How to become a heroin addict

This takes serious effort. It should not be taken lightly or attempted by amateurs.

1. Procure hundreds of dollars worth of heroin and a large supply of emergency naloxone kits.
2. Procure several hundred syringes.
3. Inject more heroin intravenously four to six times daily for 28 days.
4. Experience light, slightly noticeable flu-like symptoms.
5. Choose to continue using heroin.
6. Procure several thousand dollars worth of heroin and several hundred syringes.
7. Continue to intravenously inject heroin in increasing dosages with decreasing effects for 56 days.
8. Experience moderate, flu-like symptoms.
9. Choose to continue using heroin.
10. Procure thousands of dollars worth of heroin and one thousand syringes.
11. Continue to intravenously inject heroin in increasing dosages with decreasing effects for 168 days.
12. Experience moderate heroin withdrawal.
13. Procure thousands of dollars worth of heroin and one thousand syringes.
14. Continue to intravenously inject heroin in increasing dosages with decreasing effects for 113 days.
15. You are now a fully physically dependent heroin addict.
16. Continue administering heroin 4 to 6 times a day for several years to partly rewire your central nervous system.
17. Switch to methadone.
18. Stay on methadone for at least five years at a dosage above 25mg per day.
19. Congratulations. Your central nervous system is now permanently rewired and will always require opiates to function normally.
20. Quit methadone for two years. Become violently ill and constantly feel abnormal.
21. Resume methadone, not as an addict, but  as the result of your now permanent physiological dependence on opiates for normal neural function.

Congratulations. You have now evolved into Homo morpheus and require opiates along with your food and oxygen to survive.

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

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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.

Kurt Cobain Murder Theory Flaws: The Overdose

 

Tom Grant and murder theorists contend that Kurt Cobain’s blood levels of morphine were so high when he died he could not have pulled the trigger of his Remington Model 11 20 gauge shotgun because he was unconscious from a heroin overdose with blood levels of 1.52 milligrams of morphine per liter.

Tom Grant writes:

Cobain’s heroin, (morphine), blood level was 1.52 mgs per liter. This would require a minimum injection of 225 mgs of heroin, three times a lethal dose, even for a hardcore heroin addict. The drug Diazepam, was also found in Cobain’s blood system.

The problem is that the reality of drug tolerance renders the theory impossible to prove without knowing exactly what his tolerance level was, which is exactly what the toxicologists have said. Addicts routinely inject huge quantities of heroin and experience no more than typical highs, while nurses at methadone clinics have been known to die from stealing a sip well under 30 mg, the (low) starting dose for an addict; while there are people on hundreds of milligrams of methadone per day. I’ve read of a case of a patient exceeding 800 mg of methadone daily. I doubt there even is a tolerance ceiling to opiates, just increasing side effects. So, one man’s poison is another’s painkiller.

Even when you do overdose, you can often fight to maintain consciousness and stay awake, at least for a while. But most deaths from so-called “heroin overdoses” aren’t caused by heroin at all. They’re usually caused by a combination of drugs, especially alcohol, which is such a toxic poison that it can kill you if you mix it with just about anything.

Did anyone at the Seattle Police Department look for possible signs that Kurt was unconscious before death? The telltale bluish-white skin and blue lips? Who knows if those signs would be observable three days after death, or noticed at all by ignorant, inept SPD investigators (who can be seen contaminating the crime scene in newly released photos), or even noticed by the doctor who performed the autopsy, who was an ex-concert promoter and friend of Courtney Love’s, and who probably didn’t conduct a very meticulous investigation. And if Kurt was given a hot shot, as Grant seems to allege, who placed his works, spoon, syringe, etc. back in the cigar box? Would a murderer do that? At the risk of leaving fingerprints? Unfortunately, the idiots at SPD probably didn’t bother checking any of the paraphernalia for prints. They didn’t even check the shotgun until the following month, and it had already been contaminated by the cop who handled it at the crime scene.

Basically, when you screw up an investigation, you invite conspiracy theories. But the idea of an instant, fatal overdose is far-fetched to say the least.

Kurt Cobain cat

Kurt Cobain’s Heroin Kit

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kurt cobain works

You can tell a lot about someone’s personality with a simple glance at their works. An unkempt cigar box. A dirty spoon. Cotton Q-Tips. The inescapable black marks of carbon from flame on metal. The hyper-real clutter of a ritual made to escape reality.

The world’s most famous heroin kit belonged to Kurt Cobain, and now we can stare at it in misery and angst thanks to the Seattle Police Department and their newly developed crime scene photos that are just back from the lab, twenty years too late.

An old cigar box named after an Irish singer and poet. It isn’t very dirty but it’s a bit spartan. Maybe he didn’t use this kit much. Maybe it was a backup. Maybe he just wasn’t as much of a junky as he’s been made out to be. The spoon is dirty and it looks like it has been used two or three times without cleaning. When he cooked up he let the heroin really cook, which left rings of the drug where the water evaporated. He wasn’t compulsive about it, he didn’t try to soak up every last drop clean from the spoon or save every used cotton. It didn’t matter.

There’s some cut left in the spoon. The heroin is street quality black tar. He wasn’t trying to score better gear. Maybe he just didn’t care.Two standard 1cc BD insulin syringes, but at least they’re fresh and new. Nothing to stir with except the plunger end of the syringe. Not even a cup for the water from the sink.

The cotton in the spoon is a huge misshapen lump. Those adept guitarist’s fingers working the cotton off a dirty Q-Tip and fumbling to make a pathetic cotton ball. The dirty towel laid out. A chunk of the drug chosen and placed in the dirty spoon. Going to the sink to drip water in, no longer caring if it spills. Watching the drug liquefy and cook above the flame of a cheap disposable lighter. Stirring with the plunger, carefully removing the cap, tying up with a piece of towel and sending the drug home, wondering if it will change things but knowing nothing will.

There’s nothing to clean up with. Just the dirty towel. No alcohol swabs. Just the open, oozing tube of Dr. Hauschka’s Rosencreme to anoint the burning, sensitive skin.  It may be a mess, but everything’s in it’s right place. And when the ritual is over, it will all go carefully back in the box.

Put the cap back on the syringe, put the spoon back in the box and close the lid and smoke an American Spirit without an ashtray and write about your life in red ink and stab the words into the dirt in an act of defiance against the terrible and absurd rituals of a life in pieces. That’s who Kurt Cobain was. And if you ever find yourself in the Northwest of the United States, go out at night and head west to the water. Stare into the cold darkness of the Pacific. If you feel that darkness staring back at you, then you’ll understand in the moment before you turn away what it might have felt like to be Kurt Cobain.

 

Kurt Cobain crime scene gear

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Junk Semantics

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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.

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

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.