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December 22, 2013 3:27 AM   Subscribe

 
All the people I have ever known who have taken heroin, either recreationally or vocationally, have been completely unlike the people in this article.
Quite the opposite. They just kind of lie there, or vomit.
posted by Mezentian at 3:43 AM on December 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


even the "functional" heroin users I've met have been completely obnoxious. then when they kick the habit they replace it with a compulsive need to proselytize and suddenly everything is about "their addiction".

I know this sounds massively insensitive, but i didnt care when you were doing heroin, and i dont care that you stopped doing heroin (i mean good job, i guess?). damn people, don't do heroin! it makes you really annoying. no manner of "Parisian artist allure" is going to offset that.
posted by young_son at 4:02 AM on December 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Despite their dangers – which are many – no one could deny that the works of Bob Dylan, the Beatles or Syd Barrett, and countless others, have been enhanced by the electric glow of the psychedelic experience.

I will. I've known a fair number of heroin users, and none of them have had their "works" "enhanced." They would have done better things without it. Fuck heroin, and doubly fuck "edgy" journalists who try to glamorize it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:04 AM on December 22, 2013 [42 favorites]


For all the powerful taboos around the drug, it's also worth pointing out that if they die in hospital, most people reading this article will end their lives – just like the street junkies of Paris – on heroin.

Boy, is that ever missing the point.
posted by chavenet at 4:09 AM on December 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


I'd say there are plenty of other taboos. Cannibalism, for example.
posted by thelonius at 4:25 AM on December 22, 2013 [17 favorites]


To engage a little more fully with the article, heroin's advantage (if you are inclined to give it any leeway) as a drug for artists is that, as long as the money keeps flowing, you can keep p a good front for a long time. This lets artists who want to create apologies and excuses for their addiction have plenty of time to do so. Trocchi is a good example -- his novels are really interesting, but he didn't really write that much, becoming quickly more interested in shooting up than writing. Putting heroin into a rosy soft glow is entirely papering over the works that artists didn't create or didn't really develop or whatever.

For the committed junky, heroin is always first and foremost, more important than any relationship with a person or muse. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you heroin.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:31 AM on December 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


Heroin is a taboo subject? Are you kidding? I can name 100 rock songs and poems and novels and films that romanticize heroin off the top of my head. From the last decade even.

Heroin is not a "psychedelic" drug, either. It makes you feel good and fall asleep. Or die.
posted by spitbull at 4:39 AM on December 22, 2013 [26 favorites]


Based on the output of artists whose drug intake I know, I'd say that acid does a better job of engendering that 'electric psychadelic experience' than opiates. Plus non-addictive and with a way higher LD50.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:39 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


> In recent years, collections of these bags have been exhibited at galleries in the Lower East Side, just as if they were entirely legitimate works of art.

New York City sounds amazing and I hope to visit one day, but man...when people make fun of the place it's usually this sort of douchebaggery they're targeting.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:51 AM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


GenjiandProust... heroin is not a 'psychedelic' drug.
posted by Mister Bijou at 4:53 AM on December 22, 2013


Heroin doesn't make you die. Mixing heroin and alcohol does.
posted by Mister Bijou at 4:55 AM on December 22, 2013


Having now finished the article, I'd say it does a pretty lousy job of not glamorizing heroin.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:01 AM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


diamorphine, the most powerful painkiller known to man

Fentanyl would like a word with the author.
posted by exogenous at 5:02 AM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I will. I've known a fair number of heroin users, and none of them have had their "works" "enhanced."

The paragraph you quoted was talking about acid though.
posted by walrus at 5:04 AM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Heroin doesn't make you die. Mixing heroin and alcohol does.

Not true.
Large enough amounts of heroin will kill you.
Extra pure heroin may kill you, as will heroin cut with other stuff.
posted by Mezentian at 5:06 AM on December 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


I apologize if I am completely wrong about the effects of heroin and just spent too much time watching people fry eggs on television when I was a kid while being told about brains on drugs, but the fetishization of chemical dependency and mental health issues as part of "creativity" drives me absolutely crazy.

Somehow we've created (and continue to propagate) this idea that certain destructive forces aid in creativity, like you have to be depressed or on drugs or whatever to create Great Art. Yes, struggles make us stronger and whatever, but addiction and mental illness are Bad Things and they destroy lives. You don't get to sacrifice someone on your altar of Art or encourage people to continue fetishizing these negative things just because you think it makes them more interesting or creative. People have the right to seek out their happiness and telling people (even telling them indirectly by creating a culture that links destructive things with positive creation) who are vulnerable because of either of the issues is just a huge big awful dick move.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:06 AM on December 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


funny how you never hear about the artistic benefits of oxycontin

it's just plain bullshit - heroin addiction is a job just like any other, except that any other job probably won't kill you or put you in prison and actually gives you a paycheck
posted by pyramid termite at 5:16 AM on December 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


Opiates suppress respiration. An overdose of the very purest heroin will kill you as surely as a bullet. Opiates don't cause as much immediate physical damage as other intoxicants can. But the standard euphemism for euthanasia in American medicine is "let's increase the morphine drip for pain."
posted by spitbull at 5:17 AM on December 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Also, it's bullshit that heroin is the strongest painkiller. Here is a chart showing the relative analgesic strengths of the major opiates/opioids. Heroin is in the middle.
posted by spitbull at 5:24 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The paragraph you quoted was talking about acid though.

Good point, I failed to parse that paragraph properly. I appeal to a) commenting from bed after a late night, b) reading on my phone, and c) it's really a back door to "heroin (really all drugs) makes people creative."

Which, as Mrs. Pterodactyl points out above, is bullshit. I don't have the personal experience with LSD users that I have with junkies, but looking at the lives of creative people who used LSD, I don't think it helped them. No one became a great (or even good) artist because they did LSD. It's possible that a drug trip might give a writer an experience they can make art out of, but, hey, so can doing laundry or eating a cookie. And even suggesting otherwise just perpetuates a myth that wrecks people's lives.

To be fair, LSD is probably more to blame for bad faux spiritual experiences than bad art though. The 60s and 70s were littered with bad philosophy and theology "inspired" by psychedelics.

But that's slightly off topic, I suppose.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:28 AM on December 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


As a Burroughs fan, what Self says resonates:

I think the relationship between heroin and cities, or cityspace, is very interesting," he says. "It has more to do with spatiality, how the inner world of the user connects with the outside word of reality. And what we're really talking about is the psychogeography of heroin. William Burroughs knew this when he wrote The Naked Lunch, the great heroin novel set in the Interzone of Tangier, and Lou Reed knew this. The first Velvet Underground album is essentially a day in the life of a heroin addict in New York City, and a map of where he goes and what he sees and what he feels. And the music sounds like heroin, with its drones and impatient feedback and stuttering words. It's the perfect soundtrack to the junkie life. There is a heroin psychogeography – where to find it, where to buy it, where you can smell it." He goes on: "The point is that heroin users occupy a certain negative space in the world, in society. Burroughs writes in The Naked Lunch how, strung out in Tangier, he could sit and look at his shoe for eight hours. Heroin users don't need to do anything or go anywhere: they just are."

That's Burroughs in a nutshell, and the heroin/addict experience would be pretty much impossible to separate out from his art, as well as that of many other artists I greatly admire.

It still doesn't seem like a very good idea though.

Also the very next sentence sets eye-roll to maximum:

This above all is what makes the heroin user a threat to a society built on speed and movement.

That and the dying all over the place and the nicking stuff...
posted by Artw at 5:41 AM on December 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ugh. Heroin is neither particularly debilitating to be high on (unless you've got a hell of a lot of money to burn keeping up with tolerance) nor inspiring. It probably *has* helped some artists get through their fears and mental blocks - you wont find a better antidepressant or anti-anxiety agent in the short run. If you keep doing it the good parts wear off and you're stuck sinking time and money into this stupid routine on pain of physical illness. That's about it.

For the committed junky, heroin is always first and foremost, more important than any relationship with a person or muse. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you heroin.

This shit is just as bullshit as the other bullshit.
posted by atoxyl at 5:50 AM on December 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have watched a highly talented graphic designer friend gradually piss away her talent and career over 20 years of H. addiction. She is finally coming out the other side, shaken and beaten. There has never been a time, during these 20 years where the use of this drug enhanced her talent or her creativity. It definitely took away from it... missed work days, missed deadlines, illness, inability to focus... and eventually, the loss of her job.

There is nothing creative, sexy or romantic about this drug - even for "functioning" addicts, like my friend. It is all consuming.
posted by greenhornet at 5:50 AM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


atoxyl--"This shit is just as bullshit as the other bullshit."--Boy, I sure do not agree. Because of my profession I would guess that I have observed more heroin addicts/users over time than most people. That at some point heroin becomes first and foremost rings quite true to me. Words and verbal protestations aside--when the hard choices ( and behavior is required) have to be made it is usually heroin over social commitments.
posted by rmhsinc at 5:58 AM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Boring article on boring topic and stop using heroin for whatever reason because not only then are you being boring but ruining your life in the most boring way possible. Unless you're an addict, which will suddenly make using heroin the most fascinating thing you're capable of doing, but only for you.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 5:58 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


No one became a great (or even good) artist because they did LSD.

you can make that argument about anything though. obviously francis crick discovered dna's helix shape because he was a dedicated scientist, not just because he was an lsd user, but he does attribute the lateral intuitive leap that it took to make that breakthrough to his lsd use. as does kary mullins, just to name another nobel laureate, as well as numerous others, to say nothing of famous and influential ampdedamine users, cocaine users, marijuana users, etc etc. as an armchair observer, you can claim that their drug use is unrelated to their creative or scentific output, but (no offense meant) you are not really a qualified opinion on that matter, and no one else is either.

plenty of popular drugs offer some sort of benefit, that's why they are used with the frequency they are. heroin is an issue because its essentially a one-way street: once you are addicted, you are generally addicted for life. and often its a short, disconnected life. while there may very well be some artistic benefits as the article tries so hard to point out, the ends hardly justify the means.
posted by young_son at 5:59 AM on December 22, 2013 [14 favorites]


GenjiandProust: it's complicated when we roll wildly different things into one subject, but here are some thoughts I had in response to your post.

Drugs won't make someone creative who doesn't have the capacity for creativity, but they might give a creative mind a different perspective.

Heroin is generally quite an introspective and selfish experience, and I don't agree with the writer of that article that there is any strong correlation between heroin and creativity. In my opinion it's more likely to be something people would take to shut out a surfeit of experience than to generate new experience.

Hallucinogens like LSD will make people look at the world from a completely different perspective. Not always an interesting or valuable one. They are at least not addictive like heroin, although for a minority the experience may be one they end up repeating rather too often for their own good, and for someone with an unstable psyche, once may be too often.
posted by walrus at 6:00 AM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Heroin's a good drug. All the stereotype negativities associated with it relate PURELY to its illegality. As a professor of addiction once told me (paraphrasing): 'If you take identical twins and one lives a drug-free life and the other shoots up pure heroin in sterile syringes a few times a day and you revisit the pair after a few decades, the only real difference between them will likely be that the heroin addict needs to manage their constipation.'

I find all the harsh criticism of addicts to be pretty cruel. It's a disease. Like alcoholism, it affects the smart the dumb the rich the well educated &c. Be thankful it's not you. And maybe show a little compassion eh.
posted by peacay at 6:03 AM on December 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


That and the dying all over the place and the nicking stuff...

You could argue that's more a result of prohibition than addiction. I don't think many people would argue that addiction is a good thing, but many people are addicted to things which don't fuck up their lives, which we tend to tolerate. It's when an addiction becomes self-harming that it becomes a problem, but when many of the symptoms of harm are caused by adulteration of the product and profiteering on the black market, and the prohibition of the substance is clearly not stopping the addiction, perhaps we need to question somewhat whether we are causing more problems than we are solving.
posted by walrus at 6:07 AM on December 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


[Berlin] was flooded with hard drugs, mainly heroin, allegedly made in illegal labs in the east.

First I've ever heard this, and would like to know more.

For the French connection story ca. 1965, see Merchants of Heroin
posted by IndigoJones at 6:20 AM on December 22, 2013


Heroin's a good drug. All the stereotype negativities associated with it relate PURELY to its illegality.

This is bizarre. I know quite a few parents with adult children who are addicted to opiates. Most started with pills but have moved on to heroin because it's cheaper. There is nothing good about the destruction the drug is causing in these families' lives. Even the ones who haven't been arrested, who have no legal consequences. Addiction to that drug destroys people - their capacity for fulfilling relationships, their potential and ambition, their ability to deal with life and the world as an adult. It kills people. Try to tell two women I know who have lost their sons to heroin overdose that it's a good drug. Give me a break.
posted by something something at 6:21 AM on December 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


Where does alcohol fit in that argument, walrus? It's legal and regulated, and I don't think anyone could deny that alcohol addiction ruins lives. I'm strongly in favor of a harm reduction approach to dealing with drugs, but I don't think that necessarily requires one to deny the harm caused by the substances themselves.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:23 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is bizarre. I know quite a few parents with adult children who are addicted to opiates.

You're confusing heroin with heroin addiction. Metafilter has weekly celebrations of alcohol, but nobody jumps up and shouts 'won't somebody think of the alcoholic children!' when we're posting about how to best concoct some Two Buck Pappy -- or whatever the current fashion among boozehounds happens to be.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:37 AM on December 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Where does alcohol fit in that argument, walrus?

Alcohol is far more of a harmful substance than heroin. You can poison yourself by taking too much of both, but apart from that, alcohol causes a lot of physical damage whilst being regulated, whereas with heroin the physical damage is caused by it being unregulated.

Taking pure heroin in safe quantities over a long period of time, as stated above, is just going to give you constipation as a physical symptom, whereas alcohol is likely going to give you liver, heart and circulation damage. If heroin were regulated in the same way as alcohol, the cost in terms of healthcare would be negligible in comparison.

I certainly think any addiction which progresses to the point where it deteriorates the quality of someone's life is harmful, regardless of the physical damage it causes, so I am not an advocate of being addicted to either alcohol or heroin, both of which drugs can have this effect.

However, I think it's safe to say that we will always have a subset of our population who will become addicted to one or the other to an extent which causes them to cease functioning in a healthy way.

We demonise those with heroin problems, and are sympathetic to those with alcohol problems. I see that as pretty fucked up personally.
posted by walrus at 6:38 AM on December 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


This shit is just as bullshit as the other bullshit.

Huh, well, maybe your experience with junkies is different. Some years after my "prime junky-dealing-with years," I saw Trainspotting, and, while it was a film I had a lot of trouble watching, there is the scene where the protagonist shoots up the distraught mother which really clarified by experiences -- it's not that Renton doesn't understand and sympathize with the mother's distress; it's that he wants heroin more. And that is pretty much the case for every junky I have ever known -- it's not that they don't want to hang out with you or love you or make music or do a job well or whatever -- it's that, in every case, they want to do heroin much more than that other thing.

I had a friend who told me that he regretted every day that he quit heroin -- he felt it was the best experience he had ever had -- but that he realized that, while on heroin, it was the only experience that he could have. And being clean meant the experiences of having a family and a job and reading books and writing and talking philosophy and watching films and so on were better in aggregate that the "best experience," and he could only have heroin or have everything else.

And I could go on, but I'd like to see some serious counterexamples rather than a one line "nuh uh."
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:39 AM on December 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


--This is bizarre.--
And so is reading what I wrote in this way. It's a GREAT drug. One of, if not, THE best. The article pointed this out too. You've decided to project something onto my view that is not there. Am I saying that people addicted to opiates in societies where it's outlawed aren't experiencing a soul and family destroying time? No, I'm fucking not. I'm saying that diamorphia has fabulous pharmacological properties and has helped millions and millions of people in the last 120 years since it's refinement. I'm also inferring that if it was legal then there wouldn't be so many damned problems. I'm also saying that if there was a bit more compassion around we'd spend more money on outreach or education or addiction centres. That's all.
posted by peacay at 6:41 AM on December 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


It wrecks lives – but it has also inspired art from the poetry of Baudelaire to the music of Lou Reed.

ThanK god for heroin, or we wouldn't have had all that great art! Too bad about the ruined lives.

FUCK THAT SHIT. Any of you think that heroin is A-Ok, are you dealing with an addicted family member? Glamorizing this shit is obnoxiously unhelpful.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:57 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


peacaye--I do think there is a kernel of truth in what you say--under optimal, if not perfect conditions there is not a lot of reasons why a heroin addict can not function relatively effectively. But that is a lot of what ifs, maybe(s) and possibly(s). Further, your professors statement, while entertaining and provocative, is without a whole lot of empirical verification. i would image none. I am hard pressed to believe that the euphoric rush, followed by generalized lethargy for 3-6 hours repeated 2-4 times a day is a sound pattern for optimizing, let alone maintaining, the normal social commitments that most of us have. If you want to live in a heroin infused and dependent world that is one thing but I would guess that parenting, full time work and/or maintaining mutually beneficial relationships is a bit of a stretch. Besides--what kind of life is it to know that with in 6 hours your life will be hell if everything does not work exactly as planned. Mine never does.
posted by rmhsinc at 7:06 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think heroin is a-ok, and it's certainly not my intent to glamorise it, just in case anyone is misinterpreting my contributions to the thread. I do think that the way our society deals with the problem of heroin addiction is unhelpful though. We force people with no self control over that problem to take a dangerously and harmfully adulterated substance at hugely expensive black market prices, and criminalise them in the process. It's very sad that some people become dependent on heroin, and the world would indubitably be a better place if that did not happen, but it does, regardless of our attempts to stop it.
posted by walrus at 7:10 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I read the article with despair.

The author has no idea about his subject, which is good for him, less good for the reader. It looks like a proper article and there are things that could be called 'facts' in it.

On the other hand, it is utter nonsense. Takes a couple of tired cliches and hammers them into a predetermined shape.

The research is beyond shoddy. The insights aren't insightful, the understanding absent and context and the broader issues ignored.

The worst thing is that it claims not to glamorise but just repeats the same old lies, myths and cliches.

Shameful.
posted by quarsan at 7:16 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do think that the way our society deals with the problem of heroin addiction is unhelpful though.

Dude, you are talking to Noah about the flood. No disagreement there.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:16 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would much rather live in a world with opiates than without them. They are, compared to a lot of other drugs, very safe and effective. They alleviate physical pain and that's a good thing. The problem is the potential for abuse, not the substance. They produce a sensation that's attractive to a lot of people and, of course, that means that there will always be people of ill will willing to capitalize on that. But it's the abuse, not the drug.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:17 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


rmhsincc, I don't particularly disagree with anything you say. But "optimal" only means making it legal. I don't suggest for a second that it's a good life or should be glamorised or the polysuch, but we humans have been addictive creatures since the dawn of time. If the choice is between a certain % of the pop'n breaking and entering for $$ and getting hepatitis etc, versus simply being intoxicated with a pure drug without moral or legal risks, then their lives, their kids' lives and society as a whole is likely to be a bit better overall. But people are gonna get off their faces no matter what.
posted by peacay at 7:18 AM on December 22, 2013


rmhsinc: Further, your professors statement, while entertaining and provocative, is without a whole lot of empirical verification. i would image none. I am hard pressed to believe that the euphoric rush, followed by generalized lethargy for 3-6 hours repeated 2-4 times a day is a sound pattern for optimizing, let alone maintaining, the normal social commitments that most of us have.

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

'I get my heroin on the NHS'
posted by daksya at 7:18 AM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I may not have the best perspective, though. As I was reading this article, I was listening to my wife on the phone with my step-daughter, entertaining her latest litany of excuses about money, living situations or lack thereof, and her refusal to actually deal with entering a treatment program, despite one being offered her, and having to explain to her that she really couldn't be allowed in our house at Christmas. This drug is actively tearing my family apart, and I'm a little upset about it, so I'll back out now.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:23 AM on December 22, 2013 [9 favorites]




peacay: Heroin's a good drug. All the stereotype negativities associated with it relate PURELY to its illegality.

OK, I suspect I am becoming a bore on this topic, so I am going to take a break, but a couple of points.

As an pharmaceutical, heroin is a very useful drug. It seems to be one of the better painkillers as far as effect to side effects goes, and (although I can't find the cite at the moment), apparently only about 30% of the population are likely to develop a dependency. And, if you are unwise or unlucky enough to develop a chemical dependency, assuming you have a steady stream of well-regulated heroin, there is no doubt that there are many worse drugs. In other words, the physical consequences of addiction would be tolerable in a society with a sane drug policy (60s and 70s UK policies seemed to work really well). However, I will stand by my experience that being anything but the most distant friend of a junky is a terrible emotional experience for reasons that have nothing to do with whether it is physically safe and affordable.

I think it's interesting how (at least some of) the people who are arguing against heroin are referencing personal stories about how heroin negatively affected/affects their lives, while those arguing that it's really OK seem to be coming from a much more... theoretical... place.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:33 AM on December 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


OMG, I can think of stuff that is WAAAY more taboo to glamorize than heroin. Fat people, for example. Disabled people. PUh-lease.
posted by jfwlucy at 7:36 AM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, coz saying I used (and am using) Schedule I and poster-boy of bad drugs HEROIN on & off for a number of years on a public forum is no problemo.
posted by daksya at 7:37 AM on December 22, 2013


Meet Carl Hart, the Scientist Debunking America's Myths About Drugs

GG: What kinds of things should we teach kids about drugs?

CH: If you're going to use a drug, you need to make sure you start with low doses. Don't take large doses if you're getting high with an experienced drug user. If you're going to be using heroin, don't mix it with another sedative — that's the thing that kills you, not the heroin. With amphetamines, make sure you're getting enough sleep and attend to your eating habits. Route of administration: if you take a drug orally, that's probably safer for beginners. Those are the kind of things we should teach kids.

CG : What do you want readers to take away from High Price?

CH: When we think about drug effects, I want people to understand that they have less to do with pharmacology and more to do with context: the history of the user, the dose of the drug, etc. That's not to negate the role of pharmacology, but I do want people to understand the importance of context in trying to evaluate drug effects. We often talk about a drug as if it alone is causing all of these social harms. I want people to think about it in a more nuanced way.

I also want readers to re-think the way they view certain people who have been vilified by society. If they do that, they'll see that we've been racist in our thinking in this country. We have not really owned up to it. People need to understand the difference between individual racism and institutional racism. Individual racism is not a big deal these days. You'd be hard-pressed to find many people who are outright racist. They don't need to be, because our institutions are. I hope they understand that.

posted by jeffburdges at 7:37 AM on December 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


diamorphine, the most powerful painkiller known to man

Fentanyl would like a word with the author.


Not bad, but as any wildlife vet knows, carfentanil kicks fentanyl's ass. Allegedly there are even more potent fentanyl analogues that have been developed as chemical warfare/crowd control agents, but I can't find out much about them right now.

For all the powerful taboos around the drug, it's also worth pointing out that if they die in hospital, most people reading this article will end their lives – just like the street junkies of Paris – on heroin.

Certainly not true in the US, and I would be very surprised if it were true in the UK where heroin is actually used in hospitals. There are simply too many ways to die, even in a hospital, for blanket statements like that to be true.
posted by TedW at 7:41 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's interesting how (at least some of) the people who are arguing against heroin are referencing personal stories about how heroin negatively affected/affects their lives, while those arguing that it's really OK seem to be coming from a much more... theoretical... place.

Perhaps you are making an unwarranted assumption there, in that people may not wish to share their personal experiences in a way which could affect reputations or employability.
posted by walrus at 7:42 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


OMG, I can think of stuff that is WAAAY more taboo to glamorize than heroin.

You don't see too many scat fetish themed covers on glossy magazines, for that matter.
posted by thelonius at 7:50 AM on December 22, 2013


OMG, I can think of stuff that is WAAAY more taboo to glamorize than heroin.

Is “Krokodil chic” a thing yet?
posted by acb at 7:54 AM on December 22, 2013


Is “Krokodil chic” a thing yet?

It was about 30 years ago.
posted by TedW at 8:00 AM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


And neither the article nor GenjiandProust claimed that heroin is a psychedelic, aka hallucinogen. All the article says is :

"Our starting point was that the beneficial effects of hallucinogenics (mainly pot and acid) on our culture are now a widely acknowledged fact. Despite their dangers – which are many – no one could deny that the works of Bob Dylan, the Beatles or Syd Barrett, and countless others, have been enhanced by the electric glow of the psychedelic experience. No one, however has ever seriously argued that heroin too can unlock creativity, albeit in a very different way."

There are impressive people who credit hallucinogens like LSD, psilocybin, or marijuana and/or empathogens like MDMA with aiding their creativity, but I disagree with this quote and such claims on technical grounds. In truth, I believe the social situations provides the creativity boost, and most other net positive effects, but the drugs do help contribute to the social situation. It's just that hallucinogens and empathogens more naturally lead to a positive and open subculture.

In other words, you could gain most long term positive benefits of experimenting with hallucinogens and/or empathogens merely by hanging out in a subculture influenced by them. Ain't nearly so hard to change your life's direction in some positive way if your friends all have the lovely dovely casual MDMA user thing going on. There is an awful lot of interesting music that's influenced by hallucinogens and empathogens for example, but the audience's relative openness due to their drug use ultimately impacts the music more than any drug use by the performer. etc.

There are extremely high functioning social groups who seemingly lower their bullshit filters a bit using depressants to aid collaboration, especially amongst strangers, ala the heavy drinking "research cambridge style" in U.K. mathematics. Very strong depressants like heroin could develop a subculture with positive effects, but presumably they do so less frequently than milder depressants like alcohol. And I wonder if weak hallucinogens like marijuana or small psilocybin doses might do this better than alcohol anyways, although strong ones like LSD might inhibit short term memory too much.

Related : 10 famous geniuses and their drugs of choice
posted by jeffburdges at 8:32 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it was with regards to harm reduction programs in Switzerland that I heard this: addicts can get a dose of heroin from government-run clinics, but there isn't like a special clinic for heroin. They have to sit in the waiting room with old people getting dialysis and people in for blood tests. Allegedly (and I wish I could find the source), it totally killed the glamor of heroin; rather than a dark romantic secret, a heroin addiction becomes an inconvenient and vaguely embarrassing chronic health problem.

In my opinion, this is a good attitude to promote: it doesn't let addicts glamorize themselves, and it might also stop your average joe from seeing addicts as broken or less than human.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:33 AM on December 22, 2013 [20 favorites]


daksya--interesting articles. I especially liked the second one, I intend to learn more about "Black Poppy". However, I will stand by my original statement (with only minor reservations) which was directed at the professors comment regarding identical twins. I will also look up the full article re: Glasgow.
posted by rmhsinc at 8:33 AM on December 22, 2013


To be fair, LSD is probably more to blame for bad faux spiritual experiences than bad art though.

Who are you to tell a tripper their experience is merely faux spiritual?

Many paths to top of mountain, etc.
posted by flabdablet at 9:06 AM on December 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


well the heroin use has skyrocketed in Upper Darby (just west of Philly) and boy is the poor old UD not glamorous or artistic.
posted by angrycat at 9:18 AM on December 22, 2013


Huh, well, maybe your experience with junkies is different. Some years after my "prime junky-dealing-with years," I saw Trainspotting, and, while it was a film I had a lot of trouble watching, there is the scene where the protagonist shoots up the distraught mother which really clarified by experiences -- it's not that Renton doesn't understand and sympathize with the mother's distress; it's that he wants heroin more. And that is pretty much the case for every junky I have ever known -- it's not that they don't want to hang out with you or love you or make music or do a job well or whatever -- it's that, in every case, they want to do heroin much more than that other thing.

Well my perspective is an... insider one, so take that as you will. I'm not really questioning that people end up sacrificing all sorts of things for heroin - you can get some pretty good guitars in pawn shops, after all. I'm questioning your assertion that it's inevitably the most valued thing in their lives. I don't know what to say except that in my experience it may be totally enthralling at first but eventually is just something you do a couple times a day to feel good for a while. Which, by the way, is not meant to minimize the danger or the extent to you cannot ever take it all back.

In regard to relationships I think it's not usually that addicts choose drugs over loved ones so much as that it's in the nature of addiction that they delude themselves into thinking they can have it both ways until it's too late.
posted by atoxyl at 9:21 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is heroin really in "the last taboo" territory?

I mean, it's not a party drug, but of all the familiar recreational drugs, it's probably the most romanticized. And it looks a lot less scary in American culture today in comparison to things like crack and meth.

Not to mention, of course, that people will admit to having taken heroin before they'll admit to having committed incest or cannibalism, or eaten their own shit, or murdered someone.
posted by Sara C. at 9:27 AM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I remember back when I was a teenager, heading to some rave-ish afterparty in a car with people I barely knew. Talking about our, uhhhh, mental states. And they mentioned they'd been doing heroin. Weirded me out completely.

Just seems way, way too dangerous to me. On the other hand, if I were in the terminal stages of an illness I'd happily do some to experience it, then have a party to say goodbye to everyone, and then do a hell of a lot more all in one go. Seems like a nice way to end things.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:53 AM on December 22, 2013


Hmm, I know a lot of ex-junkies. I personally have never tried it - I feared I would like it too much.

One thing that always seems to anger recovering addicts is that claim (which is easy to validate) that most people who use heroin are not addicts and never become addicts. But that's in fact true of almost every drug - if the only people using them were addicts, they would simply run out of new customers.

There are other drugs with higher addiction potential (tobacco and meth for sure); there are other drugs that are more toxic; heroin has legitimate medical uses.

That said, well, I would strongly recommend to people not to try it. Apparently, it completely satisfies you - do you want a drug that replaces real satisfaction? What else would you ever need?

In the early Silicon Alley/New Media days in NYC, I remember being at a party where a New Media figure shot up junk. I thought, "This is someone committed to dying." Luckily for them, the New Media boom collapsed, so did their company, they were forced to dry out, and now in fact live happily ever after.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:55 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and as a musician, I started to understand why people took heroin when I started doing shows. You get SO wired when you play, even if you don't do stimulants (caffeine in the morning for me!) and then the show is over, and what are you supposed to do with yourself?

But as I said, as someone with respect for medical science I've carefully chosen my vices... caffeine and cannabis regularly; alcohol steadily, in moderation; the occasional psychedelic. The alcohol is the only one with toxicity issues; caffeine and alcohol are both addictive, but I periodically dry out of everything to make sure I'm not hooked (and yes, the caffeine withdrawal can be very hard, I honestly don't notice the alcohol withdrawal, and of course, whenever I travel I'm dry of cannabis... which bothers me not at all because I love traveling...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:00 AM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just wait until we managed to turn putting a site into the brain's pleasure center into a routine operation. After that, heroin will be a kiddy drug, and people will pay to just lie in bed on an iv drop until they die, with a trickle of current bringing them complete ecstasy.

I figure that will be the New epidemic in about ten years.
posted by happyroach at 10:05 AM on December 22, 2013


I had a friend who told me that he regretted every day that he quit heroin -- he felt it was the best experience he had ever had -- but that he realized that, while on heroin, it was the only experience that he could have. And being clean meant the experiences of having a family and a job and reading books and writing and talking philosophy and watching films and so on were better in aggregate that the "best experience," and he could only have heroin or have everything else.

Maybe not all junkies operate this way, two of them utter pricks (manipulative, deceitful, criminal), a few others tantalizingly brilliant, but all ultimately very disappointing on the level that I couldn't depend on them in any way. In other words, they failed as friends, completely.

In regard to relationships I think it's not usually that addicts choose drugs over loved ones so much as that it's in the nature of addiction that they delude themselves into thinking they can have it both ways until it's too late.

... but atoxyl, these sound like two sides of the same thing. I mentioned deceit above and indeed, one of the most self-deceptive people I ever knew was a junkie. On first impression, he was kind, articulate helpful, many other positive things. But meanwhile, he was fucking up in all manner of ways (including ripping you off). Note the past tense. He's been dead for a couple of decades. Overdose. The ultimate fuck up, I guess.

And none of this is saying that heroin doesn't perhaps have a positive application or seven (or certainly opiates), and that many of its negatives are influenced by some dumb laws. But if personal experience is worth anything, mine is that it's a mostly BAD drug. I hate what it does to people who have long term relationships with it. Or short term for that matter. Indeed, many who kill themselves with it are dabblers who just happen to mess up on dosage. That's a hell of a price to pay for an easy mistake. Like driving your motorcycle too fast, I guess. Except I know far more dead heroin users than motorcycle riders.
posted by philip-random at 10:20 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


You get SO wired when you play

Supposedly this is one reason that it became popular with jazz musicians, who were up all night every night, sometimes using speed to do so
posted by thelonius at 10:30 AM on December 22, 2013


How many "last taboos" have there been so far? Like 20?
posted by obvious at 10:57 AM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Who are you to tell a tripper their experience is merely faux spiritual?

Many paths to top of mountain, etc.


I suppose the question, if it were possible to take a shortcut to the top of the mountain, would be whether there was as much value in the journey as making the climb the hard way.
posted by walrus at 11:02 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a legit painkiller, yeah, morphine based stuff can be a lifesaver. As recreational drugs go, though? Endless constipation and always being itchy and the total inability to orgasm are pretty high on my list of THESE THINGS ARE NOT ACTUALLY FUN.

that said, it was always interesting to people watch for local media personalities at bag in a bag.
posted by elizardbits at 11:13 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suppose the question, if it were possible to take a shortcut to the top of the mountain, would be whether there was as much value in the journey as making the climb the hard way.

Difficult word this "value".

I do think that the cultural history of the past fifty or sixty years is inconceivable without the comparatively sudden availability in large quantities of powerful psychedelics (starting in the 1950s, but truly kicking into gear in the 1960s ... and they've never really left us since). Indeed, it's entirely arguable that there wouldn't be a human race left were it not for the psychedelic awareness that ran counter to the Cold War madness of the 1960s-70s-80s (that ability to view humanity as a "We" situation as opposed to "Us and Them"). If the downside of this is a few folks taking an accelerated trip to the top of the mountain, I can live with it.
posted by philip-random at 11:27 AM on December 22, 2013


Well you can be standing on top of a mountain thinking "that's a nice view", and that will change your perspective to some degree, but presumably you're coming down at some point. The longer lasting impact on a personal level would surely be from having worked hard to overcome challenges to get up there, and that's what I'm talking about in terms of value.
posted by walrus at 11:44 AM on December 22, 2013


They have to sit in the waiting room with old people getting dialysis and people in for blood tests. Allegedly (and I wish I could find the source), it totally killed the glamor of heroin.

I've visited a bunch of the Heroin Assisted Treatment facilities. In Switzerland, a couple in the Netherlands and the one at the Maudsley in London.

From a user perspective, they're shit compared to the old British System, where you got to take your stuff home to sell or to use, as the fancy took you. But none of them were obnoxious. What moves people on isn't how horrible the surroundings are -- and bear in mind that the people recruited to these programmes are largely non-responders to methadone, so the other opiates don't do it for them -- they've generally suffered in excess of 10 years of failed methadone treatment, gone to prison numerous times and suffered a string of negative health consequences.

So the facilities are all pretty civilized, the staff are nice and you can socialize with your fellow heroin addicts. What moves you on is the soul crushing tedium of having to show up to the clinic, twice a day, 365 days a year.

The author has no idea about his subject, which is good for him, less good for the reader.

Completely agree. Here's what I wrote on the Facebook page of a friend one of the people quoted in the piece, this morning:
I was sorry I read it. I didn't think any of it was interesting. Is there *really* a difference between doing heroin in Berlin and doing it in a council estate in Norris Green? If there was, this article didn't tell me what it was. Just more old men, wanking each other off for money.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:59 AM on December 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


And I say that as someone in their late 50's who's given and received more than his fair share of handjobs.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:09 PM on December 22, 2013


The Card Cheat: Having now finished the article, I'd say it does a pretty lousy job of not glamorizing heroin.

With that in mind, a proposed soundtrack for the article: Heroin, She Said, by Wolfsheim. ("Heroin, she said, was the best I've had. No more mountains left to climb.")
posted by filthy light thief at 12:26 PM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


The French singer Daniel Darc, who died of an overdose in February (...)

Although he was a user for the most part of his life, Daniel Darc died of a pulmonary edema (link in French).
posted by L E M M at 12:42 PM on December 22, 2013


2013: the year that sriracha and heroin jumped the shark
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 12:52 PM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pulmonary oedema is caused by respiratory depression. Respiratory depression is caused by heroin overdose.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:52 PM on December 22, 2013


So, I saw something about a study once, which take with a grain of salt because I don't have a link, about how physical pain and emotional pain essentially ping the same parts of the brain.

Everybody I know who has had an opiate addiction has started with one or the other. Well-off, healthy, emotionally-stable people aren't as vulnerable because there's no reason for them to want to avoid feeling things. It is an escape, and to modern culture, escapism is anathema. I don't think it leads inherently to introspection, it's just that if you've been avoiding introspection because it's painful, that avenue becomes accessible. Well, and because it's sedating, it's not like most people have the energy at that point to go run marathons instead.

I think a lot of people who end up on heroin would be happy to have been offered another way of escape from their lives earlier on, but generally nobody provides one and the world just thinks they need better bootstraps.
posted by Sequence at 12:59 PM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is the shit that I hate about prohibition, and moral panic surrounding drugs: it results in this very sort of deadly glamorization of the tool, not the medium.

Look at weed for example: in the places it's legal, there are whole fields of study regarding different strains and concentrations and effects. You can choose not only how high to get, but what *kind* of high you want (to some extent). Without it being legal, your choice is "whatever some dude has stashed in his sock" or whatever. Same with Prohibition in the early 20th century, which lead to poisonings and the fucking American Mafia.

I've never done heroin (OR ANY DRUGS EVER IF YOU'RE LISTENING MR. OBAMA), but I *am* on prescription medication, and it's done me so much good that I now think of my life up to the age of 26 with the asterisk of "before I was medicated". It's telling that most stories of addiction seem to follow the path of "[Substance] was an epiphany, I was inspired/enlightened/creative/etc... until it just became an addiction", because the best options most people have available to them are alcohol, prescription medication (that comes with costly insurance/doctor visits/therapy/etc) or again, whatever came out of some dude's sock, from god knows where, cut with god knows what.

An artist I respect once decried drugs as "hacking your brain", which I agree with, but I don't see it as a negative. In fact, I see it as downright necessary: there's such a cloud of moral panic bullshit surrounding almost every chemical or controlled substance that people suffering from awful lives and broken brains find some kind of 'nobility' in their state: "I can't hold down a job, or manage my anger, but at least I'm not some Prozac zombie!" Hell, It's this kind of panicked thinking that helped lead to the anti-vax crowd, creating a potentially worse epidemic than any string of addictions and overdoses.

I think it'd be amazing if we could have an adult attitude about drugs in this country (or anywhere) and SCIENCE! could create better, safer recreational drugs that can make people feel better, smarter, more creative, etc that won't lead to anyone overdosing or dying in prison.

What do we get instead? Krokodil.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 1:51 PM on December 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Having lived through the Vancouver punk scene of the '80s, and seen people not only use heroin for its putative glamour, but subsequently die, this kind of shit makes me very angry.

It's a drug, like any other. There's nothing magical about it. I'm shooting up! I'm Charlie Parker! No, no you're not.

Fentanyl would like a word with the author.

Seriously, unless you are taking Fentanyl or Dilaudid, you might as well just have a couple of Neo-Citran and go to bed.
posted by jokeefe at 2:01 PM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it's interesting how (at least some of) the people who are arguing against heroin are referencing personal stories about how heroin negatively affected/affects their lives, while those arguing that it's really OK seem to be coming from a much more... theoretical... place.

Part of that is that many of the people arguing that it's really OK are saying that the drug itself is really okay, but the context around it makes it fucked up. The people talking about personal experience, well, you can't separate that out from the context - is it the drug itself ruining their lives? Or the consequences of prohibition? So there's some talk across purposes - responding to someone saying heroin would be awesome if it were legal by talking about a case study in which it wasn't doesn't actually represent opposed positions.
posted by Dysk at 2:12 PM on December 22, 2013


I think it is more likely that the people arguing that heroin is OK don't want to reveal too much about their personal experience with it, and thusly shroud the truth in vagueries. Not that I blame them, the taboo associated with being a current or former user is extremely powerful.

Not that I would have an intense, all consuming, but thankfully dormant familiarity with that taboo of course.
posted by mediocre at 2:22 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who are you to tell a tripper their experience is merely faux spiritual?

Many paths to top of mountain, etc.

I suppose the question, if it were possible to take a shortcut to the top of the mountain, would be whether there was as much value in the journey as making the climb the hard way.



Who has the right to begrudge us our enjoyment of the view?
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 2:27 PM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Heroin's a good drug. All the stereotype negativities associated with it relate PURELY to its illegality. As a professor of addiction once told me (paraphrasing): 'If you take identical twins and one lives a drug-free life and the other shoots up pure heroin in sterile syringes a few times a day and you revisit the pair after a few decades, the only real difference between them will likely be that the heroin addict needs to manage their constipation.'

It's always dangerous to clear something as definitely harmless, because we're always finding out more, and so in retrospect such optimistic statements can look foolish.

For example, there is strong evidence that opiates can be a factor in cancer growth, and that evidence has been getting stronger. So you need to add cancer to the constipation, which doesn't make it sound quite as harmless anymore - at least from a health point of view.

Evidence mounts for link between opioids and cancer growth.
posted by VikingSword at 2:47 PM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]




I followed the author's suggestion and searched for "where to buy heroin in melbourne". I got a bunch of suggestions, most of which I could have guessed. The consensus was that if it's not hard to get some without a pre-existing relationship if you're willing to settle for low quality and high prices. I then searched for "where to buy marijuana in melbourne". Apparently there is no way to buy marijuana in Melbourne, unless you're already buying it from friends or acquaintances. I got lots of hits for message boards where people really really really wanted to buy it, and had no idea where to find any. So, prohibition, eh? It has funny consequences.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:19 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm shooting up! I'm Charlie Parker!

I just read Gary Giddins' book about Parker. He hated this, and he would say to younger musicians "do as I say, not as I do", according to Giddins. Gerry Mulligan is quoted talking about how, when he stayed with Parker, the drugs were kept even out of his sight, until eventually Bird had to shoot up in front of him. "This is terrible but I have to do it," he said, and Mulligan thinks that he made the procedure as disgusting as possible.

But, his efforts along these lines were ineffectual, and a whole lot of musicians started a drug habit to try to touch his mystique.
posted by thelonius at 3:42 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm mostly a crackhead, but the other month I thought I'd get some heroin and see what all the shouting was about. Felt just like oxy/codeine/morphine/any other opiate. Since I don't really like needles I didn't continue with it. Which is what I notice in a lot of heroin users, they seem to fetishize the needle, not that there's anything wrong with that. Hey, so do the heavily tattoo'ed.

People in here are so ready to react negatively to anything having to do with "heroin" that they tripped over the meaning of the authors use of the word psychedelic.

Heroin is here to stay. Rigid anti-drug attitudes aren't.
posted by telstar at 4:18 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heroin seems so unhelpful to creativity---you stare at your shoes and think about nothing. And obviously, 99.9% of the people who use it go on to do nothing at all of interest. Yet so many musicians made great music on it, then went way downhill when they got clean, so it must be good for *something*.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:08 PM on December 22, 2013




To be a little clearer about what I've been trying to say in this thread I think the whole "heroin is the best feeling possible/will become the only thing you care about" meme is just the other side of junkie glamor coin. Maybe it's a cheesy example, but shooting up has *nothing* on falling in love, and I've done a side-by-side comparison. I assert that if heroin is the best feeling in your life, either circumstances or neurochemistry have deprived you of good feelings. The Rat Park concept is relevant. Well, or I suppose some people may also be predisposed to extreme enjoyment of opioids. In general it's not a spectacular drug but an insidious one, just a *very good* feeling (and antidote to bad feelings) that's very easy to come by until the diminishing returns and the dark side catch up to you.
posted by atoxyl at 6:58 PM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hmm, I know a lot of ex-junkies. I personally have never tried it - I feared I would like it too much.

That's my position as well.

Heroin is something I am definitely interested in experiencing, but I have a lot of other things I want to experience first. So my plan is to try heroin after I'm too old and sick and feeble to enjoy anything else.
posted by flabdablet at 7:25 PM on December 22, 2013


I'm mostly a crackhead

That's the first time I have ever seen anyone admit that, even in COPS.

Which is what I notice in a lot of heroin users, they seem to fetishize the needle, not that there's anything wrong with that. Hey, so do the heavily tattoo'ed.

Is it the needle, or the ritual? My experience (small and second half as it was) was it was the latter.

Heroin is here to stay. Rigid anti-drug attitudes aren't.

Rigid anti-drug attitudes seem to be well entrenched so far.

flabdablet said:
So my plan is to try heroin after I'm too old and sick and feeble to enjoy anything else.

Good news! It'll probably work out that way!
posted by Mezentian at 8:25 PM on December 22, 2013


There are mean drunks, there are sullen drunks, there are happy drunks…and this also applies to those who drink only three or five drinks.

The same is true with opiates. Not all varieties and doses make you nod off. Some people on poppy tea or oxycontin feel very good and would rather talk your ear off than fall asleep. Same with playing music: feeling good can make it easier to concentrate on music if you are prone to depression or other debilitating mental states.

(LSD, by comparison, makes it impossible to play music, talk or anything else, although some would argue that it - and marijuana - might offer new insights. It certainly is not the fast track up the mountain of enlightenment. This is a side conversation here, but there is no substitute for years of meditation.)

I'm not the guy on the thread who is a spokesperson for heroin. It is an unspeakably cruel drug (for druggies, especially), because it appears to offer ineffable euphoria, and before long, seeking heroin becomes a way to avoid the hell of withdrawal. Little euphoria anymore, just a lot of effort and money and broken relationships and perhaps crime just to stay normal.
posted by kozad at 8:28 PM on December 22, 2013


There are mean drunks, there are sullen drunks, there are happy drunks…and this also applies to those who drink only three or five drinks.

I am all three.

LSD, by comparison, makes it impossible to play music, talk or anything else, although some would argue that it - and marijuana - might offer new insights

Does heroin open the "doors of perception"? I have never heard that claim for H or speed, but I have for LSD and pot. I have also seen a hell of a lot of people on acid who could do nothing but talk.
posted by Mezentian at 8:34 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


a whole lot of musicians started a drug habit to try to touch his mystique.

Sometime back in the 80s I read an article in Village Voice (I'm pretty sure) which called this "emulation by needle". Led to a whole other category of wasted talent and wasted lives.

Charlie Parker was great in spite of his addiction, not because of it.
posted by jokeefe at 9:47 PM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


-- great in spite of his addiction, not because of it.--

I tend to think that there has always been too much credit for artistic output pinned onto whichever drug our target artist is/was associated with. It's just as likely coincidental in the vast majority of cases. Maybe all the great ones used the same shampoo or had equivalent amounts of licorice and fennel in their diets or each had a supervaluable mentor at their most impressionable moment in development. Attributing pieces of genius to a drug seems pretty arbitrary. A hell of a lot more people taking whichever drug DIDN'T produce great art, that's for damned sure.
posted by peacay at 10:18 PM on December 22, 2013


LSD, by comparison, makes it impossible to play music, talk or anything else

yeah, this guy's just lost here
posted by philip-random at 10:24 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Doc Ellis and the LSD No-No
posted by Mister Bijou at 10:55 PM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


You're dead wrong that LSD "makes it impossible to play music, talk, [etc.]", kozad. I've never noticed when friends were tripping actually, although you'll observe slightly different average behaviors amongst strangers.

I think all hallucinogens impair short term memory and shorten your attention span, especially LSD. I've explained mathematical concepts just fine while on enough mushrooms to repeatedly misplace my water cup. I'd expect to make errors if doing original proofs, or even implementing mathematical software, in that state however.

A priori, I'd expect an artist, musician, etc. on hallucinogens to retain all their artistic skills and their slow/higher filters, while losing some fast/lower filters. And some might experience this as creativity depending upon their artistic goals. LSD could however harm the creative process if either (a) you got distracted from your endeavor or (b) you forgot what cool thing you did.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:01 PM on December 22, 2013


LSD, by comparison, makes it impossible to play music

the grateful dead made a career of it, at least in the 60s
posted by pyramid termite at 2:17 AM on December 23, 2013


Well yeah but like he said, no short term memory, they would play a bar and forget and then play it again, over and over.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:18 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


that's called jamming
posted by philip-random at 10:00 AM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Heroin is here to stay. Rigid anti-drug attitudes aren't.

What the hell are you talking about?
posted by Melismata at 10:02 AM on December 23, 2013


He's probably tweaking. Or twerking.
Whatever young people say these days.
posted by Mezentian at 12:42 AM on December 24, 2013


Heroin seems so unhelpful to creativity---you stare at your shoes and think about nothing.

That's true for someone who's beginning from a position of normality. However, for somebody who is beginning from a position of enormous physical or emotional pain, heroin can turn down the volume so that it's at a level where people can actually get stuff done.

The drug has huge anxiolytic and anti-psychotic properties, and about 75% of the people enrolled in methadone maintenance programmes have some degree of mental health problems.

Also, this staring at shoes business might be true for the first few months, and intermittently true after that -- but once someone develops a tolerance, it tends to be not true any more. That said, if people were able to devote the amount of creativity involved in raising the money to supporting a drug habit into supporting their work, they'd probably be a lot more productive.

Is it the needle, or the ritual? My experience (small and second half as it was) was it was the latter.

I don't think it's either. Though there's unquestionably some fetishization and ritual aspect to the process, I think you get that about anything that provides people with enormous pleasure. It's true of sex, of drinking alcohol and of eating good food. It's true for pot smokers -- why would heroin injectors be exempt?

That said, people are committed to it because it's an extremely effective method of delivering euphoria. If you've been using long enough that your body is covered with open ulcers and deep vein thrombosis is threatening the loss of your leg, the fetishization and ritual aspects are probably completely absent -- but that commitment to the most effective method of achieving euphoria often remains.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:03 AM on December 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


In all my life, I have never seen a reason to try heroin.
Thanks PeterMcDermott.
You won't believe how much, in all my years in the innernerds, that helped understand it.
posted by Mezentian at 4:32 AM on December 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Problem is, Mezentian, that not everyone who *tries* heroin tends to have those good, solid, self-medicating reasons for using it.

But the people who *carry on* using, in the face of the hugely destructive impact it tends to have on your relationships, your physical health and your criminal record? Those tend to have such reasons -- rooted in physical and/or emotional pain. For them, heroin isn't a problem, it's a solution to a problem -- and they keep on doing it until somebody comes along and shows them a better, more effective solution to that problem.

Outsiders tend to look at heroin addicts/addiction and see it as hugely irrational. It isn't -- heroin use is a rational response to a problem or set of problems. It may not be the best response. Sometimes, it may be the very worst response. But it isn't irrational.

I'm not a fan of 12 step programmes and 12 steppers, but one of the things that you often hear said in the NA rooms by people in recovery is that heroin actually saved my life, by giving me a way to deal with life until I could find a better, less destructive way.

But the people who turn out to be addicts are a small subset of the group who just try heroin, use it occasionally, and stop using without any problem because the drug becomes difficult to get, or the threat of negative consequences becomes too high.

Problem is, before you try the drug, you probably don't know what category you fall into. Almost everyone believes they'll fall into the second, 'use with impunity' category.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:13 AM on December 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Doc Ellis and the LSD No-No

A musical retelling of that story.
posted by TedW at 9:16 AM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I should probably correct "impairs short term memory" to "impairs peripheral consciousness" or "impairs filters", vogon_poet. You lose shit on hallucinogens definitely, but you seemingly remember anything you concentrate on long enough. You might lose memories formed towards the end of a focused activity after you switch to another activity. I'd expect you retain everything if you take the time to write it down.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:55 AM on January 6, 2014


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