Of Ragamuffins and Dens: State Legislation, Municipal Enforcement, and Opium Smoking

Social class has as much to do with effective drug demonization as race. This great article doesn’t rewrite the history of anti-Chinese racism in the prohibition of opium, but the class divide caused by criminalization and the speed of the cultural shift from upper class but bohemian acceptability to disgust, classism, and racial segregation of drug use is breathtaking. You see the same pattern throughout the general history of drug prohibition in the 19th and 20th century, with different drugs and in various societies.

Points: The Blog of the Alcohol & Drugs History Society

On May 26, 1888, the Boston Daily Globe reported the death of a young Harvard student named Frank Mills. The front page headline read: “Fatal Opium.” According to the story, having decided that life at Harvard would not be complete without the experience, Mills and three fellow students had ventured into Boston with the hopes of securing some opium. Following suggestions from their classmates the foursome sought out a man known as Nicholas Gentleman who sold opium in the South End. The boys had “refused to go to an opium joint,” as they feared a police raid, but told Gentleman if he would come to Harvard they would “make things all right for him.” He readily agreed after several assurances that Mills was “an old hand at smoking.” That evening Mills continued to claim he was a frequent smoker leading Gentleman to oblige his numerous requests for another pipe. Mills…

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Damon Albarn says heroin made him creative and productive

Damon Albarn, frontman for Blur and Gorillaz, is set to release a new solo album, Everyday Robots. He’s now given a rare interview in which he discusses his past heroin use as a creative and productive experience, but he also admits it’s a cruel drug to be addicted to. He describes his habit in one of his new songs, You and Me:

“Tin foil and a lighter, the ship across … Five days on, two days off.”

So he was smoking heroin, not injecting, and he was not using daily. The technical term for this is Damon_Albarn_Performingmoderation. Sure, five days a week could be considered more than moderate use depending on quantity. But what people refuse to understand is that moderate use of heroin can actually exist. There’s been so much demonization of the drug that it’s caused mass cognitive dissonance, even hysteria. Smoking heroin occasionally is not the same as lying in alley with a syringe stuck in your arm. People can’t seem to grasp that, yet they find it easy to understand that having a glass of wine five nights a week with dinner is not the same as drinking a quart of vodka a day.

I hope this turns into something instructive for someone out there, but I imagine Albarn will just be demonized for admitting there are benefits and harms associated with heroin.

As a former junky and as a guitarist, I have to add that to get any creative benefit from heroin (like any other drug), you better use it in strict moderation. Opiate addiction can really sap your creative drive and even deaden how music feels. Again, compare it alcohol: you might be inspired after an evening out with friends talking and having a few drinks. Whereas if you started drinking every day it might ruin you, and soon you could wind up with no friends to talk to and few new ideas to talk about. Then again, according to addiction experts, alcohol is much worse than heroin. And as with any drug, most people who try heroin do not get addicted. The statistics vary by study but tend not to rise above 30 percent.

Damon Albarn’s new album, Everyday Robots, is out April 29, 2014.

Excerpt from the Guardian:

Damon Albarn has given a rare interview about his past heroin use, describing it as an “incredibly productive” time in his musical career.

Although the singer is now sober, the singer addresses his drug use in a new song, which describes how he would regulate his heroin intake to “five days on and two days off”.

“[Heroin] freed me up,” Albarn said in this month’s Q cover story. “I hate talking about this because of my daughter, my family. But, for me, it was incredibly creative … A combination of [heroin] and playing really simple, beautiful, repetitive shit in Africa changed me completely as a musician. I found a sense of rhythm. I somehow managed to break out of something with my voice.”

Albarn began using heroin “at the height of Britpop”, after returning home from tour and finding it “in the front room”. “I just thought, ‘Why not?’ I never imagined it would become a problem,” he said.

“I’m happy I found that poetry,” Albarn told Q. “I can move forward now without all the nudge nudge, wink wink innuendo I’ve had in the background for years.”

 

What a shot of heroin feels like to a Buddhist monk

A federal law enforcement officer once asked me what heroin feels like. She tried to hide the glimmer of that long suppressed, reckless teenage curiosity I caught in her eyes. Cops, you see, are really just latent criminals. Late developers. First I dismissed her with the Trainspotting cliché: take the best orgasm you’ve ever had, multiply it by a thousand and you’re still nowhere near it. This actually seemed to peak her interest though, so I decided to go Zen on her. I should have stuck with the sex metaphors. This is what I said:

You’re a slow lizard in the cold dawn of a black desert. Your blood is frozen in your veins. You can’t move. You feel icy, you feel cold, you feel old. Your eyes cry for the sun. And the sun rises like a shot of heroin, and you’re bathed in the warm glow. The black sand cooks your belly and the heat hits your lizard brain and you lick your lizard lips with joy as the sunlight courses through you.

Understand?

She didn’t say anything.

OK…

You’re a dry, empty glass, standing alone in the arid sun of the Sahara. Your glassy skin is baked dry with caked sand. All you feel is pain as your delicate body starts to crack in the heat. Then the rain comes in a torrential rush out of the bright sunlit sky. It washes over you and fills you to the brim until you overflow with joy and you are now finally alive.

She looked puzzled, but thoughtful. Like a curious horse.

OK…

You’re a horse and—

—Nevermind, she said.

Heroin. It’s nirvana.

The greatest drug films: MORE (1969)

More, 1969, Barbet Schroeder — heroin chic

More, 1969, directed by Barbet Schroeder, cinematography by Nestor Almendros, Soundtrack by Pink Floyd

Isn’t this film exactly what heroin is like? Like washing up on a magical island in 1969 and living in a villa on the sea where you have group sex with hot European models on smack, drop LSD, and listen to the some of the best music Pink Floyd ever made, then lay out in the sun like a lizard and embrace the beautiful nihilism of a fantasy world where it’s better to set the controls for the heart of the sun than to fade away?

Well, in my head, at least, that’s exactly what heroin is like. I think this may be my favorite More_(film)drug film. More is the only film I can think of that simultaneously portrays the romanticism of heroin as a drug, and the opiate allure of actual romance—on heroin. The film is a play on the Icarus myth, and Schroeder uses female lead Estelle (played by heroin chic Mimsy Farmer) as a representation of the sun. Falling into heroin is like falling in love, and doing them both at the same time is life changing, life shattering, and usually does play out like a Greek tragedy.

Almendros’ cinematography here is dreamy, mythic, and alluring. He started out working with Eric Rohmer and Francois Truffaut. His direct shots of the sun in More are iconic and would have made Akira Kurosawa proud.

Unfortunately, Ibiza seems to have degenerated into a Eurotrash techno haven for drunken tourists and rich speculators who grabbed up all the Spanish villas as investments in the late 2000s. You can watch the decline on film, actually. From More (1969) to F For Fake (1975) to Ma Mere (2004).

This is a very cult film and, supposedly, junkies still make the pilgrimage to one of the key locations near the castle tunnel. I guess it’s better than heading to Leith.

Really, you should check this site out. Read about the film and see some more great stills: http://www.barbetschroeder.com/movies/more-1969/

The French trailer with subtitles: http://www.videodetective.com/movies/more/179856

more11_900_covershot

more27_900_fixmore13_900_welcometothe1960s

Stop Offering Me Marijuana

"With me it's a full time job. Now behave yourself."

“With me it’s a full time job. Now behave yourself.”

Every time I go uptown, people come up and try to offer me marijuana, and I have to explain to them that they’re contaminating public perceptions of my drug philosophy. Recreationalists should not be allowed on the streets. They are a danger to our children. If only there existed a drug squad that could send all these heretics to reeducation camps. Behind barbed wire, professional drug users could counsel these misguided souls to stop wasting their lives on soft drugs and social lubrication, and turn them into professional philosophers of the one true church of psychonautic smack addiction. This is a way of life, not a pastime for dilettantes and the homeless.

Now hiring: experienced junk counselors to advocate drug use as a philosophical modus vivendi. First we go door to door like Mormons. Then maybe try Kickstarter.

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

A grateful world to the dealer in happiness: the Count of Monte Cristo on drugs

Monte Cristo isletAlexandre Dumas’ 1844-46 serial The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most popular novels in the world. Despite what you might expect from a 19th century adventure story, its dark protagonist is complex and philosophical. The Count’s intellectual mind, his fractured idealism turned jaded pessimism, and his ruthless individuality makes him an existential philosopher-of-action par excellence.

Hotel de Lauzun

Dumas was a member of the Club des Hashischins (Hashish-Eaters Club) in Paris, which existed from 1844-49, around the time of the publication of Monte Cristo. So it isn’t surprising that the Count of Monte Cristo is a hashish eater. In fact, in the tradition of de Quincey, Coleridge and Keats, he’s also an opium-eater and quite a proponent of the two drugs. Monte Cristo pops pills he concocts himself from a 50/50 mixture of opium and hashish. Dumas borrows heavily from the Orientalism that we see associated with drug culture in earlier 19th century literature and poetry, but he does so with a flourish that is so perfected it still holds its magic after 170 years:

“There is a struggle in nature against this divine substance—in nature which is not made for joy and clings to pain. Nature subdued must yield in the combat, the dream must succeed to reality, and then the dream reign supreme, then the dream becomes life, and life becomes the dream. But what changes occur! It is only by comparing the pains of actual being with the joys of the assumed existence, that you would desire to live no longer, but to dream thus forever. When you return to this mundane sphere from your visionary world, you would seem to leave a Neapolitan spring for a Lapland winter—to quit paradise for earth—heaven for hell! Taste the hashish, guest of mine—taste the hashish.”

Dumas expounds upon the joys of hashish at some length:

Charas HashishThat kind of green preserve is nothing less than the ambrosia which Hebe served at the table of Jupiter! …We frequently pass so near to happiness without seeing, without regarding it, or if we do see and regard it, yet without recognizing it. Are you a man for the substantials and is gold your god? Taste this and the mines of Peru, Guzerat and Golconda are open to you. Are you a man of imagination—a poet? Taste this and the boundaries of possibility disappear… Are you ambitious, and do you seek after the greatness of the earth? Taste this, and in an hour you will be a king… Is it not tempting what I offer you, and is it not an easy thing, since it is only to do thus? Look!”

At these words he uncovered the small cup which contained the substance so lauded, took a teaspoonful of the magic sweetmeat, raised it to his lips and swallowed it slowly, with his eyes half shut and his head bent backward…

Hashshashin

“Did you ever hear…of the Old Man of the Mountain, who attempted to assassinate Philippe Augustus?”

“Of course, I have.”

“Well, you know he reigned over a rich valley, which was overhung by the mountain whence he derived his picturesque name. In this valley were magnificent gardens planted by Hassen-ben-Sabah, and in these gardens isolated pavilions. Into these pavilions he admitted the elect; and there, says Marco Polo, gave them to eat a certain herb, which transported them to paradise, in the midst of ever-blooming shrubs, ever-ripe fruit and ever-lovely virgins. But what these happy persons took for reality was but a dream; but it was a dream so soft, so voluptuous, so enthralling, that they sold themselves body and soul to him who gave it to them; and obedient to his orders as those of a deity, struck down the marked victim, died in torture without a murmur; believing that the death they underwent was but a quick transition to that life of delights of which the holy herb, now before you, had given them a slight foretaste.”

“Then,” cried Franz, “it is hashish! I know that—by name at least.”

Masyaf“That is it precisely, Signor Aladdin; it is hashish—the purest and most unadulterated hashish of Alexandria—the hashish of Abou-Gor, the celebrated maker, the only man, the man to whom there should be built a palace inscribed with these words: ‘A grateful world to the dealer in happiness.’”

“Do you know,” said Franz, “I have a very great inclination to judge for myself…”

Later, the Count, impresses his wealth upon an audience of Parisians with a flourish of a large, hollowed emerald, and casually remarks that he carries it at all times. Why? Because it contains his opium.

Colombian Emerald“May we inquire what is this recipe?” asked Debray.

“Oh, yes, I make no secret of it. It is a mixture of excellent opium, which I fetched myself from Canton in order to have it pure, and the best hashish which grows in the East—that is, between the Tigris and the Euphrates. These two ingredients are mixed in equal proportions, and formed into pills. Ten minutes after one is taken, the effect is produced…

“But,” said Beauchamp, who, as a journalist, was very incredulous, “you always carry this drug about you?”

“Always.”

 

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