Friday, May 26, 2006


Theodore Dalrymple is perhaps the finest modern chronicler of social decay and the underclass, albeit from a most unsymapthetic perspective that upsets liberal pieties that absolve the underclass from any responsibility for its suffering.

Now he is standing conventional wisdom about opiate addiction on its head:

Heroin doesn't hook people; rather, people hook heroin. It is quite untrue that withdrawal from heroin or other opiates is a serious business, so serious that it would justify or at least mitigate the commission of crimes such as mugging. Withdrawal effects from opiates are trivial, medically speaking (unlike those from alcohol, barbiturates or even, on occasion, benzodiazepines such as valium), and experiment demonstrates that they are largely, though not entirely, psychological in origin. Lurid descriptions in books and depictions in films exaggerate them à la De Quincey (and also Coleridge, who was a chronic self-dramatizer).

I have witnessed thousands of addicts withdraw; and, notwithstanding the histrionic displays of suffering, provoked by the presence of someone in a position to prescribe substitute opiates, and which cease when that person is no longer present, I have never had any reason to fear for their safety from the effects of withdrawal. It is well known that addicts present themselves differently according to whether they are speaking to doctors or fellow addicts. In front of doctors, they will emphasize their suffering; but among themselves, they will talk about where to get the best and cheapest heroin.

Advocates of so-called "safe" injection sites for heroin addicts should give heed to Dr. Dalrymple's article. If we've all been played for fools about heroin addiction, then the best way to curb the heroin problem is not more programs and methadone but a swift kick.

Source: Manhattan Institute for Policy Research

1 comment:

Joan Tintor said...

Thanks for the post. Dalrymple is a fascinasting observer.