Category Archives: heroin

Why we read and re-read the doctor-essayist

Dalrymple is identified by an acute English journalist (also a skilled and powerful debater), Peter Hitchens, as

one of the greatest men of our age [second item in Hitchens’s 6th August 2017 column in the UK newspaper the Mail on Sunday].

For decades, Hitchens reminds us, Dalrymple

worked in a major British jail, listening to the excuses and self-justifications of people who had done terrible things to others, and to themselves.

Refusing to follow fashion,

and genuinely concerned for these often very sad characters, he treated them as adults, urging them to take responsibility for their actions instead of offering excuses for them. Many, who had come to despise authority, were glad to be up against someone they could not easily fool.

Hitchens’s guess is that many of those Dalrymple treated

benefited greatly from his tough-minded approach. He didn’t fill them with pills or substitute one drug for another. His observations of the way heroin abusers feign terrible discomfort, after arriving in prison and being deprived of their drug, is both funny and a badly needed corrective to conventional wisdom.

All this, Hitchens notes, is to be found in the Dalrymple collection The Knife Went In (2017).

The title, a quotation from an actual murderer, is an example of the way such people refuse to admit they had any part in the crimes they commit. The knife somehow got there and went into the victim, by itself. It is a series of short, gripping real-life stories in which he recounts his experiences with our broken, lying penal system with its fake prison sentences and its ridiculous form-filling as a substitute for action.

The book is mainly about prisons and crime, but, says Hitchens,

it tells a deep truth about the sort of society we have become. It is one in which almost nobody is, or wants to be, responsible for anything.

Hitchens concludes:

A future historian, a century hence, will learn more about 21st-century Britain from this book than from any official document.

Postcards from Welwyn Garden City

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-42-58Dalrymple points out (from 4:10) that boredom is a way of life in Welwyn Garden City, which, he notes, is

a pretty terrible place.

The worst thing that can — will — happen to you there

is that you have nothing to do. That is the permanent condition of the people of Welwyn Garden City.

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-55-33Dalrymple divides British towns

into those where the population takes heroin and those where the population takes amphetamine. You can tell by the housing. If it’s Victorian housing or tower blocks, it’s heroin. If it’s small houses in suburbs, it’s amphetamine.

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-41-19screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-43-58 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-44-53 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-46-14 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-46-34 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-47-42 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-48-58 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-49-28 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-51-23 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-52-35 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-52-48 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-52-59 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-53-50 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-54-04 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-54-21 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-54-58 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-55-17 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-56-07

 

Drug addiction is a condition invented by users and doctors

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 09.04.11

Withdrawing from heroin is far from the titanic struggle of misery portrayed by the treatment industry, Dalrymple points out. Treatment for drug addiction is, in fact, a waste of time.

In heroin’s clutches

Chet Baker

Chet Baker

Dalrymple dislikes the implication that

in the relationship between a person and heroin, heroin is the active participant. It is the person who grips the heroin, not the other way round.

The status of heroin addict

is one that is sought after. Once achieved, it is not slavery or enchainment, it is a lack of anything considered important enough to give up for.

Heroin addiction

is another of the myriad ways of fulfilling the human urge to self-destruction.

Smack from the shrink

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 20.56.14

Anna Kavan

The novelist Anna Kavan, writes Dalrymple,

was for many years dependent on Karl Theodor Bluth, a psychiatrist who had been an exile from Nazi Germany and came to live in England. She found in him a soul mate, and it was he who supplied her, legally, with her heroin, sometimes injecting her with it. Bluth was himself a writer, having published essays in Cyril Connolly’s Horizon and a book on the philosophy of Leibnitz.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 20.59.38

Anna Kavan, Portrait of Dr Karl Theodor Bluth, gouache on paper, c.1963

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 21.04.25Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 21.03.17

Addiction to opiates is a pretend illness

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 09.00.01And, Dalrymple writes,

treatment of it is pretend rather than real treatment.

How and why

addicts came to lie to doctors, how and why doctors came to return the compliment, and how and why society swallowed the lies,

is explored in Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy, in which Dalrymple explains that

  • heroin is not highly addictive
  • withdrawal from it is not medically serious
  • addicts do not become criminals to feed their habit
  • addicts do not need any medical assistance to stop taking heroin
  • heroin addiction is a moral or spiritual problem.

Villainous company hath been the spoil of me

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 08.10.43In Henry IV, Part 1 (act 1, scene 2), Falstaff accuses Prince Henry thus:

O, thou hast damnable iteration and art indeed able to corrupt a saint. Thou hast done much harm upon me, Hal; God forgive thee for it! Before I knew thee, Hal, I knew nothing; and now am I, if a man should speak truly, little better than one of the wicked. I must give over this life, and I will give it over: by the Lord, and I do not, I am a villain: I’ll be damned for never a king’s son in Christendom.

Such rationalisations, writes Dalrymple,

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 08.15.52have particular resonance for me because I have heard them a thousand times from my patients (I would not stoop to such rationalisations, of course).

In the prison where Dalrymple works,

practically every heroin-addicted prisoner whom I ask for the reason that he started to take the drug replies: ‘I fell in with the wrong crowd.’ They say this with every appearance of sincerity, but at the same time they know it to be nonsense.

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 08.17.52They laugh when Dalrymple says to them

how strange it is that, though I have met many who have fallen in with the wrong crowd, I have never met any member of the wrong crowd itself.

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 08.18.51

Withdrawal from opiates is a pretty trivial condition

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 12.38.48— certainly by comparison

with illnesses which most of us have experienced, or by comparison with withdrawal from other drugs.

Research has shown, says Dalrymple, that

medical treatment is not necessary for heroin addicts to abandon their habit, and many thousands do so without any medical intervention whatsoever.

Heroin’s seductive cunning

In the grip of what is quite beyond one's control: 'Wicked, wicked heroin! All the worse because, though bad morally, such drugs are also charming, a little like Svengali'

In the grip of what is quite beyond a woman’s control — she was a slave to heroin’s will: ‘Wicked, wicked heroin! All the worse because, though bad morally, such drugs are also charming, a little like Svengali

In search of sordor

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 02.13.49Nostalgie de la boue: The romantic appeal of filth, violence and vomit

Dalrymple writes that it is today not uncommon

for children from good homes to seek out a squalid existence rather than a decent one. I have had as patients more than one middle-class girl who ran away from a comfortably bourgeois present and a bright academic future in order to join crack-addled prostitutes.

Why?

Why would anyone run away from a rich and cultivated home…to seek out and allow pimps to ply her…with heroin?

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 23.50.03The answer is that squalor

seems more exciting, authentic and real, especially to those who have known nothing but security….Some achieve squalor as some kind of guarantee of authenticity. They wear squalor as a badge of honour…won against the odds in the battle against respectability….A respectable career [is] tame and boring, at least for those who seek excitement and strong sensation. A squalid life is seldom without crises and drama, which…keep the adrenalin pumping and ennui at bay….Women who repeatedly have relationships with violent men may quickly reject a man who treats them decently.

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 23.54.19Bohemianism of an especially sordid kind becomes a sign of moral election,

as once a scrubbed doorstep was a sign of working-class respectability….Leading a comfortable existence may seem…like injustice, the perpetuation of unearned privilege or a betrayal of the poor. Although living in squalor will not assist the impoverished in the slightest, it shows that one’s heart is in the right place.