Friday, December 08, 2006

Junkie***

Hail,
And bad language and a rather boring and preachy post ahead, sorry.

A friend of mine has written something that made me think - go and read it - and I am having great difficulty putting any of what I have thought into words.

You know some stories you want to tell but you can't? Because they are so cliched, and so hoary and so so rubber-stamped, that no matter how you try to tell them, how you twist things around to get a new angle on them, you can't?

I should give up. I should just say nothing. Or I could just give the bare bones of it - sketch an outline, then get on with what I am trying to do, sort out my thoughts on something I deal with every day. I don't know.

Here goes: I had a friend. He was one of the smartest, most talented, funniest people I knew. Without wishing to admit to feelings inappropriate for a teenage boy growing up in south-west Western Australia, he had those Dutch good looks that nowadays you find on yoghurt advertisements - blue eyes, white teeth, broad shoulders, something like the sun. He played violin and was centre-half forward for the football team three years in a row and wasn't a wanker. He was so popular that he got called Stevo when his surname was something like Van Handonknob (seriously, something that would have crucified anyone else).

He left school and went up to uni and I saw him three years later and he was completely drug-fucked.

I suspect this has happened to a lot of people. It had happened pretty bad to him. He attributed his (considerable) problems to taking LSD, (which sortof fitted with what kind of guy he was*). He took the LSD and got the desired hallucinations, which involved talking, bipedal rats, and afterwards sat back to watch the cricket when into the room wandered the rat.

The rat asked him what the score was and when were they going to drop that useless Mark Taylor bastard, and Stevey reacted with alarm, which caused the rat to back out of the room, paws raised conciliatorily. One and a half, maybe two foot tall, said Steve. But later it came back, with friends, sitting in the passenger side of a car as he was driving down Slugge Highway, chatting and waving, and then he got other hallucinations, and he'd spent a few months in the closed wards, and a lot of stuff wasn't the same since.

And it wasn't. He was fat, and acne scarred, and he had a tremor, and there was some slowing, some dulling, something it's hard to put into words. Less, now, like the sun, more a candle on a bright day.

And maybe, of course, I didn't see him on his best day, and maybe he came good again, and maybe, of course, it wasn't the LSD and the amphetamines and the mushrooms, maybe it was coming anyway, some genetic lesion sent down the line, a protein folded the wrong way a million years ago. Lines upon lines and generations upon generations of Van Handonknobs, golden boys progressing to bloated men, going from being the blessed of the earth to some junkie loser you'd get off the bus to avoid - if you noticed him.

But I don't know. Maybe it was the drugs.

See, my own opinion about all this has changed. I used to have pure civil libertarian views - the government shouldn't get involved in what people do to their own body. However, I have since come to believe that the polity abhors a vacuum, and a lot of talk about keeping big government out ends up being shorthand for letting big business in.

And considering what big business has done with "normal" meds, I don't feel inspired to let it run heroin**.

So, if the government gets involved... what then? I can't believe prohibition is working. I can't believe we're getting it right. I can't believe our children deserve the punishment that is being meted out to them - infection and psychosis, crime and punishment, body and soul.

(If we all were judged on our sins, who could stand? Hands up if you haven't ever done unwise things - at a wise or unwise age? Done things for pleasure alone, done things you knew you would be told off for? Gone outside the boundaries of the traffic code, the marital vows, the circumscribing dictats of social niceties?

Now hands down if doing that gave you hepatocellular cancer. QED).

And I'm not saying all transgressions are the same, but I am open to anyone who can explain to me how we've got the whole "nastiness of drug - penalty for using it" thing exactly right. Post a comment below.

So if we can't stamp out IVDU (intravenous drug use), and we can't leave it entirely to big business, where does that leave us?

By me, it leaves us having to look at the government prescription and supply of dangerous drugs. I am not advocating heroin at the school tuckshop. But I am advocating the supply of cheap, safe heroin in safe environments. I am advocating decent quality, long term controlled trials of ecstasy and the like and similar and an appropriate response, depending on what they find out, by our government. I am considering advocating flooding the market with cheap, unadulterated amphetamines so that the people who cut it with God knows what are driven out of business, much in the same way that the people who used to flavour whiskey with rattlesnake heads don't get a lot of shelf-space at the local bottleshop.

And clean, cheap needles everywhere, with special airlocky things where you go into the room, use the needle, and can't get out until you've put the bloody thing in a safe place.

And lest anyone think this is the old-school socialist talking, I am leaving a place for private enterprise. There will always be a market for producers who claim to offer highest purity, aged in the test tube amphetamines, or cocaine made only from coca leaves picked by Andean virgins and processed by wizened monks of ineffable wisdom. Let private enterprise get involved, with the proviso that they like anyone else, the threat of legal action keeps them on the straight and narrow if anything happens to the consumers that the consumers weren't warned about.

And what I am suggesting may not diminish the number of addicts. It may well increase it - I don't know, currently these things are fairly freely available, and there is a certain lure of the forbidden, plus a fairly quick realisation by the novice that drugs don't irrevocable lead to ruin, so I doubt it ... - but I could be wrong. It could increase the number of addicts.

But it will decrease the number of patients awaiting livers on the transplant wards, it will clear a lot of people out of the prisons so we can put the truly nasty ones in there, it will diminish the number of prostitutes offering ten dollar hand-jobs off the Mall after hours and it will at least get the psychiatric/drug problem out into the open where people can look at it.

And most of all it will make the stuff so damn cheap that organised (or incredibly poorly organised, from what I've seen) crime has to go back to rigging the poker machines or the horseracing or whatever.

That's where I am at the moment, but it's a shifting thing. One of the problems with theorising about addictive substances is the dog's breakfast they make of ideas like "choice" and "consent". And then there's the whole "what about the children" side of this. But these issues aren't going to be solved tonight.

I don't know - I truly have no idea - whether any of this would have helped Steven. Like I said, I don't know if he had something waiting to happen, or if what happened was caused by him swallowing blotters soaked in flyspray rather than LSD, or if it was the stuff itself.

Anyway, party tomorrow. The weather forecast is forty two degrees (one hundred and seven in America) and I - the drug and alcohol doctor - have to go organise the drinks.

Thanks for listening,
John

*My own drug history is relatively vanilla. When I was in my late teens/early twenties I drank more than I do now and did the required number of stupid things. I have had marijuana once, which resulted in my going to someone's house and eating a loaf of bread. I have never injected or snorted or smoked and am scared to death of anything that has even the remotest tendency to cause mood alterations or psychosis.

**Any more than they do already, anyway.

*** I read this book. I don't know what planet the guy was writing from. Heroin, he tells us a few too many times for it to be co-incidence, makes you look much younger than you are. My wife points out maybe what he means is it makes many people act younger than they are.

But here's a mental exercise for you. Get one of those diatribes against drug addicts and every time they use the phrase "druggie" or something similar, substitute Samuel Taylor Coleridge, or Judy Garland, or Paul McCartney or the like. Breaks the monotony and leads to some interesting mental images.

John

5 Comments:

Blogger lauritajuanitasanchez said...

I've seen the devastation of drugs at home, at work and all around. I fear my children will grow into addicts because of their genetic predisposition. What you propose isn't crazy. Outlawing drugs isn't the solution. What is?

1:04 PM  
Blogger SEAMONKEY said...

Perhpas Monsanto could engineer a GM seed (in which the narcotic properties have been removed) which would infiltrate and supplant the relevant crop: marijuana, cocoa, tobacco, opium poppy, psilocybe mushroom.... I don't think anyone would inject dwarf lemur genes or nudibranche nuclei for kicks.

That leaves the synthetics. The solution to that, of course, is to give chemistry students more homework, leaving them no time to cook up batches of LSD and so on.

Alternatively, we could create a world in which life isn't so intolerable that millions have to retreat into ruinous fantasies. Couldn't we?

1:53 PM  
Blogger Camilla said...

I've long been an advocate for making those drugs available by prescription. Seems the only way to keep it clean and safe.

But having said that, what Seamonkey said is also true. Something needs to be done to address the reasons why people turn to drugs in the first place.

7:43 PM  
Blogger Camilla said...

ps why is blogger now logging in for me and calling me Camilla? I know it's my name, but that's beside the point. I want to know how it figured out that was my name, since it's not my log-in :|

7:45 PM  
Blogger Benedict 16th said...

1) camilla - its cos it is the new "beta-blogger" and I would put money on you having previously having a google account (active or not) under the name Camilla. Google knows all and sees all.

2) The only problem with becoming "legal" dealers with say amphetamines is that we them get sued for them getting thrombosed veins, coronary arterial spasms and stuff like that.

3) look how much governments put up a fuss for "shooting galleries" (Safe injecting places), and these "law and order" governments are going to let the supply become more available? Despite the great US experiment on criminalising the drug trade (called Prohibition and the genesis of organised crime in the US) I can't see the wider availablilty of substitution programs happening soon.

9:02 AM  

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