Scotland's heroin problems
August 16, 2009 7:19 AM   Subscribe

What happened to the Trainspotting generation? Heroin and Scotland: the relationship continues.
posted by peacay (51 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I don't feel the sickness yet, but it's in the post.
posted by gman at 7:27 AM on August 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

posted by RussHy at 7:40 AM on August 16, 2009

Trainspotting, as much as I love Danny Boyle and as much as I think it's an entertaining movie, is a load of trash. You don't feel like your head is in the toilet because you can't even lift it from the fucking pillow. There is a definite romance with the drug, but you'll be hard pressed to find serious addicts who run in crews. It's a lonely drug favored by lonely people.

I'm a heroin addict. I've been clean just shy of 8 months now, the longest I've been clean in nearly a decade. I might relapse, I might not. It still takes a shitload of effort to not call one of the numbers engraved onto my brain for a quick afternoon pick-me-up. I don't know where I'm going with this. I've never been to Scotland.
posted by item at 7:43 AM on August 16, 2009 [67 favorites]

That was painful to read. That said, I'm glad I read it. What RussHy dotted.

And Item, may you have strength in your own struggle.
posted by localroger at 8:02 AM on August 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Item: All of the sentiments you expressed are touched upon in the article.
posted by Roach at 8:47 AM on August 16, 2009

Not sure what a serious addict is, but the junkies i see in Edinburgh seem to run in crews. Not sure if it's heroin or jellies they're abusing.
posted by the cuban at 8:57 AM on August 16, 2009

I was in Leith just last week and couldn't get a bag of brown to save my life. I bet you still can out on the Niddrie though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:02 AM on August 16, 2009

The throw-away line about how Edinburgh produced most of the world's refined opiates in the 19th century was fascinating. As I recall the city also churned out most of the British Empire's doctors at the same time.

Finally- is the "choose life" passage actually written by Welsh? I recall it only from the film.
posted by rongorongo at 9:11 AM on August 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Rongorongo: It's in the book. [I know nothing else about heroin so will stop there]
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:18 AM on August 16, 2009

> "Trainspotting, as much as I love Danny Boyle and as much as I think it's an entertaining movie, is a load of trash. You don't feel like your head is in the toilet because you can't even lift it from the fucking pillow. There is a definite romance with the drug, but you'll be hard pressed to find serious addicts who run in crews. It's a lonely drug favored by lonely people."

Have you read the original book and Irvine Welsh's other books? They are very much an exaggerated slog through the bottom of a shit stained toilet - when it comes to Trainspotting, if there weren't friendships and other people to prop up Rent Boy, there wouldn't be a story.

(And I actually think it's the tamest of the Welsh books too. Filth made me heave a few times and is the opposite of Trainspotting in that the isolation makes the story, and I couldn't even get through Glue after the dog scene. Bleurgh!)

I'm a heroin addict. I've been clean just shy of 8 months now

Fucking fantastic dude. Well done. Good luck for the future.

> Finally- is the "choose life" passage actually written by Welsh? I recall it only from the film.

I remember it in the book.
posted by saturnine at 9:27 AM on August 16, 2009

Every Scottish drug user I have ever know, and I have only known about 25 or so ran with a group. In fact, thinking back, I don't think I ever witnessed drug use in groups of 4 or less, not even casual drugs like marijuana. Everything was done communally. Cliques, if you will.

This may have been because of like interests or what have you, but for the most part drug use took place in cross-border groups (Religious, social and geographical divides did not separate the group, unlike in other social settings)

So yeah, I can totally see Heroin users in Edinburgh running in groups to shoot up, the Scottish manged to make group alcoholism a national sport, why not group competitive Heroin Addiction?
posted by NiteMayr at 9:41 AM on August 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

This statement -- "The disaffected, heroin-addicted young men immortalised in Irvine Welsh's bestselling novel are now in their 40s. And, it emerged this week, they are dying fast" -- sums it all up for me.

I was running art galleries in New York's East Village in the mid 80's. Because New York got carpet bombed with cheap, strong, smokable heroin, it rapidly became the drug of choise of many artists I knew and worked with. Some of these folks might have started out innocently enough by smoking, but they all finished by injecting.

I say finished as that's what heroin did to my crowd, to my friends. I haven't kept hard statistics but I know for sure that the majority of the folks I ran with back then are dead. The lucky ones overdosed outright, while others died due to the lifestyle, either directly (violence) or indirectly (disease).

One lover overdosed while I was away on business, leaving me to find her body when I returned. Which, as you might expect, seriously didn't work for me. Still have problems with that. Another hid her drug use from me, but when she finally confirmed my suspicions I paid to get her into treatment the next day because I loved this woman, and a Medicaid slot would have taken far far too long.

The pull of the drug was so so strong she left after less than one day (no refund either). A gang banger looking to earn his bones did her about ten years later while she curb walked on The Lower East Side (Allen Street) supporting her habit. Janet, fantastic friend, one of the best painters I've ever worked with, I keep several of her pieces up in my flat.

Out of about 50 heroin users I knew from those times only ten or so are alive. Half are still using, sorta have it under control but from what I can tell money is more a constraint here than anything else. Most would probably OD the next day if they hit the lottery. Of those that are clean, absolutely none of them are still in New York. Tesque, Fairbanks, Cheyenne, Boise, Riviere A Pierre Quebec, when that heroin bomb hit New York the lucky ones were either killed outright or scattered to places far flung and remote. Those that remained died miserable, drawn out deaths which took a serious toll on anyone close to them.

I'm very open minded about what folks do with their bodies and in my presence, I'll happily sit with you in a coffeeshop even though I don't smoke, but I draw the line at heroin. I just don't want to be around it and I don't want it anywhere near me. I believe in some ways heroin is far more socially disruptive than meth or crack, simply because as the users decline is slower more and more people can be and often are pulled into their wake.

I send Janet's mother a card every year. I tell her that when people come to our flat they almost always ask about her daughters work first. It's the truth. Janet was from an upper middle class New Haven home. Parents were tenured profs, and after displaying an inordinate talent, she was groomed from an early age to be an artist. Weekly trips to MOMA and The Guggenheim, SOHO openings, networking, private lessons, anything they could do to advance and strengthen that god given talent that everyone, even those not interested in painting, noticed.

I'm lucky enough to own Janet's early stuff and while some pieces are very strong on their own, as a comprehensive body of work it is jaw dropping. In those days she'd labour over a single canvas for weeks, easily months. When I first met her I was curating art shows featuring downtown artists in galleries on 57th Street, and I moved as much of her art as I could get my hands on.

But her work in later years, when her addiction really grabbed hold? Well, that was more about selling something, anything than it was about her art. Her drawings - 'cause then she no longer kept cash for canvases and oils - were done quickly, furtively, often illuminated only by a single bulb in whatever fetid drug squat she was living in at the time, and the lack of effort showed. She'd wander into CBGBs, Mars Bar, Aztec Lounge, King Tuts, The Limbo Lounge wherever we were hanging out, peddling these grimy, amateurish filthy drawings. We'd all feel bad purchasing as we knew where the money was going, but we'd feel equally bad not buying anything. The situation sucked.

But Janet had this remarkable energy, no time to waste, she had to sell something, get some cash and score a hit. Her downward spiral accelerated but absolutely nobody could her help then. Conversations with her were painful, as they rather quickly focused on extracting as much cash from you as possible as quickly as possible on whatever pretense she could raise. We quickly learned that small valuable and not so valuable items would disappear when Janet was about. Everyone tried to avoid her then, sadly, myself included.

And when her drawings wouldn't sell any more, when her need for heroin was so intensely painful she started selling her body. She had to because her art was horrible, the wonderful talent destroyed by years of heavy, almost incessant drug use. Hooking - initially through call service but later out on the streets solo as she was starting to look really bad - was a hell of a lot faster and surer way to get money to purchase heroin. In the end yes, she died of a single gunshot to the back of her head, indirectly due to drugs, but I'd argue heroin was more responsible for her death than the gang banger.

Needless to say, I never cared much for that movie. I've never read the book and I'm not inclined to either. That was one grim article.
posted by Mutant at 9:46 AM on August 16, 2009 [109 favorites]

Maybe it is a Scottish thing for addicts to run in groups, but the narcotics addicts I've known have been mostly solitary people to begin with, before they even began using. The one guy I knew who had a circle of friends was always a peripheral sort - occasionally coming to parties, not really talking to anyone although he was friendly enough, and then leaving shortly after arriving. Using exacerbated this, but you still end up in "social" situations, if you can call them that, living in the city, namely because everyone needs a place to fall out and many of the city addicts didn't have homes. There's no kind of quiet like a room full of eight or nine people who've all finished taking a shot. It's not just soundless; it's utterly inert, devoid of life. Not an experience I'd want to have again.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:54 AM on August 16, 2009 [4 favorites]

The group nature of the addicts in Trainspotting is surely much more about the constraints of making a watchable film (dialogue, relationships) than social realism... social realism is not Boyle's strong point — cf. Slumdog Millionaire — but neither, I think, is it really his aim.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 9:58 AM on August 16, 2009

Game warden: I'm not sure if you've read the book, but it's worth remembering that Irvine Welsh is both staunchly socialist and a big football fan, both things which are strongly associated with working class unity and group pride. Those are themes that come out very strongly in his work. Trainspotting sets up a contrast between this group solidarity and the individualism that can be induced by heroin use (I'm thinking especially of the baby death scene).

So I think the group nature of the film merely comes from Boyle trying to turn Welsh's work into a coherent narrative, but Welsh was certainly trying to make a point with it.
posted by Infinite Jest at 10:09 AM on August 16, 2009

I think Trainspotting is largely about how isolating addiction can be. Even though Renton is surrounded by a a group of "friends" (hell, Spud's the only one he really likes), he's painfully alone.

Glue and Porno are both great books, and continue the Trainspotting story arc (well, Glue is really it's own separate novel, and then Porno weaves both together). Welsh definitely writes some seriously disturbing novels, but he's one of my favorite authors.

"people were taking heroin to come down from the ecstasy,"

If you need junk to come down off of it, you were probably taking some concoction of speed that was not MDMA.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:10 AM on August 16, 2009

In a recent thread about opiate use for medicine in Afghanistan I thought about linking to the following strange piece of information: Finland - a leading consumer of heroin from the 1930s to the 1950s. Strange thing that the same substance, used as a medicine could just be phased out and be done with, but when used recreationally, it becomes so much more difficult problem. After 50's, there is still heroin use, but it is on the same small scale as in other Nordic countries. It never did come back really. Either large shipments or thatcherism passed us by.
posted by Free word order! at 10:17 AM on August 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Infinite Jest: Sorry, I'm an idiot to focus only on Boyle for what was obviously an adaptation. But in both cases, the conclusion's similar: the addicts run as a group in Trainspotting for reasons other than any sociological data suggesting that that's what they do in Scotland. (Which of course they may do, anyway.) And a novel needs interactions between people almost as much as a movie.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 10:18 AM on August 16, 2009

Item: Trainspotting, as much as I love Danny Boyle and as much as I think it's an entertaining movie, is a load of trash. You don't feel like your head is in the toilet because you can't even lift it from the fucking pillow. There is a definite romance with the drug, but you'll be hard pressed to find serious addicts who run in crews. It's a lonely drug favored by lonely people.

I'm a heroin addict. I've been clean just shy of 8 months now, the longest I've been clean in nearly a decade. I might relapse, I might not. It still takes a shitload of effort to not call one of the numbers engraved onto my brain for a quick afternoon pick-me-up. I don't know where I'm going with this. I've never been to Scotland.

Good for you, man. That's sincerely awesome. I knew a girl in college who'd gotten in on a scholarship largely granted by a community that was impressed that she'd gotten off of heroin; it was the saddest thing in the world watching her slide back in, and not at all 'cool' and 'high-energy' and 'so creative' and all that bullshit. I was pretty pissed off at Lou Reed for boosting that whole 'Heroin' mystique, making it seem like something so cool, so spiritual. And, yeah, he did that, but I finally realized that he wrote two songs about heroin, not just one - it's just that nobody every remembers the good one, the one he wrote after he got off of heroin:

He finds it hard to breathe
He's sucking in the sea
And where's the heroine?
- To fire off the gun?
- To calm the raging seas?
And let herself be seized?

... And all the men
Who are locked inside the box -
Will the lady let them out?

Strapped to the mast, the pale ascendant heroine

I love this song - it's such a song of liberation. 'Cuz it makes me feel just like a man? Fuck that shit.

It's ridiculous, but I've even heard the stuff romanticized by these proper Jazz critics - 'creative forces' and 'intellectual stimulants' and all that bullshit. I remember I pissed a guy off pretty bad once when I responded to his little speech about how "sure, it hurt Charlie Parker a lot - but without heroin, would Jazz have ever been so rich?" by telling him that saying that heroin has spurred people on to artistic heights is exactly the same morally as sitting around and talking about how wonderful slavery was because look at all the wonderful things it inspired these poor black people to do!
posted by koeselitz at 10:23 AM on August 16, 2009 [6 favorites]

Of course I was speaking from my own narrow worldview when I said what I did upthread. I have no idea what junkie culture - if there is such a thing - is like in Scotland. I did run with a group of addicts when I lived in NYC, though the more serious our habits got the more time we spent alone. Hell, we definitely weren't going to share when we were finally able to scrape together enough for a bundle.

I guess I read the book. I say guess because, if I did, I was high at the time and don't remember the details. I'd be surprised if I didn't, though, as for a good long while when I was using I absorbed every piece of dope-related media I could get my hands on, mostly to justify that what I was doing was normal and okay.

Thanks for the kind words, folks.
posted by item at 10:53 AM on August 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

The book is much bleaker than the movie, which is plenty bleak, mind you.

As to the group vs. individual use of heroin, the article has this to say:
As for the users themselves, they say there was little culture, not a scene as such. "You try and keep away from people," says David. "You just want to be left alone to do heroin. Even if someone overdoses, your first thought is not, 'Oh, are they OK?' Your first thought is to seek out where they got the heroin from – that's how sad it is. Everyone uses everyone, and if you do build relationships it's for a common purpose, to get what you need. It's dog eat dog."
Free word order!: After 50's, there is still heroin use, but it is on the same small scale as in other Nordic countries.

At least in the early part of this decade Oslo was often referred to as the Heroin Capital of Europe due to its high overdose rates and cheap heroin.
posted by Kattullus at 10:53 AM on August 16, 2009

Heroin killed my best friend. I'd known him for more than 20 years. Marty was a 6'7" 400-pound force of nature. He was a plumber, a poet, a songwriter, a guitar player, an artist, an angler, and a nexus around whom swirled most of the interesting people in my town. Marty knew everyone, and everyone knew him. He was easy to spot: a giant of a man wearing work-stained overalls and a crushed cowboy hat adorned with crow feathers jammed down over an unruly shock of brown hair. He was loud, profane, fearless, and big-hearted. He loved his dog, Lucy. When I was bouncing around between jobs, Marty could be counted on to hook me up with some plumbing work so I could pay my bills. He had an astonishing work ethic: if he wasn't working, he was looking for work, and when he was through working, he was writing songs, making art, always planning, planning, planning. Make and do. Do and make. In a world of nouns, Marty was a verb.

He started messing with heroin one July. He was dead by November. He left a hole in my heart, in my scene, in my town, in the whole goddamn world.

Fuck heroin.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:00 AM on August 16, 2009 [25 favorites]

The thing about opiates is they seem rather safe, if they're not of dodgy provenance and people aren't forced into the fringes to get them. Let people have them. Then we'll see if its the drugs themselves (which are kind of boring, really) or the romance of the outlaw lifestyle surrounding them that's the real attraction.
posted by dortmunder at 11:05 AM on August 16, 2009

Sweet Sixteen by Ken Loach is another grim perspective on heroin in Scotland (and Scotland in general).
posted by KokuRyu at 11:24 AM on August 16, 2009

Yeah, heroin cut its path across the Vancouver punk scene, too. I still see around somebody who I once dearly loved but who has been a walking shell for over twenty years now. There are others, ghosts around town, pushing shopping carts down alleys.

One of the Vancouver ironies-- this is a small city, and insular-- was that the manager of one of the most ideologically pure and activist bands (and the most successful) was the scene's main supplier.
posted by jokeefe at 12:06 PM on August 16, 2009

I loved the movie even though it made its antiheroes seem in some ways more exciting and interesting than was warranted. The reason I looked past that was that the movie also got to something else important, and that was the sense of futility behind the addiction; I thought it conveyed that very well.

My brother's friend tried heroin the first time on a campout with friends in the early '90s. Unfortunately for him this was at a time when Vancouver was getting a shipment that was much stronger than usual; he (and I think a few dozen others) died because of it. This was shortly after I had tried acid the first time, also on a campout with friends. I was not likely to experiment as far as H anyway (not a great risk-taker) but that sealed the deal for the future. The ironic thing was that, like me, he chose to have his first time with friends so as to feel safer and more comfortable.

When the movie came out I wanted to see what the portrayals would be like, and whether the desperation and futility of the situation came through; it did, despite any 'glamourization' that movie storytelling adds. It did, and served for me as another reminder of why I didn't go any further down the path.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 12:21 PM on August 16, 2009

The Poppy
The poppy pod is cut and seeps,
The Tiny child is crushed and weeps.
The child is crushed and crushed again
To make a special type of pain,
The agony which cannot weep
But tries to rock itself to sleep.
The poppy's weeping does become
A special kind of opium.
Then the child will pluck the flower,
Each the other to devour;
Asleep together in the wild.
The poppy and the little child.

posted by Samuel Farrow at 1:34 PM on August 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

I used to hang out with the Morphine Sulphate crowd. There was about, maybe, a little over a year between the first time I shot up and the last, about a decade ago. Never tried heroin, so I can't really speak about it, but I remember reading Burroughs and him saying that it actually takes quite a bit of work to become a junkie. The addiction takes time. This was true of my experience with opiates. Dabbling became a monthly, then a weekly thing. But no further.

I must have skirted pretty close, however. The one/two punch that got me off it was my primary enabler attempting to rob a pharmacy and going away for as little time as the 'I was an automaton' defense could get him, thus stopping my access (I had made a point of never learning how to inject myself) and my own stopping breathing after injecting after three glasses of wine (don't mix alcohol with opioids, kids, it's not funny and it's not clever). An ambulance was called. I was hugely embarrassed when I came to, but the hospital staff made me feel much better by accidentally treating me with hospital grade opium. They apologised afterwards for their error (and I vomited an inhuman amount when I came down and was released) but in the anthology of weird shit that has happened to me as a result of intoxicants (that I am able to recall), that one's a keeper.

It's never quite that easy to be clean, and I must have used a couple of times after that, but the people who wanted to get small with me then were not close friends and I could pretty easily recognise they just wanted to know someone who had a job and an income stream. And I quite liked having a job and an income stream, more than I liked them.

So, essentially, despite my vaguely leftish leanings, capitalism saved me from myself. I lucked out in that I was never regular enough a user to get the intense physical cravings and withdrawal pains one reads about. I did, however, regularly dream about sinking in the needle, watching the blood mix and return and then feeling the rush. And it's still a very weird experience to watch movies with intravenous drug use depicted.
posted by Sparx at 2:43 PM on August 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

I have no idea why anyone would ever use heroin to come down from ecstasy, nor have I ever heard of it before. The Scottish are strange ducks.
posted by tinatiga at 2:44 PM on August 16, 2009

I've heard many anecdotes of people smoking heroin to help with the come-down off pills, but never intravenous use.
posted by Dysk at 3:07 PM on August 16, 2009

I was hugely embarrassed when I came to, but the hospital staff made me feel much better by accidentally treating me with hospital grade opium.

What did they think they were giving you? (Or, what did they think you were there for?)
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:20 PM on August 16, 2009

What did they think they were giving you? (Or, what did they think you were there for?)

This is, of course, an excellent question. I have no idea. I'm pretty sure they didn't mention why they went wrong, and I had just been taken to hospital in an ambulance after an OD (I suppose stopping breathing qualifies as an OD) so I'm probably not the best person to ask. But they definitely said the morning after that they had accidentally given me more opiates which fully met with my recollection of not sleeping that night and feeling pretty damn good for the duration despite the circumstances I found myself in, well beyond the duration of my initial intake and causing me to seriously puke later on, which I'm not prone to do.

This isn't the kind of thing you pursue in New Zealand as malpractice is minimalised on account of the national Accident Compensation Corp. It's hard to put a claim in when the only damage you received was that you stayed high on opiates surrounded by medical professionals.
posted by Sparx at 3:43 PM on August 16, 2009

He was 'Dwarf': "I'm small for a giant", he had a fascination with engineering though his bike was a wreck. He cohuld be loud and inadvertently rude, but he was eternaly patient and infinitely kind.

You know where this story is going.

I lost touch with him but refused to believe that he'd started doing junk. He was too good, too true a person. One day he went to the top of the tower block he was living in and just walked off the edge.
Fucking junk. Fucking junkies.
posted by BadMiker at 4:30 PM on August 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

posted by telstar at 5:28 PM on August 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

I just finished reading "Trainspotting" and "Porno" again last week. Excellent books. Never in my life would I have thought that they glamourised heroin use.

My only experience with heroin was through the first guy that I lived with. He was a heroin user and was in the process of alienating himself from all of his friends when we met. He was very intelligent and very, very unhappy. I asked him to move in with me because the friends he was living with couldn't bear to see him decline any more and were on the verge of kicking him out and I lived far, far away from any kind of scene, plus I fell in love with him. I was 26 and had only started smoking pot the previous year and was more a beer kindagal anyway.

He was on methadone when we met but was still banging up occasionally. About six months after he'd moved in with me he overslept one Saturday and didn't get to the chemist in time for his weekend dose of methadone. By this time he only had one local contact for smack and that person had gone away for the weekend. He spent the entire day ringing people from his previous scene who he despised and who despised him but he wasn't able to get on. He begged me to ask the guy I got my pot from whether he knew anyone who could help. My pot dealer was so absolutely anti-chemicals that asking wasn't even an option.

I have to emphasise how naiive I was. He was on a really high dose of methadone and without it became very, very sick. I had no idea. He didn't get out of bed on Sunday morning and I was farting about on my front verandah, sweeping and cleaning cobwebs and muttering about how lazy and unhelpful he was. I came inside and he was sitting in the hallway, white as a cliche, banging his head harder and harder against the wall and crying and shaking so uncontrollably that it was like he was having a fit. "Oh help me jesus fuck someone help me oh help me help me I can't do this I can't do this oh fuck help me" was all he could say.

He was a big man, 6ft and somewhat overweight. I had to help him downstairs to the car and drive him to Emergency at the hospital. I was totally in shock. I had no idea what to do for him. Nothing that I've described here comes close to the reality of seeing him so utterly, utterly devastated.

Anyway, blah blah. Long story (not so) short, we lived together for about another three years. He kicked heroin and methadone during that time (I smoked a little bit once and didn't like it and took a swig of his methadone once and liked it even less - I was never tempted to try banging up) and then he suffered through a terrible depression. Eleven years on and I still speak with him occasionally and he tells me that the shot he had when we were still together was his last ever hit. For a while though the thought of never doing heroin again was, to him, similar to being told that his best friend whom he loved but who was also an incredible pain in the arse had died. He's successful in his job, has a partner who loves him and two young children. He made it out alive and I'm so happy for him.

He never told me everything about his life before we met. I just saw the after-effects and how long it took him to get himself together.

I remember watching him shoot up. I remember him itching uncontrollably. I remember the way his eyes looked and the colour of his skin. I remember him wearing the same t-shirt every day for months which by the end was like a black cobweb on his back (I washed it for him and he'd put it straight on again).

I don't like heroin either.
posted by h00py at 6:56 PM on August 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

Just as a data point, as I understand it, methadone withdrawal is far worse than heroin withdrawal. Or so I've been told.
posted by jokeefe at 7:15 PM on August 16, 2009

You're right. It is.
posted by item at 8:21 PM on August 16, 2009

I think some people blame drugs like heroin for what happened to someone they lost, as if the drug was the main problem (of course, that can still happen). While I'm sorry for people who have lost others in such ways, I'm not sure how much truth there is to the idea that a drug was mainly responsible for taking an otherwise normal, healthy person.

It's harder to become addicted to something if the rest of your life is going good. The problem can be clearer, and the decision to stop, easier. Addiction really takes its toll when the person doesn't see anything outside the addiction as worthwhile or achievable, which unfortunately can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The reasons why some people become addicted and why some people manage to escape it while others never do, are complex. But I still think many people focus too much on the addiction and not enough on the person who suffers from it.
posted by Soupisgoodfood at 12:36 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

as if the drug was the main problem (of course, that can still happen).

Lung cancer: clearly the fault of something other than cigarettes.
posted by rodgerd at 1:39 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

My brother did - maybe still does - experiment with drugs a lot, but always said the one drug he would never touch was heroin. 'You can't trust it or them [addicts]' he would say. When I got older I realised his friend was an addict. He got clean, then recently died in a random violent attack in a park.
posted by mippy at 4:34 AM on August 17, 2009


You know, I don't entirely disagree. But this comment, in this context, still kindof pisses me off.

I've lost a few friends to heroin, too.
posted by lunit at 6:35 AM on August 17, 2009

I don't think the numbers of addicts or crime related to heroin would suddenly drop if it were legalised.
posted by mippy at 7:42 AM on August 17, 2009

I think some people blame drugs like heroin for what happened to someone they lost, as if the drug was the main problem

I'm sorry, but you really dont understand the seeping, persuasive, decietful allure of junk.

Of course there are other reasons; of course circumstances, character and luck plays a part, but junk plays on your insecurities and blends itself insidiously into your life until it is as much a part of you as eating and breathing. Then your previous troubles are gone, then life is good, life is simple. Then life is junk.

Do you enjoy a drink occasionally? You get relief from the everyday stresses and strains of life and enjoy briefly entering a happy bubble of laughter, conversation, unexpected companionship and dizzy fun?
Well, imagine if this was more so, and profound, and wonderful, and enlightening, and empowering. There was no hangover, no payback, just a blissful nights sleep.

Wouldnt that be great?

I passed very very close to junk; in the circles I moved in drug use was common, accepted, normal. Hash and grass was everyday, speed regular and psychadelics occasional. It was a very close society, still is. Very insular; a tribe with its own identity, its own rules and its own rituals and habits.

I think the confusion with 'Trainspotting' is that the reader is, implicitly, part of Renton's society. You, Begbie, Spud and Renton are all 'normal'. If you lived in a different place, did different things you could know these people, get on with these people. But it's not like that. Begbie chucks a glass at a bunch of people in a pub, he picks fights with people. He hates people. Those people are you. You are not a part of Renton's society, and never will be, not unless you seriously fuck up.

I was lucky, very lucky. Thinking about it now scares me very much. It's only because people I knew liked me enough to look after me. After a while I got to spot the signs; there were people who just felt dangerous/desparate and who were unusually clean, tidy; whose flats were warm, comfortable, safe places to be but which were very very private.

These people, of course, were junkies. They kept their own society; people do. You mix with people who have the same interests. You need to mix with people; it's normal to "run in crews". Everyone does. (But junk always comes first.)

I moved on; lost touch with most people I knew. Some I know of died (Dwarf), some managed. I knew people who became respected professionals, but who I suspect are still junkies. They manage both worlds, but the cost is high; essentially they are imprisoned, a better analogy might be slavery. It profoundly scares me how close I came and how easy it would be. If you dont understand it's temptation then you should be very very scared.

I'm not doing a very good job of keeping this brief or relevant, or even of getting my point across.

Simply put I cannot think of anything as purely evil as junk. If you come across it then run from it, just turn your back and run.
posted by BadMiker at 10:02 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

Well, imagine if this was more so, and profound, and wonderful, and enlightening, and empowering. There was no hangover, no payback, just a blissful nights sleep.

Aside from, you know, the constipation and vomiting and pounding headaches and general dazed feeling.
posted by jokeefe at 10:22 AM on August 17, 2009

^^ Sorry to snark, but I hate heroin glamour.
posted by jokeefe at 10:23 AM on August 17, 2009

And knowing that you just spent your week's grocery money on nothing.
posted by jokeefe at 10:23 AM on August 17, 2009

Also, this "pure evil" bit-- I've always maintained that cocaine/meth are far worse drugs, considering the physical and mental damage. Junkies can live for years quite normally as long as the supply is steady and not cut with dangerous additives. It's the lifestyle that tends to kill, the unpredictability of the quality, the criminal acts required to keep the money rolling in.
posted by jokeefe at 10:25 AM on August 17, 2009

It's the lifestyle that tends to kill, the unpredictability of the quality, the criminal acts required to keep the money rolling in.

And I think this is why decriminalizing opiates would be a smart move. I've known heroin addicts and I've known amphetamine addicts. The junkies were perfectly pleasant, though theirs is not a lifestyle I would recommend emulating. The speed freaks were miserable, terrifying people.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:37 AM on August 17, 2009

Lemmy doesn't like it. That settles it.
I don't know about legalization. That is to say - I literally don't know. I don't have any problems with it morally or otherwise. I'd favor legalization just for more empirical data on how to curb addition. On the other hand, I think the article hit on a lot of the root causes. Someone who feels they have a future, has a decent job, living wage, is part of a community, all that, might be less inclined. I don't know. I do know the way it sits now, it isn't good. Pretty appalling that a government would do that to it's own people. On the other hand, that is pretty much what many governments have done, kill their own people (democide) or let them rot. Would Scotland's move to make it hard to obtain clean needles count as that? Dunno. It does suck though.
Something has to happen more than individual effort though.

Buddy of mine was starting to move from smoking dope to more serious stuff, heroin, etc. I told him it had blood all over it. That is, it's a bloody business. People kill each other over the coke and heroin business all the time. It enslaves people on many levels, on all sides from production to distribution to use. That being the case, I didn't feel any moral qualms about killing anyone connected with it, so I made it clear I would kill anyone who would deal to him. Or anyone I thought would deal to him. Or, really, anyone around him I just didn't like the look of.
That, I'm aware, is not the best way to deal with the situation. And I want to be abundantly clear that I do not think anyone is responsible for saving a junkie. It's not something that can be done against their will. So there's no righteousness in me on this to say my method was better, worse, whatever. It is simply that one uses the tools one has at one's disposal. At the time I was a dangerous man and it was known I was a dangerous man. That's what I had, and that's what I used. I didn't have the breadth of resources I have now.

And I think I'm fantastically lucky not only that it worked (although I did lose him as a close friend - he moved away), but I didn't wind up in a penitentiary. Although I use 'worked' loosely. Again, luck. I think in part he recognized I was serious. He might have moved and kept using. One can only throw up so many obstacles. And hell, realistically how long could I have gotten away with killing dealers if he called me on it? Eventually someone's going to notice. So it's more than a battle of wills there or any commitment level on one's own part.
I think Mutant, - people who have dealt with folks that far down - at some level you have to cut loose or drown yourself. I mean, even given my commitment level - I was serious about going down with him. But there was absolutely no guarantee he wouldn't have taken me up on it.
And then I'd be fucked too, and still would have been powerless to help him.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:09 PM on August 17, 2009

I chose a fucking big television, and Trainspotting looks great on it.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:22 PM on August 17, 2009 [5 favorites]

And hell, realistically how long could I have gotten away with killing dealers if he called me on it?

posted by telstar at 10:03 PM on August 18, 2009

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