous than the drugs we have right now.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 11:14 AM on July 9, 2007


"I propose that this photoset is a biased piece of propaganda, that serves no purpose other than facilitating feeling smug by looking down on drug users and reinforcing one's prejudices in this circle jerk of offended sensibilities."

That's the part I was seconding.

But then I feel superior to people who think otherwise, as I do to those who blither about "saving people from themselves." When such people move into my neighborhood they fuck it up for me: if you don't want to live in a neighborhood where, e.g., homeless guys drink beer in the park then don't move here to "clean the place up" (by, say, forcibly closing the the liquor stores and setting the cops on my buddies) and "raise property values" (making it too expensive for me to rent in). Focus instead on making your own near-perfect lives even better, in a far-away Gated Community where only your own ilk would go.

(However, "cannabis...opens your mind to new perspectives" is just flip-side propaganda. What opened my mind was reading philosophy and history. Let's not get silly just because they are.)
posted by davy at 11:19 AM on July 9, 2007


You ever read "The Sun"? It's progressive/liberal magazine featuring articles, fiction and photography, but one of its best features is "Readers Write", where readers send in stories about a particular theme. In the December 2002 issue, the theme was "Against All Odds" and the first letter has a short and powerful story that presents a very human view of addiction. Here's a PDF of that section, containing the story.

The magazine is well worth a subscription and no I have nothing to do with or it's owners.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:25 AM on July 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


This just in: People look bad with bad lighting! You're looking at the effects of poverty and a lack of self-respect. Not drugs.

I beg to differ.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:27 AM on July 9, 2007


Way back when, when I lived in a trendy UK town known for its parties and music scene and liberal attitudes towards drugs, I used to know people who looked like this, who lived in places that looked like this. Some of the them are dead now (HIV, overdose, etc.). Some were 'nice kids' with nice parents, who would attempt to bathe and clean up and act straight when their family was in town and hope their mum didn't notice the track marks or the pallor or the bad teeth or the rotten clothes. More were abused/runaways been living away from home since their early teens.

None of them really seemed inherently bad. There wasn't a point at which they said, "Okay, I'm going to be a fuck-up from now on." Most of them just sort of slid into it gradually, often by living in squats and/or living in counterculture environments. Then one morning you wake up and you're a junkie and you're panhandling and ripping off people's stuff.

They all just sort of encouraged each other, and as some either graduated from the scene or started living on the streets or passed on, they were replaced by a constant supply of new runaways and middle-class kids looking for an edge. Perhaps the most reprehensible people were the hard-core users, who needed to hook new recruits in order to deal to them in order to finance their habits, and who used the apparent 'glamour' of their lifestyle to pull in impressionable kids.
posted by carter at 11:33 AM on July 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Oh fer Chris sake, Mayor ! The bucket has to stop somewhere and indeed it stops with the parents, but I wonder what makes you think they actually _desired_ to mix the child in their decadence. Not every addict has a desire to self-destruct or to destruct others along their path, but many can't help it.

I'm sure they didn't desire to mix a kid in with that, but it's precisely what they did. And you're right that the bucket stops with them. I do wish the best for them and hope they somehow manage to get to a better level of existence.

But you're excusing their behavior. Wreck yourself, and that's no one's business except yours and your friends/family. Wreck someone else, you're dog piss.

I know from personal experience that circumstances and bad choices can swallow you up. The measure of your character in that instance is whether you pull anyone down with you.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:33 AM on July 9, 2007


Nice comment, cedar, and it's nice to see your username.
posted by OmieWise at 11:39 AM on July 9, 2007


Seriously, the photo of that kid really bothers me.
posted by Shanachie at 11:41 AM on July 9, 2007


Ok, this one absolutely haunts me.

I've known some vile, vile people in my life, but I was astounded by how absolutely disgusting those people are to mix a child into their own wanton destruction. You're well within your rights to make whatever misery you want for yourself, but not for other people, including your children.


That photo haunts me too. I lingered there far longer than on any other photo. Did you look closely, Mayor Curley? They are embracing the child. As cedar points out, the fridge is cluttered with the minutia of family life. Look at the mothers eyes, how the father slouches to hug his child. They expose their child to things no child should witness but in this one moment, it is clear they love him. I felt nothing but overwhelming sadness for these three, not just the child.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 11:42 AM on July 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


Jessica Dimmock may owe a debt to Nan Goldin - right down to, it looks to me, the choice of camera and film - but that doesn't diminish at all the quality of this work. These are amazing pictures. Is it exploitation? I don't think so - framing and juxtaposition and cropping (etc etc) are the nature of photography, and photojournalism (and art and literature). These people chose to invite her into their world, to share its ugliness and its beauty; out of this she made something profound.
posted by Flashman at 11:43 AM on July 9, 2007


Brandon: I love The Sun. I let my subscription lapse a few years ago, but oddly I've been thinking about it lately. And yes, "Readers Write" was the best feature in that magazine. The photos, the interviews, the stories and poetry: all of it was high quality stuff. Except for "Sparrow." Does he still have a mandatory poem in each issue? Man was his stuff contrived, even for someone who goes by one name and that of a small bird.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 11:46 AM on July 9, 2007


But miss lynnster, Sartre took plenty of speed while writing. I'd say the drug accounted for a lot of Sartre's unreadable wankery, but some people (including some Professional Philosophers who don't have drug problems) think that stuff is brilliant. Sartre's facial ugliness can best be blamed on his genes and his tacit decision to do without plastic surgery, not on his "amphetaminosis."
posted by davy at 11:47 AM on July 9, 2007


Prohibition is a hell of a drug.
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:53 AM on July 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


I couldn't really debate the exploitative or ___LOLZ nature of this collection, because my intense personal reaction to this overwhelms everything else.

I look at these photos and I see the shadows of old friends that I lost to this life many years ago. Worse, I see my own reflection of them. I seem my own reluctance to talk them out of it when it looked like they were headed that way, my weakness to get in there and try to find help for these people when things reached a critical point, and my cowardice in just giving up and turning the other way. I absolved myself later on with thoughts like those expressed above; that people who chose this life did so because they were sick. They were merely using the drugs to anaesthetize against some unseen and deeper pain.

That's cold comfort I guess, but doesn't make me feel any less guilty.

For all those reasons, this is the most haunting FPP I have ever read on Metafilter. Thanks, parmanparman. I think.
posted by psmealey at 12:06 PM on July 9, 2007


CautionToTheWind, I've used drugs. I've been prescribed a good deal of pharmaceuticals at points in my life, so I know about addiction potentials and the self-evident truth that some drugs are safer than others. I've also lost friends due to drugs. Usually when I start talking about them, what I hear from coke or heroin users is a monologue about personal responsibility and respect, growing cockier and more strident the more they use. The truly heavy users I've met almost seemed to consider themselves a sort of elect, having "broken the chains of society" and "seen deeper truths" such that I must consider you like I would an ascetic: someone who may be interesting to talk to, but who I would never willingly join.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 12:08 PM on July 9, 2007


Substances don't do anything on their own. Their effects, good or ill, are just a symptom of the user's way of life and will. Some folks can do the hardest drugs and create wonder in the world. Some people shoot up once and set into motion a legacy of brutality that isn't easily broken. While it's comforting and easy to think of any issue in black and white, shades of gray are much more prevalent.

Trouble is, any time a conversation begins to touch on the idea that people have a varying ability to handle any hot issue like this, many people grow uncomfortable and react negatively. It's a very touchy area of human interaction, looking at our differences and what they mean for us as a collective.
posted by SaintCynr at 12:09 PM on July 9, 2007


I propose that for each of those horror shots i could produce 10 drug glamour shots just from my own memories in which you see such delight and enjoyment of life, such pleasures as to make you reconsider your life. If you really need to, dismiss what i said as nonsense - it will give you peace of mind.

I have had many good experiences with marijuana, and use it frequently. I have had a few good experiences with alcohol (though enough very very bad ones to decide not to drink at this point in my life). I rely on my morning cup (or three) of coffee to get my day started. I used to smoke cigarettes, before I realized it was dumb, made my breath smell bad, and didn't do a whole lot for me. I use and have used prescription medication for anxiety and depression (legitimately, with the supervision of a doctor). In other words, I very consciously make drugs a part of my life. So what's the difference?

The difference, as many in this thread have noted, is the fact that I use every substance on that list (and have never tried cocaine, heroin, meth, ecstasy, or just about anything else) as a supplement to my daily life, not as my daily life. Coffee wakes me up. Weed chills me out. When I smoked, it took the edge off of stress (especially around exam time). I treat them (and maybe this is just so much self-delusion) more or less like the vitamin supplements I take. This, I think, is a lifestyle choice. Living in squalor and (as is the stereotype) not having anything else to look forward to but the next high, on the other hand, is not a lifestyle. It is a life.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 12:10 PM on July 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Canadians are, apparently, world-leading potheads, smoking the doobies at 4x the rate of most of the rest of the world.

Turns out we're also pretty much cokeheads, too. That one's a shame.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:14 PM on July 9, 2007


Substances don't do anything on their own. Their effects, good or ill, are just a symptom of the user's way of life and will.

I propose that this photoset is a biased piece of propaganda


I propose that these are comments from people who've never spent time in an environment where addiction and the drug trade affect a large portion of the population.

It's comforting to think that the ill-effects of drugs are either the result of poor PR or lack of will, but the facts are quite different. This is certainly not to say that every drug story is a horror story, there are many comedies in the mix. But if you doubt the negative power of drugs you've not spent much time in an inner city. Go to Baltimore, Philly, Detroit, and take a look around. Poverty has a lot to do with the problems, but excluding drugs from the mix is as foolhardy as blaming all the problems you see on drugs.

(There are plenty of horrific drug stories that take place in suburbia, but urban centers, due to population density, tend to show the issues more starkly.)
posted by OmieWise at 12:16 PM on July 9, 2007


I must point out that some people can be degraded, crazy, dirty and lots of other Bad Things without ever using any kind of drug.
posted by davy at 12:19 PM on July 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


But as CautionToTheWind's comment allows me to infer, davy, the drugs don't help.

If you have serious real life problems, you may find some drugs to be quite unpleasant.

Understatement of the year.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 12:35 PM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


OmieWise, my mother was a junkie my entire young life. She probably still is, though I haven't seen her since I was 13. I didn't have the best sense as a younger person, and had to kick opium addiction in '96.

I understand we have differing views, but don't assume I have no base of experience simply because we've come to separate conclusions. Again, nothing is solely one way or the other.
posted by SaintCynr at 12:39 PM on July 9, 2007


These pictures are beautiful, most of you need to relax. This is reality for some people. The photographs are depictions of instances of their existence. Such is life.

I kind of thought we could aim higher here than "omg the children!"
posted by blacklite at 12:44 PM on July 9, 2007


I understand we have differing views, but don't assume I have no base of experience simply because we've come to separate conclusions. Again, nothing is solely one way or the other.

I never suggested anything was solely one way or another. Read my comment again.

I'm very surprised that you'd be so willing to downplay the seriousness of drugs per se given your history. I don't dispute your opinion. I continue to think that despite your purported personal history your exposure to places where drugs and drug abuse affect the majority of the population must be limited if you've come to the conclusions you have.
posted by OmieWise at 12:44 PM on July 9, 2007


"(There are plenty of horrific drug stories that take place in suburbia, but urban centers, due to population density, tend to show the issues more starkly.)"

I thought it was because in urban centers the people are Black, which these people in these photos ain't. Or maybe, as they're White druggies, the photographer forgot to take pictures of the outsides of their trailers, if there are trailer parks in urban centers?

/sarcasm (<= aimed at "Society" not any Mefite in particular)
posted by davy at 12:52 PM on July 9, 2007


Omiewise, I believe in personal responsibility. A great many of the people who fall prey to the worst excesses and evils that drugs can elicit were very vulnerable to begin with. Some of those people make it through. At least, that's what I heard.

BTW, I truly appreciate the sweet, sweet use of "purported". I can only hope that if you're ever unfortunate enough to feel compelled to spill your guts about a life you barely escaped, and weep like a child and shake with remembered terror as your words spill forth, that your audience is as kind and loving as you feel you deserve.
posted by SaintCynr at 12:55 PM on July 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


StrikeTheViol: The truly heavy users I've met almost seemed to consider themselves a sort of elect, having "broken the chains of society" and "seen deeper truths" such that I must consider you like I would an ascetic...

The truly heavy users I've met tend to be homeless, gravely sick, mentally ill or imprisoned. They, at least the ones still alive, don't consider themselves much of anything other than fucked up addicts.
posted by cedar at 12:56 PM on July 9, 2007


I can only hope that if you're ever unfortunate enough to feel compelled to spill your guts about a life you barely escaped, and weep like a child and shake with remembered terror as your words spill forth, that your audience is as kind and loving as you feel you deserve.

You mean anonymously, to strangers on the internet, in order to score a point in a disagreement? I hope so too.

(I don't want to be a dick, but your post in context didn't telegraph itself as particularly emotionally affecting. Had it been an AskMe or a thread on MetaChat, or something like that, I can assure you that my sympathy would have been on offer.)
posted by OmieWise at 1:04 PM on July 9, 2007


What suckage. It's so easy to go and take pictures of poor, stupid, losers doing drugs and being poor. The kind of pictures that'll make the many NY Times readers feel better about themselves. Though it is, perhaps, one of the most delicious ironies of fate how the rich and the poor idolize one another.

Oh, but I beg to differ. In certaion ways, these photos do romanticize that shit, especially the ones that employ dramatic sidelighting against a dark background, and to a lesser extent, the ones that focus on the bony, imperfect faces of the subjects.

All of her photos romanticize the same shit in the same way. It's so grungy and authentic, with the same carefully applied graininess that you recognize from old movies and porn films. It says something that the French nobility used to dress up and pretend to be country peasants while today we get pictures of of all the mysteriously not-Black heroin addicts out there.
posted by nixerman at 1:12 PM on July 9, 2007


Quite impressive photographs; most impressive to me that she got access and permission from these people (that's assuming that she bothered with getting releases). I wonder if money changed hands for it.

Anyway, I have to agree a little with beelzbubba -- I don't think the public at large is really affected by such images much anymore; call it "compassion fatigue," call it whatever you want, but I think most people are fairly aware of what goes on around them and just choose to ignore it. The photos are artistically quite good, but I don't think they're showing anything that most people don't already know about.

Mayor Curley: I know from personal experience that circumstances and bad choices can swallow you up. The measure of your character in that instance is whether you pull anyone down with you.

Just like to say that I agree with this statement. I've known some people who have destroyed themselves (usually via alcohol, in my neck of the woods, but occasionally coke or speedballs) but who, right up until the very end, tried to not take anyone else with them. I always respected them for that. In most fundamentally good people, I think that's the last piece of their humanity to die.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:13 PM on July 9, 2007


davy: (However, "cannabis...opens your mind to new perspectives" is just flip-side propaganda. What opened my mind was reading philosophy and history. Let's not get silly just because they are.)

It is not silly. Your experience may differ but i am dead serious about this. I am not saying there is some mystical property of drugs that leads to enlightenment. I am saying that in my case, self-medication with cannabis allowed me to overcome painful memories and issues by thinking about them without the mental block and development atrophy that i was experiencing at the time. It liberated me resume my relationship with my parents, advance professionally and generally be a better person.

Could i've obtained the same results with therapy and prescription drugs? Possibly. But my way was cheaper, more pleasurable and allowed me to meet interesting people.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 1:14 PM on July 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


Omiewise, I'm sorry that my experiences don't match your reality. What you said is disgusting. I've gotten pretty used to being attacked for saying unpopular things that others don't believe because they haven't experienced it, or think that anything they can't easily dismiss is untrue, but to be frank it never really feels all that great. I love that the greatest effect of the 'net that I've seen is that my lifer experiences get to be cheapened and discounted.

And yeah, I'm really sitting at the computer shaking and waiting for you to reply, hoping that you'll find it in your heart to have a shred of compassion, just so I can score points. All my PTSD and years of suicide attempts must be fake as shit, too. Thank you for exposing this terrible gambit on my part.

For fuck's sake, have some decency, please? I'm sorry I don't fit your version of reality.

Every time I think someone might benefit from my wretched experiences and decide to risk it and speak up, this happens. Why the fuck do i care about anyone else but myself? Why should I ever risk putting things out there?
posted by SaintCynr at 1:15 PM on July 9, 2007


I looked at the pictures and I'm not quite sure what I should be horrified at. Better looking than average people making love? Family time? Drug use? Tattoos, scars, and funny hair colors?

This is sad?
posted by dgaicun at 1:18 PM on July 9, 2007


This cat is pretty cool though. Whatever that's worth.
posted by dgaicun at 1:20 PM on July 9, 2007


I don't want to be a dick, but your post in context didn't telegraph itself as particularly emotionally affecting. Had it been an AskMe or a thread on MetaChat, or something like that, I can assure you that my sympathy would have been on offer.

Fixed that for you.
posted by prostyle at 1:26 PM on July 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


SaintCynr-

I just came into the thread to apologize and read your latest response. I'm sorry, what I wrote was overly harsh, much more so than I intended. It was not my intention to cause you pain or to denigrate your experiences in any way. I'm always sorry when someone has gone through a tough time in life, and happy when they've come out the other side.

I don't think that it's a mistake to share your life experiences, although I can understand why you might feel like it would be. On the other hand, I do think that the context of that sharing matters for the kind of response you can reasonably expect. Particularly in situations where the experiences you've had might be part of your contribution to larger public policy discussions (especially ones which might be contentious), it might be useful to generalize those experiences if you want to share them. When people disagree with generalized experiences they, by necessity, cannot be misconstrued as denigrating the specifics of your life.

Regardless of your future choices about that, I should not have written what I did. I apologize for making light of your pain and I certainly regret any additional pain I caused you. Please forgive me.

All the best.
posted by OmieWise at 1:26 PM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


The truly heavy users I've met tend to be homeless, gravely sick, mentally ill or imprisoned.

I hope at least some of them can get treatment at that point. I'm not disputing that it's possible for an addict to feel love and want to raise a family. I'm disputing those who'd assert that therefore, crack can be just like marijuana, which can be just like cigarettes, so lay off the people who use drugs, because it's all the same thing at bottom. Don't blame drugs, I've heard, blame a failure of character. "If they were more responsible, {like me} they could handle it." That's fundamentally what I'm arguing against.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 1:30 PM on July 9, 2007


The stuff is pretty raw for me. It's hard to use the best sense about it, or predict how people will react. I'd be lying if I said it didn't hurt like hell, or that I'm not crying my stupid ass off right now. I'm sorry for my part in this. Thanks for coming back in and saying what you did. I'll try to use this as a good learning experience.
posted by SaintCynr at 1:32 PM on July 9, 2007


I'm sorry for my part in this.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I don't think you had a part in it. The bad behavior was all mine. The rest was, upon reflection, unimportant.
posted by OmieWise at 1:47 PM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


StrikeTheViol :I'm disputing those who'd assert that therefore, crack can be just like marijuana, which can be just like cigarettes, so lay off the people who use drugs, because it's all the same thing at bottom. Don't blame drugs, I've heard, blame a failure of character. "If they were more responsible, {like me} they could handle it." That's fundamentally what I'm arguing against.

For the most part, for most people, I agree with you.

However, for an addict there isn't much difference between crack and weed. They all lead to the same place. Or totally legal alcohol, for that matter. The tricky part is identifying and managing a disease that tells the victim they don't have it. Unfortunately, it often takes a crisis to precipitate change and people have different pain thresholds.

That said, character has very little to do with it. I tend to think of it as a lottery where the lucky winners never get to enjoy being wasted again.

I like drugs. I really really like drugs.
posted by cedar at 1:54 PM on July 9, 2007


I beg to differ.

Are those people wealthy and self-respecting?
posted by delmoi at 2:13 PM on July 9, 2007


Straightener, I've seen the same thing. Two single moms, both with low paying jobs, no support and two kids. One with an immaculate trailer, and the other in a filthy hovel with trash and crap ground into the carpet. One vibrant, the other clearly depressed.
posted by atchafalaya at 2:21 PM on July 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Tangentially perhaps, is it true that heroin used to be "for the Blacks" in the 1930s, '40s and '50s , and that what was so SHOCKING! about "the heroin epidemic" in the 1960s & '70s was that White people had started doing it (again)?

Let me clarify that I consider it a matter of marketing: I think that heroin used to be more prevalent among Blacks because it was marketed more heavily at them, that is it's not because Blacks are "naturally" prone to shooting smack but because Society is racist toward them. And of course I don't mean there was no such thing as a white junky in say 1955, just that Whites in that period were more likely to use drugs marketed at White people instead, like amphetamines and gin. (As vegetarians are more likely to eat tofu, etc.)

I recall from my teen years in the '70s that White adults would suspect I was doing drugs and tell me things like "Smoke grass if you have to do any of it, but stay away from heroin 'cuz that's for niggers." The idea being I suppose that indulging in a "Black" drug would make me "lose caste," nullifying some or all of the vast superiority I supposedly got just by being born "Caucasian."

Of course Frank Sinatra starred in "The Man with the Golden Arm" in 1955, but I suspect that has to do with Hollywood's handling of "the race problem", as in "We can't have a Negro starring in a Major Motion Picture." And that what made the film a commercial success was that it was White people in it: it wouldn't have been so sensational or noteworthy if there were "only" Blacks in it, that the movie would then be "for niggers."

(More tangentially to this thread: culturally speaking, maybe the popularity of hiphop among "wiggaz" IS a progressive step.)
posted by davy at 2:41 PM on July 9, 2007


As mentioned, on a formal-aesthetic level, these pics are highly derivate (Nan Goldin has been mentioned, and she was hardly an originator in her own right as much as she was in the right/wrong places at the right/wrong times).

So yeah, this is pretty much porn-lite. It doesn't really offend me in itself, but if you didn't know that drug abuse wasn't limited to black ghettos, and that plenty of "acceptable" (i.e., white) folks get strung out, you live in a bubble. If these pics wake you up to that, good I guess. Wish you hadn't sucked down so much of the racist crack-baby drug-hysteria of the Reagan era.

Also, it must be a chilly day in hell, seeing as how I agree with Mayor Curley. To try and defend that parents of that baby is disgusting. Hopefully Child Services will be able to locate that apartment and take the kid away asap.

As for the moral equivalency to the alcoholic soccer-mom, complete bullshit. Sure, alcohol can be a highly destructive drug in its own right, but like it or not, it's a socially accepted one. If you take your kid to the supermarket to pick up a box of Franzia, she won't have her life put in danger the way she would, say, visiting a crack dealer.
posted by bardic at 3:00 PM on July 9, 2007


I like drugs. I really really like drugs.

Honesty appreciated, cedar. When you say "most people", we run into trouble agreeing, because that still leaves room for the Blessed Acolytes of The Angel Cocariel to say that somehow they are different from us mere mortals, and that a select few, of which the speaker is usually one, have the ability to not only remain entirely functional, but to actually gain superhuman judgement and foresight, apart from "us" non-using plebeians, who can never understand the mystical insight that...

They like getting high. They really really like getting high.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 3:02 PM on July 9, 2007


There's more sympathy in this thread than there was in the latest smoking thread.
posted by Kwantsar at 3:05 PM on July 9, 2007


davy: No, I'm talking about the journalist or photographer's duty to protect people from themselves in the sense that when you ask people for consent to portray them/write about them/publish photos of them, if they say yes, you still have to consider if they realize the consequences.

I'm Norwegian, and there, the press associations' guidelines for self-regulation actually state this directly. Said association fines journalists and newspapers for disregarding the guidelines. I agree to a large extent with this; you have to err on the side of caution when publishing photos and textual descriptions of non-celebrities, even when they've formally consented.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:21 PM on July 9, 2007


Not to derail too heavily, Kwantsar, but part of that might have to do with being able to avoid hard drug culture more easily than smokers in many settings. (I'm not sure you want to ask me about smokers.)
posted by StrikeTheViol at 3:23 PM on July 9, 2007


Oh, okay, I stand corrected on what Joakim Ziegler meant by protecting oeople from themselves; maybe they were too high to realize zillions of total strangers would be looking at photos of them and talking about them like they're subhumans or something. That can happen, I know.

But the rest of that rant still applies, just not in that case to J.Z. (Gentrifiers really piss me off.)

And by the way, I quit tobacco in 2000. Y'all can too! Just wear nicotine patches, drink like fish, get prescribed interesting psychiatric drugs and still feel especially crazy all the time for 6 months, then crave a cig for two years more. It's easy! It made me wonder why I never bothered getting hooked on a "hard" drug!
posted by davy at 3:38 PM on July 9, 2007


As for the moral equivalency to the alcoholic soccer-mom, complete bullshit. Sure, alcohol can be a highly destructive drug in its own right, but like it or not, it's a socially accepted one. If you take your kid to the supermarket to pick up a box of Franzia, she won't have her life put in danger the way she would, say, visiting a crack dealer.

Nonsense.

Socially acceptable or not alcohol is an addictive drug as is crack. Put aside social convention and antiquated ethics and medically there is little difference between crack, alcohol and heroin.

If truly an alcoholic the odds are pretty damn good that our hypothetical soccer mom (feel free to insert any other group stereotype) was heading out for more wine because she had just killed the last box. Alcoholics drive drunk, over and over and over, and kill far more innocent people than every bangin' gunslinger selling rock in every 'hood combined. Anyway, people who are not in the throes of addiction do not visit crack houses. Recreational users do not visit drug houses and the child we're discussing happened to be in his kitchen. From the kitchen to the crack house is quite a leap.

One of the best ways to weigh the risks of recreational drug use is to consider the ratio between an effective dose and a lethal dose. By this measure there are few drugs (heroin being a notable exception) more dangerous than alcohol.

Oddly enough, weed which has no lethal dose is illegal, while alcohol remains 'socially acceptable'.
posted by cedar at 4:47 PM on July 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


I agree that alcohol can be just as pernicious a substance as cocaine or heroin in certain circumstances, and that alcohol doesn't make for good parenting. I also think the "War on Drugs" is pretty much entirely bullshit, motivated more by racism than much of anything else. That said, precisely because it is socially acceptable to a large extent, if I see a parent holding a baby in one hand and a beer in the other at a picnic, I think that's a little tacky. To see a parent with a kid in one hand and track-marks in the other arm makes me think that if Child Protective Services are worth a damn at any point in time, it would be to step in and save that kid.

Recreational users do not visit drug houses Funny, the guys I knew in high school and college did -- the type of guys who wanted stuff for a Friday night. Where else were they going to get it?
posted by bardic at 4:57 PM on July 9, 2007


medically there is little difference between crack, alcohol and heroin.

Are you a doctor, cedar?
posted by c13 at 5:04 PM on July 9, 2007


My reaction to these pictures is that it a totally scary portrayal of out-of-control misery. There is no glamour or romance at all.
posted by tellurian at 5:09 PM on July 9, 2007


c13: The difference between alcohol and pure-grade heroin is that alcohol damages your body where heroin does not. Unless you count constipation as damaging.

(Of course I palmed a card; street heroin is far, far from pure)
posted by Justinian at 6:09 PM on July 9, 2007


Riiiight. It's not addictive at all, either.

But I mainly wondered about the "medically there is little difference" part. Medically as in pharmacologically? Symptomatically? Basically, how far up his ass did he have to reach to pull this gem out?
posted by c13 at 6:31 PM on July 9, 2007


c13, did you perhaps note that the article you linked to is talking about heroin overdose or toxicity resulting from a bag you've ingested as a drug mule rupturing in your intestines? I didn't think so.

What do you think would happen if you swallowed a condom full of caffeine and the condom ruptured inside your intestine?
posted by Justinian at 6:38 PM on July 9, 2007


The article I linked to talks about heroin toxicity. The drug mules were used as an example. Do you understand what the phrase "Other scenarios" means?
Here, let me make this easy for you:
Heroin is a highly addictive semisynthetic opioid that is derived from morphine. When used intravenously, heroin is 3-5 times more potent than its parent compound and is able to modulate pain perception and cause euphoria. Similar to morphine, heroin has mu, kappa, and delta receptor activity. In general, stimulation of the mu receptors results in analgesia, euphoria, CNS depression with drowsiness and reduced physical activity, respiratory depression, and miosis.

Respiratory depression is the result of heroin's ability to reduce the brain's responsiveness to changes in PCO2 and hypoxia.

Additionally, heroin inhibits baroreceptor reflexes, resulting in bradycardia, even in the face of hypotension.

Sounds more serious than a mere constipation.
posted by c13 at 6:57 PM on July 9, 2007


Here is another interesting tidbit: a most cursory google search informs me that alcohol-related death rate in UK in 2005 was 18 per 100k. Another 4-year study done in US examined 3324 heroin addicts. 179 of them died during that time, which gives mortality rate of 1346 per 100k. Let's see, 18 vs 1346... Hmmm, no difference at all.
posted by c13 at 7:08 PM on July 9, 2007


Except that a large part of mortality due to heroin use is a result of the drug being illegal, not directly due to the drug itself. Contaminants and irregular dosages due to the skeevy nature of the heroin on the street are the prime culprits.
posted by Justinian at 7:14 PM on July 9, 2007


Dabbled with this sh*t when I was younger and either I'm lucky, I'm too stubborn to let myself like it, or some of each. Not buying into the apologetics at all; seen enough of this kind of stuff IRL without a photojournalist to interpret it for me. (Glad I can't smell these people or their environs, most particularly.) Totally with miss l. et al. on this one.
posted by pax digita at 7:17 PM on July 9, 2007


Except that a large part of mortality due to heroin use is a result of the drug being illegal, not directly due to the drug itself.

You have anything to back this up with?
Secondly, what exactly is "large part"? A half? 75%? In order for alcohol and heroin mortality rates to be equal, this "large part" would have to be 98.7%. Is that what you're claiming?
Conversely, are you also saying that all dead alcoholics consumed only top quality alcohol and had no other problems?
posted by c13 at 7:22 PM on July 9, 2007


#7 reminds me a lot of Cindy Sherman somehow.
posted by statolith at 7:38 PM on July 9, 2007


I still don't get the assumption that addicts are from poverty. I've met addicts who were born into money, but have no control over their addictions. Frankly, an old friend of mine is one. She was set to inherit more money than I will ever see in my life, yet she would blend into any crack den this photographer could find... and she will probably die in one. If she hasn't already. Last time I saw her, she had so many crank bug sores you could barely see a patch of skin. It makes no difference that she grew up in a home that looked like this.

I looked at the pictures and I'm not quite sure what I should be horrified at. Better looking than average people making love? Family time? Drug use? Tattoos, scars, and funny hair colors?

This is sad?


If you find these people to be better looking than average, then you must be living in a place I hope to never be unfortunate enough to visit.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:37 PM on July 9, 2007


c13 - I'm saying we can't get the data because, natch, it's illegal for people to take heroin or pot or ecstasy but it's not illegal for them to take alcohol. So we have much better data with regard to alcohol.

That many of the deaths due to heroin overdose would not occur if heroin was available at known purity is not controversial, it is a fact. Until that happens, I can't know if it's 75% or 95% or 99.9% - and neither can you -.

Which is why arguing against illegal drugs on the basis of health problems caused in large part (but we don't know HOW large) by their very illegality is bullshit.
posted by Justinian at 10:05 PM on July 9, 2007


And yes, if you're wondering, I've seen heroin fuck up people's lives first hand. I've also seen alcohol fuck up people's lives firsthand. The difference from this firsthand point of view appeared to come down almost totally to the legality of it.
posted by Justinian at 10:07 PM on July 9, 2007


from what I understand, heroin, morphine, etc. are quite safe so long as you don't overdose. They're not really poisonous to the body in the same way that alcohol and tobacco are.

So long as you can afford it, you can live quite functionally for a long time.
posted by spacediver at 10:11 PM on July 9, 2007


c13- You're comparing the rate of alcohol related death in the general population to the rate of heroin related death in a group of heroin addicts.
posted by Jawn at 10:31 PM on July 9, 2007


There is that. Jawn is correct that you need to compare apples to apples.
posted by Justinian at 10:54 PM on July 9, 2007


c13, you're being a twit. You need to be more careful in your research and your understanding of what people are saying.

Fact: recreational doses of medical-grade heroin are akin to drinking a glass of wine before supper: you feel the effects with no long-term physical damage. Heck, the wine is even healthy for you.

Fact: the "war on drugs" is why medical-grade heroin is not available to those people who need it. It would be more appropriate to compare it to bathtub gin during the prohibtion, I suppose: a glass could, indeed, kill you. But that's not because of the drug, it's because of the impurities!

Fact: where safe use sites are made available, with professional staff to assist users in practicing safe(r) drug use, addiction treatment rates go up. Few people want to be drug-addicted!

Hypothesis: were medical-grade drugs available and users provided a means to safely use them, recreational use would increase slightly while addiction rates would decrease dramatically; simultaneously, death, disease, crime, and incarceration rates would decrease; and the costs of policing society would decrease by at least an order of magnitude.

Conclusion: you have to be daft to believe criminalizing drugs is in any way an effective means of handling the problem of intoxication and addiction.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:10 PM on July 9, 2007


(er, not that I'm saying you're saying the opposite, c13. I was only directing my first paragraph to you; the rest to the public in general. Sorry.)
posted by five fresh fish at 11:12 PM on July 9, 2007


If you find these people to be better looking than average, then you must be living in a place I hope to never be unfortunate enough to visit.

Well have you ever visited, say, America? Most people are fat as hell. These people are probably above average. This nudity is not objectionable.

Anyway nothing in these pictures made me feel sad at all. If people weren't telling me I should feel sad by them I would just assume these were some punks living some punk like lives.

I'm sure addiction is bad and all that, but these photos sure don't communicate that all that well.
posted by dgaicun at 11:23 PM on July 9, 2007


Look at all the love. The Real Doll video made me a lot sadder. Actually these pix made me smile. Especially that cat.
posted by dgaicun at 11:39 PM on July 9, 2007


five fresh fish - Thank you, that's a cogent summary and I agree with your hypothesis. In my opinion we're at the point where support for the war on some drugs comes down to one thing and one thing only; moralism. People get all het up over other people getting high and would rather destroy large sections of the populace than allow other people to get high if they want.
posted by Justinian at 12:31 AM on July 10, 2007


You're comparing the rate of alcohol related death in the general population to the rate of heroin related death in a group of heroin addicts.

Yes, I am. Because alcohol is pretty much used by the general population. A lot more people drink than inject heroin or smoke crack. And they do it more frequently and over much longer periods of time. That's why I used the numbers for the general population. Now then, it is very likely that the numbers I compared are not exactly valid, but with two orders of magnitude difference, I think I can afford to be off a little bit. Besides, I'm not aware of any cohort studies that looked at life span of drug users of high quality heroin, and unlike Justinian or cedar, I don't like talking out of my ass.

Justinian and fff, your argument is irrelevant. IF there was no war on drugs, IF you could get pure, top quality drugs, IF the drugs were cheap and you could afford it, IF you could buy them at WalMart and not from a criminal, and IF they were not that addictive, then yes, using drugs would not be as bad for you as it is now. BUT THAT'S NOT HOW THINGS ARE. There is no junky paradise. In the real world, if you inject heroin every day, you are much more likely to end up like the subjects of the above photo essay than if you drink.
Which is all I was trying to say to begin with.
posted by c13 at 6:12 AM on July 10, 2007


BUT THAT'S NOT HOW THINGS ARE.

In the real world, if you inject heroin every day, you are much more likely to end up like the subjects of the above photo essay than if you drink.

What is the point of all this bickering over statistical semantics when in reality your argument comes down to the largest semantic division of all? The way things are versus the way things could be? As if there is a natural order or implicit designation for either status? Did this sentence not register with you whatsoever? It simply negates your entire platform by inverting it in one fell swoop, all of your blathering paragraphs are put to a full fucking stop in a single moment of reflection.

It would be more appropriate to compare it to bathtub gin during the prohibtion, I suppose: a glass could, indeed, kill you. But that's not because of the drug, it's because of the impurities!

BECAUSE THATS HOW THINGS WERE
posted by prostyle at 8:44 AM on July 10, 2007


c13: But I mainly wondered about the "medically there is little difference" part. Medically as in pharmacologically? Symptomatically? Basically, how far up his ass did he have to reach to pull this gem out?

I'm going to assume he, is me.

Medically, as in treatment. Alcohol, heroin, cocaine... whatever, the treatment for addiction is the exact same. Then again, in a purely physiological sense they are also more alike than different. The same parts of the brain fire up when an addict takes a hit, a drink or a shot.

You could have simply asked for clarification instead of going out of your way to be abrasive and citing irrelevant statistics.
posted by cedar at 10:14 AM on July 10, 2007


Were versus Are, C13.

And to further the point, the current situation only punishes those who are at the bottom of the social strata. The likes of Paris Hilton are snorting and shooting superlative drugs: no black tar heroin going into her veins, rest assured.

Too, it's only the lower runs of the social strata that end up in jail. There are any number of celebrities, politicians, businessmen, and other top-of-the-heapers who admit publicly and unashamedly their use of cannabis, and many who will admit to using other drugs.

The bottom line is that the "war on drugs" is awesomely fucking stupid. Malicious, even. And your idiotic defense of it marks you as a shallow-thinking, dis-compassionate ignoramus.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:27 AM on July 10, 2007


Are you a fucking lunatic, fff? Point to the line where I said the war on drugs was a good thing. Go ahead. Where is it?
I don't give a shit about what chemicals you or anyone else eats, drinks, injects, snorts or smokes. Hell, I'm all for thinning the herd.
And no, I don't feel any compassion about poor misunderstood underpriviledged junkies. Can't afford ParisHiltonTM heroin? Tough. That's not an excuse to inject shit into their veins, or live like god damned pigs.
But if you would get off the Opium and Compassion for the Masses horse, you would see that I was not talking about any of it. What I was saying was that drinking alcohol and doing heroin do not lead to the same outcome in the vast majority of cases. One is much more likely to get you killed than the other. Any normal person would consider that to be self-evident, but there are a lot of statistics available that shows the same thing. If you want to attack me, do it based on what I said, not on what you hallucinated I said.

Cedar, the reason treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction is the same is because we don't have anything better at the moment. That does not mean that these conditions are the same. Further evidence to that is that the success rates of the same treatment are different for different addictions.
posted by c13 at 11:34 AM on July 10, 2007


What I was saying was that drinking alcohol and doing heroin do not lead to the same outcome in the vast majority of cases.

But your populations are invalid. One includes the great majority of people who are drinking regulated, standardized alcohol; the other includes a whole lot of people who are using really nasty street-quality shitty heroin. Of course one has more problems than the other.

Are you offering a solution or stating the dead obvious?
posted by five fresh fish at 3:23 PM on July 10, 2007


I'm stating the dead obvious. I'm surprised I need to here, but apparently some people are either genuinely incapable of seeing it.
Like I said, I don't think about the war on drugs any better than the next guy, but there is a reason why we try to regulate some substances and not others. Again, we're not doing it in a smart way, but that does not mean that drugs are harmless. Heroin is NOT the same as alcohol and crack is NOT the same as caffeine.

But your populations are invalid.
Why not? First of all, I never claimed this to be a careful study. I may be off, maybe even way off. But with 2 orders of magnitude difference, that is not that big of a deal. Secondly, a hell of a lot more people can and do drink alcohol in any of it's forms for much longer periods of time without becoming addicted or suffering any ill effects as compared to drug users. Why would it be valid to exclude them in favor of terminally ill alcoholics?
If you're trying to tell me that there is an equally large population of people who use top quality heroin with the same frequency and duration as people who use alcohol and they do it without any ill effects to their health, I'd like to know where you get your data from. I honestly would, because without it what you have is Paris Hilton and "other politicians" or some dude you used to know.

Finally, my solution is not to do drugs if you can't afford to do it in a way that does not fuck up your body, your life and the lives of people around you. But obviously that is unacceptable to some people.
posted by c13 at 5:31 PM on July 10, 2007


Of course there isn't such a population, c13, because heroin is fucking illegal. Asking for that data is intellectually dishonest when you know damn well that the reason no-one can produce the data is the very illegality of the substance in question.

My solution is to make drugs legal and arrest people if they break laws such as theft, driving while intoxicated, or assault. Hell, I'd even support increasing the penalties for doing these things while under the influence of drugs if it would make drug warriors happy.
posted by Justinian at 6:17 PM on July 10, 2007


Asking for that data is intellectually dishonest when you know damn well that the reason no-one can produce the data is the very illegality of the substance in question.

Oh, ok. So its intellectually dishonest for ME to ask for the data, but it is perfectly OK for YOU to make statements that this nonexistent data supports. Is that it?
posted by c13 at 7:01 PM on July 10, 2007


What? That drugs, specifically heroin in this case, would be of known purity and contaminant free if it were not illegal? Or that this would greatly reduce the death rates among heroin addicts? Which of those statements requires a cite? I can't believe either of those is a controversial statement.
posted by Justinian at 7:40 PM on July 10, 2007


Do you accept the fact that medical-grade heroin is not physically harmful?

Do you accept that if medical-grade heroin were readily available to all its users instead of only the wealthy, we'd see a marked decrease in health issues related to that drug's use?

Do you accept that frequent use of heroin causes less physical damage to the body than frequent use of alcohol?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:40 PM on July 10, 2007


c13: If you're trying to tell me that there is an equally large population of people who use top quality heroin with the same frequency and duration as people who use alcohol and they do it without any ill effects to their health

Well, there won't be an 'equally large' population since heroin is illegal, very stigmatized and expensive enough to deter regular use for people able enough to not be hooked.

But as far as inevitablity or 'very high likelihood' of heroin toxicity is concerned, there are quite a few studies and other formal observations out within the last few years

We start with the anecdotal..

BBC: I get my heroin on the NHS

..and move on to the scientific,

Survey
Characteristics of heroin and cocaine users unknown to treatment agencies. Results from the Swiss Hidden Population Study.

A comparison of 'visible' and 'invisible' users of amphetamine, cocaine and heroin: two distinct populations?

Occasional and controlled heroin use: Not a problem?

Evidence for controlled heroin use? Low levels of negative health and social outcomes among non-treatment heroin users in Glasgow (Scotland).

Formal/Controlled (legal heroin prescription)
Central Committee on the Treatment of Heroin Addicts (Netherlands)

Heroin-assisted treatment (HAT) (Switzerland) (down at the time of posting, try link below)

Heroin assisted treatment for heavily addicted persons in Switzerland- A Public health intervention.
posted by daksya at 8:18 PM on July 10, 2007


What effect does being hosted on a U.S. Government web site have on the presentation of data?
posted by davy at 9:57 AM on July 11, 2007


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