Drugs, Science and Society – Royal Institution Lecture

“Narcotics have been used by humans since the time of the ancient Egyptians, and even today around 300 million people across the world take drugs each year. But what is a drug? And who is it that should decide what a drug is?

In this Ri event chaired by Kate Kelland, EMEA Health and Science Correspondent for Reuters, Sharon Ruston and David Nutt explore the past, present and future of our societal and political attitudes towards drugs. From supposedly “medical” experimentations in the 18th and 19th centuries, to modern-day government drugs policy and the rise of new ‘legal highs’.

In the 1800s, eminent Ri scientist Humphry Davy carried out numerous experiments on the effects of breathing nitrous oxide, testing it on both himself and others. These experiences lead to his claim that this drug could “destroy our pains and increase our pleasures”. Comparing Davy’s trials with those of Thomas De Quincey with opium, Sharon Ruston, Professor of Romanticism at Lancaster University, explores what were clearly some rather blurred boundaries between medical and recreational drug use at this time. Both nitrous oxide and opium have become invaluable medicines, the first as an anaesthetic, the second as morphine — one of our most powerful forms of pain relief. But it seems during these early experimentations that these drugs’ were heralded as much for their pleasurable uses as for the control of pain, enabling humans to access a new world of “sublime perception”.

Such research was aided by the fact that, in Davy’s day, science had little, if any, interference from politics. Times have certainly changed, and the use and classification of drugs has become heavily entrenched in politics. In the second half of the talk psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist Prof David Nutt, explores this complex relationship, considering the challenges posed by politics, media and the alcohol industry in the future of drugs policy. Nutt raises some controversial questions, including whether alcohol is more dangerous than other drugs, and gives his thoughts on what drugs, and society’s view of them, will look like in the future.”

Watch more science videos on the Ri Channel http://richannel.org

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Media Goes Meow Meow for Drugs and Severed Penis

Media Circus Meow

Over boys and kittens, knives and penises, lastly through a hogshead of krokodil

There’s a sucker for severed penises and crazy drug stories born every minute, and the circus is finally back in town. What do we have to top last season’s wonderful crocodile show? Nothing less than a psychotic boy with severed genitals, stabbing his mother on mephedrone.

Everyone welcome Rolling Stone to this season’s media circus. The magazine just couldn’t resist being a part of the fun after seeing those lovely crocodiles. They may seem new at this, but it’s right up their alley. However, Rolling Stone has made it clear to me that they want you to answer an important question before they perform, so everyone pay attention:

“WHAT IS MEOW MEOW THE DRUG THAT MADE A TEEN CUT OFF HIS GENITALS?”

-Julianne Escobedo Shepherd,

author of “Are online nudie pics an art form

and “Six movies that will make you never want kids

@jawnita on Twitter

I want you all to get a chance to answer Rolling Stone and Julianne (who, unbelievably, or, perhaps, quite predictably, has taught as an adjunct professor at NYU), but first let’s hear what the other circus freaks have to say:

The Huffington Post says they’re more interested in severed penis than the drugs. They want to remind us about recent events in Asia:

A CHINESE MAN WHO HACKED OFF HIS LOVE MUSCLE IN OCTOBER FORGOT TO BRING IT TO THE HOSPITAL WITH HIM !!!

A MAN FROM TAIWAN CHOPPED OFF HIS OWN MANHOOD AND FLUSHED IT DOWN THE TOILET !!!!

@HuffingtonPost on Twitter | HuffingtonPost on Facebook

Lucy Crossley at The Daily Mail also prefers the penis angle. She enjoys long walks and picturing blood gushing from a boy’s groin. The Daily Mail liked the story so much they couldn’t stop writing the headline.

“STUDENT 19 SLICED OFF HIS OWN PENIS AFTER STABBING HIS MOTHER WHILE HIGH ON MEOW MEOW AND WAS FOUND HANGING OUT OF A WINDOW WITH BLOOD GUSHING FROM HIS GROIN”

@MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Rolling Stone, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to want to be a full-time member of the circus. They want the attention and money without the disgrace of running away from society to abuse rare animals and people with genetic illnesses for fun and profit. Phrases like this have no place in our circus:

“But as with most emerging drugs, there’s an aura of sensationalism surrounding the truth, making clear and concise information difficult to parse. (Recall the Miami bath salts cannibal, who was never proven to have ingested bath salts.)”

Julianne, we can relate. You feel ashamed after writing a tabloid article pandering to drug hysteria with a psychotic penis rampage. You feel ashamed to be in the company of hacks like Lucy Crossley. But you might as well not bother if you’re going to give the game away about the bath salts cannibal. That cannibal has to make a living, and so does the rest of the circus. We know that no one cuts off their own penis on stimulants unless they’re mentally ill.

But the suckers don’t, and you had better keep it that way.

In this way the Daily Mail will challenge the world

Junk Semantics

JUNKIEburroughsACEcover

It really irritates me to see “drug reform” activists use the same prejudiced language as their opponents. These people remind me of early American abolitionists who often espoused just as much racism as the average slave owner. Abolitionists believed slavery was wrong, but that doesn’t mean they all believed in equality and weren’t subject to cultural indoctrination.

If you’re trying to change society, it helps if you actually understand it. And when you’re fighting for social change, you have to combat toxic ideas, not conform to them. Humans have a tendency to cultural conformity. Even so, you would expect people who are trying to change a culture to be able to see that culture’s prejudices. Instead, most people, whether their hearts are in the right place or not, seem doomed to operate within the bounds of conformity to social rules which were established to support the harmful beliefs they claim they’re trying to alter.

So here’s some junk semantics that need to change and the real meanings behind them, or, in some cases, the words we should be using instead.

Drug reform movement = human rights movement; civil rights movement

Drug related crime = prohibition related crime

Discontinuation syndrome = withdrawal syndrome. The term “discontinuation syndrome” was invented by the makers of SSRI anti-depressant drugs to distance SSRI withdrawal from cultural perceptions of drug addiction. 

Chemical dependence = a positive euphemism for physical addiction

Clean = culturally acceptable drug user. a person who may smoke a pack of cigarettes and consume multiple alcoholic drinks per day.

Sobriety = culturally acceptable drug use. a state in which a person uses any and all drugs that aren’t illegal or culturally taboo.

Drug = medication

use = describes taking culturally taboo pharmaceuticals. “He takes Tylenol” versus “She uses heroin.”

Drug user = a person who uses an illegal or culturally taboo pharmaceutical, even when legitimately prescribed by a doctor, if that medical use is not culturally acceptable (for example, “medical marijuana”)

Junkie = Junky: a person whose central nervous system requires opiates to function normally. The preferred spelling removes the diminutive and reappropriates the epithet.

Addiction = chemical dependence. Currently used to describe a diseased mind or a compulsive habit depending on speaker’s bias; has been detached from the physical so that the word is only used to describe “drug users” and not all people who are chemically dependent; in actuality: the state of being physically addicted to (“chemically dependent” upon) a pharmaceutical.

Medical marijuana = marijuana. A well-intentioned euphemism which necessarily implies that the reason a person takes a particular drug should be subject to regulation and that recreational use should be treated differently than “medical use”, which is then defined on culturally subjective terms.

Makes me want to use some medical aspirin.

Opiate withdrawal, the opera (a playlist)

Take some music along with your paracetamol and vitamins. Ease you down gradually. You’ll really feel this stuff kick in as the opiates wear off. You won’t have that numb tolerance to music any more, so go easy.

 

Methadone Maintenance Man – Tony Scheuren. A James Taylor parody that sounds more like James Taylor than James Taylor.

Stop. Where Is My Mind? – The Pixies

Suffering. Black Water – Timber Timbre

Exhaustion. I’m So Tired – Fugazi

Pain. Used To – Wire (Chairs Missing)

Misery. Miss Misery – Elliott Smith

Angst. Drug Life – The Mountain Goats (East River Pipe cover)

Boredom. Loughborough Suicide – The Young Knives

Frustration. That’s Entertainment – The Jam

Change. New Slang – The Shins

Repeat. Marquee Moon – Television

Prohibition and Prejudice: Demonization of the Drug User

After I quit methadone, people began to treat me like a different person. I unwittingly transcended the untouchable caste of the junky and became accepted as a normal member of this society that so conveniently allows for reinvention. I might as well have been a black man who turned white overnight.

Anti-Mexican racism contributed to the criminalization of cannabis

Anti-Mexican racism contributed to the criminalization of cannabis

Drug users are among the untouchables of the American class system, the melting pot’s social cousins of the Dalit of India, the Romani of Europe and the Burakumin of Japan. In America, like most places, you are treated more or less like a pariah for being on methadone maintenance. Years of negative drug tests will only make you seem to most people a somewhat more trustworthy and less repulsive specimen of your untouchable caste. Get your methadone prescription from a doctor, take the medication for pain (instead of requiring it to be able to function), and miraculously you are considered a normal human being.

Anti-Chinese racism was largely responsible for the criminalization of opiates.

Anti-Chinese racism was largely responsible for the criminalization of opiates.

I quit methadone a long time ago because I was sick of the discriminatory regulations and travel restrictions. I developed medical problems soon after–problems unrelated to methadone or withdrawal. I didn’t know it at the time, but methadone had alleviated the symptoms and functioned as a therapeutic treatment. Now I have to suffer the irony of doctors forever congratulating me for discontinuing the only medication that relieved symptoms they are trying, with little success, to address with drugs and surgeries that are objectively no better, and often worse than being on methadone.

Not many people are aware that opiates treat conditions other than pain, but as late as the 19th century opium was as widely used as aspirin is today. The public today is encouraged to believe the 19th century opium cure-all was quackery. This is a convenient lie that even most doctors believe. Of course, most doctors alive today have very little understanding of opiates. Like most people, they are prejudiced against their use.

Drug prohibition was founded on prejudice. San Francisco enacted the first U.S. opium ban in 1875, motivated by anti-Chinese xenophobia and racism. Similar laws were passed around the world for similar reasons, often by governments and groups with ulterior motives. Before Harry Anslinger demonized cannabis in Hearst newspapers with scare stories about African Americans raping white women, southwestern states were targeting “marihuana” smoking Mexican immigrants. Japan’s right wing government outlawed the same drug when confronted by a red scare and widespread left wing student protests. Many of the students used marijuana, which became a convenient cause for their arrests.

Naturally, these prejudices against targeted groups expanded to include drug users in general. The use of prohibited drugs became synonymous with belonging to a despised race or subculture. Soon, the idea of drugs—the excuse to demonize—became entangled with the act of using the drug, and thus began the demonization of the drug user in general.

Songs that feel like a shot of heroin

My relapse hit list. I hope you like my tracks.

You don’t have to have ever used an opiate in your life to enjoy these songs. For those of you that haven’t, you’ll probably get the vibe anyway. For those of you that have, this is my “relapse” playlist. Not literally. I don’t relapse. I exercise free will. Choose life, Mark.

Regardless, drug use is not some “temporary failure of judgment” (the definition of a “lapse”). It’s a choice; often a medical necessity. But I couldn’t think of another word for “experiencing an opiate after a period of abstinence”. Revisit, maybe. I realise the word has a medical definition that could be used to describe the same circumstances. But the cultural definition is negative. We need to change the semantics if we’re going to change cultural attitudes.

1. Heartbeat – Wire

Anticipation. This is a really interesting song. It’s like the language of music is all but stripped away here, leaving pure feeling. Be careful listening to it. It has magic. It was originally intended as a love song.

2. Cosmic Dancer – T. Rex

Preparation. Nostalgia, a love song. A relapse revisit track. Not my favorite. But it’s nostalgic.

3. Ocean – The Velvet Underground

Here come the waves. Take a shot of heroin [never take a shot of heroin] and I think you’ll find this is Lou Reed’s ultimate heroin song, not that other one. I could shoot up to this song 365 days a year.

4. Long, Long, Long – The Beatles

Warm glow. Obviously, if you listen to this one repeatedly, it will turn bitter. Another one only suitable for a relapse revisit playlist. This is a nice sleepy song to play on guitar. The feeling of playing it matches the feeling you get listening to it, which isn’t as common as you would think.

5. Indian Summer – The Doors

Sedation. This beautiful, simple song is an outtake from The Doors’ first album. You may wonder why the hell it was cut. Supposedly, it’s the first song they ever recorded together.

By the way, just say no to drugs.

How to Quit Methadone, Part 1: Do Not Quit Methadone

Don’t. Switch to something easier to stop using and less dangerous to quit, like heroin. Maybe time-release morphine for six months to two years depending on the duration of your methadone maintenance. Buprenorphine, even. Really, methadone withdrawal is incredible torture and medically dangerous. I think it fucked me up permanently.

I once watched a man dying from methadone withdrawal in a redneck county jail. He was in his forties. They wouldn’t even give him clonidine. After two days he stopped getting up off his bunk. After three days you could smell death coming on him, like a sick animal smells at the pound. Pretty soon it made you want to vomit if you got within ten feet of him. He really was dying, so the redneck jailers took him to a hospital where doctors shot him full of morphine. This was out of character for the kind of scum that ran that county jail, so you can understand how sick he was. He came back looking fantastic, like he’d been to a dinner party where Jesus Christ did magic tricks. Now, he didn’t willingly subject himself to that. But you can, if you want.

If you have strong motivation, you will find you have the willpower to do just about anything. Most junkies develop a strong will. It takes a lot of willpower to go out sick and score, suffering all manner of degradation and discrimination. Most junkies don’t quit in the face of this because they don’t want to. The will to continue using is stronger. The two opposing desires can coexist simultaneously; both an exercise of willpower.

If you want to quit methadone (or any opiate; the others are easier), whoever or whatever your motivation is, it will have to move you on more than a practical level. Quitting to save money is a practical reason. Beyond the impulses of the lizard brain, intellectual and emotional reasons are the only true motivators. Those who do have the emotional will to quit but lack intellect will gravitate towards adopted ideologies as a coping mechanism. Those are the crazy-eyed ex-junkies who go to AA meetings and shout about abstinence with desperation. They have relapses you could set a train schedule by. That’s because they sought out an ideology to suit their needs instead of finding what they believe in. Willpower is an existential urge. It doesn’t really matter what motivates you, but you have to believe in it to the death.

There is no opiate harder to quit than methadone. If you never intend to quit and never have to, methadone is ambrosia, a cure-all elixir, a miracle drug, a fountain of youth. If you want off methadone, it suddenly becomes the kind of thing Nazi scientists tested on freezing Russian prisoners.

If the quitting doesn’t kill you (or seriously harm you) and you make it all the way to the other side, you will suddenly find you have some questions for Nietzsche; because while quitting methadone will kill some people, far more people will survive with lasting damage and new health problems. That which does not kill us makes us stranger.

With or without complications, you will feel like your brain needs rewiring. You will remember that you quit methadone because all it did was make you feel normal, only to find that you can’t feel normal without it, even after your unforgettable withdrawal is a distant memory. You have evolved into Homo morpheus. You will literally become like a fish out of water.

The quitting may leave you so broken you have to get back on methadone for health reasons totally unrelated to the chemical dependency you just beat. When you get to the final stages of tapering (assuming you’re not insane and didn’t try going cold turkey after years on the stuff), you may find that methadone was treating medical conditions you didn’t know you had: anorexia, anxiety, depression, eczema, hypotension, stomach disorders (yes, Kurt Cobain wasn’t just whining). What else? Who knows? Only junkies. Doctors won’t even be able to explain how methadone treats your suddenly revealed health problems, because no modern doctors have bothered studying opiates for anything but pain and addiction. You will probably never find the explanation, because the doctors from ancient cultures that knew the medical value of opium are all dead.

Now that you have stigmata to match your stigma, no drug the doctors prescribe will treat your symptoms as well as methadone did. You will wonder how people suffer these various illnesses without opiate treatment. If you suffered from depression or anxiety while on methadone, you will really have some problems waiting for you. SSRIs are toxic, ineffective garbage compared to methadone when it comes to treating anything but the most extreme depression and anxiety. And benzodiazepines for anxiety—don’t even bother, unless you like withdrawal and dependency-induced anxiety so much you want to experience it every day with symptoms that rival methadone withdrawal in life’s constant contest of miseries.

You will feel like you possess a powerful secret when you quit methadone. You will wonder how people get by without opiates. If you’re free from withdrawal but now a prisoner of any of the potential side effects of quitting methadone, you may refuse to go back to the drug because you’ve been through months or years of agony just to get off it. Even if you want to get back on methadone, you may refuse to go back to the kind of places or people (greedy clinics, rip-off treatment programs, corrupt doctors, etc.) that you were forced to deal with to acquire the medication. It’s harder to subject yourself to being treated like a subhuman when you have the stubborn will to avoid it, and by now your willpower will be very strong.

If you decide to go back, you will wonder why you can’t just go to a normal, decent doctor. You will certainly feel frustrated if you feel that you need to go back to the medication for health reasons, and not because of addiction. After all, if you made it this far, you’re no longer physically dependent, and the terrible months of withdrawal have probably conditioned you to hate methadone. You are supposedly no longer a junky, and they only give this stuff to junkies. Where does that put you? If you didn’t know that methadone could alleviate your symptoms, it would put you with everyone else who has whatever you have. But you know a secret, and with wisdom comes the terrible frustration of knowing when everyone else is wrong.

Regardless of what you do, you will continue to live in an age that treats opiate addiction with hysterical fear and inexcusable ignorance. There are deep historical reasons for this. Public health is not among them. Due to cultural beliefs, the medical community thinks it’s appropriate that you suffer because you are an “addict”.

The insanity of the age means that surviving quitting can be harder than surviving using. the_ludovico_technique_by_biscutbuu-d52inxcIdiots at the FDA who have never ingested Tylenol 3 argue about how much naloxone cut is needed in your buprenorphine to induce the desired punitive effect if you fail to put it your mouth properly. Big Pharma scientists are busy to distraction with their insane quest for the oxymoronic holy grail of “non-euphoric” opiates. Apparently, the foremost thing they need to figure out in order to help you is how to make sure you never accidentally feel good. This is being taken to even greater extremes by the medical foot soldiers of the Drug War, so-called “addiction specialists”, the people who pass for doctors and are supposed to be treating you though they usually know very little about medicine let alone addiction. If they ever knew what the Hippocratic Oath was, they long ago traded it in for a paperback copy of A Clockwork Orange. Nowadays, their “new” idea is to force you to take naltrexone to ensure you never feel good again. Maybe implant it in you. It was done in the 1990s by shady rapid detox clinics. Assorted quacks are “very excited!” to try it again. It only killed a few people and it had no success to speak of, but it has the punishment element.

So, if you do this, if you quit methadone, then at some point you are going to be all alone with your existential angst, and it will be severe. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry, you’ll soon be able to lecture Kierkegaard about his incomplete understanding of the subject.

This is not medical advice. I am not a doctor of medicine.

Indiana Cops Teach Child What Marijuana Gets You: Assaulted By Police

Welcome to America

“Protect and Serve”? OBEY AND SURVIVE

To better prepare 11-year-old American children for the police brutality they will soon be subject to as bystanders and victims of the War on (some) Drugs, the Brazil, Indiana Police Department apparently thought it would be a good idea to show schoolchildren what will happen to them when they grow up in America, or, in the case of any American who isn’t white, when they turn thirteen.

First, the police demonstrated drug planting techniques on an 11-year-old boy, a lesson presumably designed to both dissuade and frighten the children by making them aware of the criminality American cops will resort to in their war on the people they claim to protect.

Obey and SurviveThe cops then attacked the 11-year-old boy with a dog named Max, furthering the effectiveness of the lesson with a real-life recreation of police brutality.

National reporting of the story prompted the Brazil Police Department to make good out of a bad situation and teach a further lesson. Authorities are now demonstrating to the child how police reports are falsified to blame victims of police brutality.

Police report: “The first male juvenile began moving his legs around as Max searched him. When the male began moving his legs, (this is what) I believe prompted Max’s action to bite the male juvenile on the left calf.”

The lesson has come under criticism, but it clearly is good preparation for life in a country where the police will shoot anyone without hesitation, bystander or suspect, and 67% of the time will get away with it (100% for federal police).

Obey and Survive

Related articles

DEA Investigates Journalists For Krokodil Abuse

Krokodil Tears

NEW YORK, MONDAY, 4:31 PM — Journalists are hysterical over krokodil, the new designer drug that is being abused by Rupert Murdoch’s employees and scaring the sanity out of reporters everywhere. One alleged journalist spoke to us confidentially, saying, “It’s perfect. There’s nothing else to write about. And this story gives you a serious buzz. No one read my last article, about the dog that saved a pet hamster by swimming underwater. But people injecting gasoline, and flesh falling from human limbs in time for Halloween, man, people love that. “Flesh-eating krokodil”. See? That’s a what’s-it-called. Anyway, I can come up with this stuff constantly. I just make it all up as I go.” The alleged journalist then looked nervous and shouted, “I am a golden god!” before spinning around at high speed in an office chair.

Journalists may have something more to fear than the truth, however, as several DEA spokespersons have admitted the agency believes journalists are actually getting high on the krokodil story itself, exhibiting disorientation and delusion. However, one spokesperson added, “It could be Rupert Murdoch is just playing another one of his famous pranks. Like when he tapped the dead girl’s phone. For Halloween.”

DEA has been monitoring krokodil story abuse on alleged news sites like FoxNews.com, DailyMail.co.uk and CNN.com. They are not confining their investigation to the Murdoch cartel. The agency says it is now “very concerned” about reports of reports about krokodil that show telltale signs of krokodil story hysteria. “Journalists are getting high on their own product, basically,” said a confidential DEA informant who works in the mail room of a major newspaper in Chicago that rhymes with noon.

The DEA is officially charged with enforcing drug prohibition in the United States and where ever else it feels like, but spends most of its time shooting civilians in developing nations, seizing the assets of everyone it arrests for a drug crime, spending the money it seized from everyone it arrested for a drug crime, lobbying Congress for more funding, and trying to convince the world that drug users are terrorists.

The DEA now has plans to send its sanest operatives to calm the krokodil fever. The agency primarily intends to use make-believe and hand puppets to deflect media criticism of itself. A DEA agent who believed he was off-record explained, “We had to draw a line when they started trying to embarrass DEA, suggesting it was our job to do something about some sick terrorist junkies.” When asked why hand puppets would be used in addition to the regular practice of employing make-believe in such operations, the agent said, “These reporters who are high on krokodil stories are basically like the kids in high school you would sell Aspirin to instead of LSD, and then you’d watch them act like they were tripping out. They are extremely suggestible.”

DEA PR flacks explained today that the hand puppets are necessary to show intoxicated journalists the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior–but not when it comes to their drug story abuse itself. An angry man wearing a jacket with the letters DEA printed on the back explained, “It’s not about them, it’s about us. Because we don’t care about a bunch of journalists getting high on a story about a drug they don’t understand. And we definitely don’t care about a few junky terrorists who are injecting gasoline soaked heroin, or crocodile, or whatever you call it. Our job is to protect DEA, not the public. For example, these sock puppets cost $92 a pair, which is a significant savings over our last operational purchase. Our budget is very important to us. It’s one of the things we’re working hard to protect. That and America.”

Early preview access to the hand puppet presentation indicates that appropriate DEA behavior is defined as robbing drug dealers at gunpoint and spending the stolen money on toys and military equipment, including more guns that fire larger caliber bullets, which allows agents to simulate Grand Theft Auto style video game violence in the real world. Inappropriate DEA behavior is defined as having anything to do with public health or drug treatment, which has been called “helping terrorists” by the agency.

A prototype DEA puppet,  for operational use against journalists in the "Crocodile War"

Prototype DEA puppet, for operational use against journalists in the “Crocodile War”

The current DEA operation follows last week’s daring daylight raid by a news crew on a single beleaguered agent in a DEA parking lot. The agent was overheard shouting while fleeing from reporters, “That’s not our job. We just shoot people and take their money.” When finally cornered, the agent attempted to placate the throng of desperate journalists, all showing visible signs of krokodil story withdrawal. He whimpered, “If krokodil exists, and I’m not saying it does, then the ones using it are the terrorists. Because they’re terrorizing Americans with those disgusting skin lesions on their faces or whatever the hell those things are, and also they’re trying to embarrass a federal agency. And embarrassing a federal agency is a federal crime. And they’re antisocial and violent. Only a violent person would do that to themselves.” Satiated with quotes to fill column space, the journalists began to nod off and the unidentified agent drove away at high speed in a black Cadillac Escalade with 22 inch rims.

For now, frantic and confused journalists are seeking their next fix in a search for photographs of facial skin necrosis, which many agree would be an improvement over shots of gangrenous arms.

UPDATE: Facial skin necrosis images have been tracked down by pretend-journalists at the Daily Mail, who have developed a serious krokodil story habit

That was not journalism. And neither is this.

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