Interview: Thomas De Quincey on Krokodil, Famous Author Has Sympathy For Victims

Thomas De Quincy invented drug confessional literature, but he would like the imitations to stop.

Thomas De Quincy invented the drug confessional, but would like the imitations to stop.

Junkphilosophy.com has scored an interview with Thomas De Quincey, the literary founder of modern drug culture.

Today we’ll ask him about his thoughts on krokodil. Krokodil is the media’s new darling drug. It’s a disaster in home cooking—a poorly made, gasoline and lighter fluid tainted version of desomorphine that the sensationalist press thinks is some kind of new invention. Made in home kitchens by desperate junkies in Russia, krokodil is now frightening junkies in more civilised countries whose previous fears mostly centered on being imprisoned for the rest of their lives for trying to feel good; to feel the way other people feel every day and take for granted. The media doesn’t see the irony that as a product of desperation, kitchen chemistry, and the absence of junky access to necessary medication, krokodil is simply yet another consequence of drug prohibition; no more and no less so than was the HIV epidemic in Britain after the banning of needle exchanges.

JUNKPHILOSOPHY:  Thomas De Quincey, it’s an honor to speak with the man who single-handedly invented modern drug culture. How are you?

THOMAS DE QUINCEY: In the phrase of ladies in the straw, ‘as well as can be expected.’

JP: What are your thoughts on the media’s new drug craze: krokodil?

TDQ: Often did this hideous reptile haunt my dreams.

JP: Your work has been heavily influenced by dreams and has, in turn, influenced psychoanalysis. How does krokodil haunt you?

TDQ: Many times the very same dream was broken up in the very same way: I heard gentle voices speaking to me (I hear everything when I am sleeping); and instantly I awoke: it was broad noon; and my children were standing, hand in hand, at my bed-side; come to show me their coloured shoes…

JP: Do you have personal experience with krokodil?

TDQ: The cursed crocodile became to me the object of more horror than almost all the rest.

JP: Well, krokodil certainly makes your laudanum habit seem harmless by comparison. But getting back to…

TDQ: I was compelled to live with him… for centuries. I escaped sometimes, and found myself in Chinese houses, with cane tables, etc. All the feet of the tables, sofas, etc. soon became instinct with life: the abominable head of the crocodile, and his leering eyes, looked out at me, multiplied into a thousand repetitions: and I stood loathing and fascinated.

Crocodile

JP: I’d like to take us out of dreams and back to reality for a minute. (This isn’t the Daily Mail, after all.) Krokodil is made from bad internet recipes in home kitchens and supposedly contains gasoline, red phosphorus and possibly lighter fluid. Apparently, none of the big-time bootleggers are making it in their labs. If they were, I suppose this wouldn’t be a story because they’d make it at least to the pharmaceutical standard of not immediately causing their customers’ deaths. With that in mind, why do you think anyone would use krokodil?

TDQ: How came any reasonable being to subject himself to such a yoke of misery, voluntarily to incur a captivity so servile, and knowingly fetter himself with such a seven-fold chain?

JP: Yeah.

TDQ: Infirmity and misery do not, of necessity, imply guilt. I protest that so awful was the transition from the damned crocodile, and the other unutterable monsters and abortions… to the sight of innocent human natures and of infancy, that, in the mighty and sudden revulsion of mind, I wept, and could not forbear it, as I kissed their faces.

JP: I’m glad to see some sympathy shown for the people who used krokodil. Especially by a person in your position: a philosopher, man of letters and celebrity. Because I think you’re about the only one, celebrity or not, who is showing any sympathy.

TDQ: I am terrified by the modes of life, by the manners, and the barrier of utter abhorrence, and want of sympathy, placed between us by feelings deeper than I can analyze.

JP: Well said. Finally, on the challenge to prohibition that krokodil raises. Should this be a lesson that society must accept realities about the consequences of Prohibition? Heroin assisted treatment has proven successful in England, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Germany, etc. while Prohibition has proven a failure for a century, arguably causing more misery and death than prohibited drugs. Do you think that krokodil is a by-product of Prohibition itself? That the forces of prohibition—that they are the ones mainly responsible for—

TDQ: The main agents.

JP: Exactly.

TDQ: It may be observed, generally, that wherever two thoughts stand related to each other by a law of antagonism and exist, as it were, by mutual repulsion, they are apt to suggest each other.

JP: So, your take on prohibitionists?

TDQ: I could sooner live with lunatics, or brute animals.

JP: Thanks for speaking with us. It’s been a dream.

TDQ: I thank you.

Child Riding the Krokodil

Child on Krokodil

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