The New Face of Heroin
There’s No Such Thing As Selfie Addiction
Recently, the assembled hacks at the Sunday Mirror’s headquarters were deciding how best to cover the story of Danny Bowman, a teenager diagnosed with “selfie addiction.” Taking the sensitive, appropriate route, the British tabloid sent a photographer to take lots and lots of photos of him.
Selfies are the latest trend in popular art—the cave paintings of the Age of Aquarius, only much less inspiring than anything our ancient ancestors ever produced. They combine two of the most potent forces in the modern world—computer technology and celebrity-fueled narcissism—to create a form of expression so powerful that it can literally cure cancer.
Nevertheless, with great power comes great danger, as anyone who’s watched the popular New Zealand hiking documentary Lord of the Rings will remember. In it, a ring becomes so powerful that a small man is forced to walk a very long way for reasons that are never made entirely clear before throwing the offending piece of jewellery into a volcano. Someone else becomes so corrupted by the ring’s power that he starts talking to himself, loses all his friends, and ends up developing a pretty nasty skin condition from the stress of it all.
But is it possible to be addicted to taking selfies, the way you can be addicted to alcohol or nicotine or the One Ring? The case of Danny Bowman is certainly extreme. According to the Sunday Mirror article, “He dropped out of school, didn’t leave his house in six months, lost two stone [28 pounds] trying to make himself look better for the camera, and became aggressive with his parents when they tried to stop him. Finally, in a drastic attempt to escape his obsession, Danny took an overdose—but was saved by his mum, Penny.”
I Do Drugs Because Doing Drugs Is Fun
Like any good British girl, I can sit and down pills till the hallucinatory cows come home. But if I have to read one more nonsense story about some celebrity checking into rehab after trying one bump of coke, I’m actually going to break into the Daily Mail’s headquarters and shit and piss on their computers so that they can’t print any more fucking shit and piss about people taking drugs.
The English actor Michael Le Vell had a tough time last year. He was suspended from the soap opera, Coronation Street, while on trial for child sex charges and has since been found not guilty. Recently, he was suspended again after he admitted to doing coke—as in the refreshing white stuff, not the syrup that rots babies if you pour it over them. Michael told the Sunday Mirror that he first tried coke during the stressful lead up to his trial, “For a few brief minutes, the first time was a relief from everything that was going on. Afterwards I felt so ashamed and I never thought I’d do it again. But I did it once more after the trial… I never thought that I was the sort of guy who would like cocaine.”
Seriously, how much bullshit was that statement cut with? I don’t know, maybe Michael “I never thought that I was the sort of guy who would like cocaine” Le Vell really does look down on people who take drugs. Maybe he’s just playing sad boy for the media. Who knows? We’re about as capable of knowing how much crap his statement contains as we are of knowing how much levamisole was in last weekend’s bag of sniff. (Answer: always far, far too much.)
I have no doubt that Michael—and other recent cocaine apologists, such as Nigella Lawson, Demi Lovato, and Jim Davidson—have felt pain in their lives, and that truly sucks. But are we really supposed to believe that people only do coke when they’re in mourning, or in abusive relationships, or on trial for child-sex charges? Could it be that some people do a fat line of coke simply because they love a fat line of coke?
This Doctor Says He Can Cure Heroin Addicts by Putting Them in a Coma
Muhammad had many good reasons for being pissed off. He was far from home, his arm was bleeding, and he’d recently come out of a coma. The stranger asking about his heroin addiction probably didn’t help. But he had already tried drug clinics in France, Spain, Italy, and Turkey, and none of them had worked. He’d come to Kyrgyzstan because he thought it was his last chance.
He’d traveled from Algiers based on the reputation of the Nazaraliev Medical Center, a private clinic near Bishkek. The center claims that 80 percent of its patients stay drug free for at least a year after receiving treatment there. Many of those it treats come from Russia or the former Soviet Union, but there’s no shortage of domestic customers. Heroin use has drastically increased in Kyrgyzstan over the last decade. The last official estimate, in 2006, put the number of intravenous drug users in the country at 26,000. According to Dr. Alexander Zelichenko, Director of the Central Asian Center on Drug Policy, there may now be around 100,000 users in a country with a population just below 5.6 million.
VICE on HBO – Episode 7: Addiction
Segment 1: Tobaccoland
The dangers of smoking are no secret in the U.S., but in Indonesia, the tobacco industry is virtually unregulated. The result? Over two-thirds of all men are smokers, and it is commonplace for children as young as six to take up the habit. Tobacco is a $100 billion industry here, with TV and print ads everywhere. Investigating this phenomenon in Malang, VICE visits a clinic that promises cures to a plethora of modern ailments through tobacco and smoking — with our intrepid correspondent getting the full smoke-therapy treatment.
Segment 2: Underground Heroin Clinic
Heroin is the most addictive drug on earth, and some people will do anything to kick the habit. Enter Ibogaine — a drug made out of the African iboga root, whose intense, hallucinogenic properties make it a Type-A felony drug. But many swear it’s the most effective way to kick heroin addiction — especially when combined with a voodoo-type ritual that involves face paint and chanting. VICE follows the journey of a heroin addict who travels to Mexico, where Ibogaine is legal, to try to finally quit.
James Franco Remembers Philip Seymour Hoffman
The last time I ran into Philip was at Bar Centrale, a theater restaurant, when he came in with a group that included Chris Rock, Zach Braff, and a bunch of great stage actors. At the time, I had read that Philip had gone to rehab for heroin. I was shocked, because you don’t think that a person who absolutely everyone acknowledges as great, would have such problems. But that was foolish, because addiction cares nothing for personality. It is an illness, not a matter of will, class, intelligence, or lifestyle. I have no idea what happened to Phil before he was found dead, but a friend of mine told me they saw him the day before he passed and he looked happy. This says to me that Philip was not someone who had given up. He didn’t throw it all away. He was just someone—a very special someone—who was sick. His death is shocking to us because his greatness made him seem invincible. At the very least, all the incredible art he gave us should warrant him another chance.
When people talk about ending the drug war, they usually mean “no one should go to prison for marijuana.” There’s no doubt the public has shifted its collective opinion on pot—currently, a majority of Americans believe it should be as legal, regulated, and taxed as tobacco and alcohol—and naturally, politicians are beginning to sense the way the wind is blowing. But elected officials, like people at large, are less gun-ho about legalizing the harder drugs.
First, let’s clarify that no one is recommending that we all follow Philip Seymour Hoffman’sexample and start shooting up. Heroin is awful. Don’t do heroin. It fucks up your life. But as the case of the fentanyl-cut heroin that has killed 22 people in Pittsburgh illustrates, the only thing worse than legal heroin is illegal heroin.
In the aftermath of Hoffman’s death, Jeff Deeney, a former drug addict who now works as a social worker, wrote a piece in the Atlantic that calls for treating heroin like a health issue, not a criminal act. All the nasty effects of this drug—and all the reasons not to do it—are magnified by the threat of prison, the stigma that leads to shame and secrecy, and the increased of HIV and infection that comes with sharing needles. According to Deeney, if Hoffman had access to a space where it was legal to shoot heroin and where doctors could supervise users, he might still be alive. Why doesn’t the US have any such sites, though Vancouver, Canada, does? Why the hell isn’t Naloxone, the much-touted miracle drug that stops opioid overdoses, not available over the counter? Why isn’t it passed out in urban health clinics like candy? Out of the 1.5 million peoplearrested for drug crimes in 2012, 82 percent were for possession, and 16.5 percent of those were for cocaine, heroin, or associated drugs. Did those arrests do anyone any good?
One reason legalizing pot is more popular than legalizing heroin is that far more people smoke than shoot. At least 100 million people in the US have done marijuana, while the number of frequent heroin users has stayed under half a million for decades. But use (which isn’t necessarily addiction) has nearly doubled since 2007—one survey calculated that 669,000 Americans had done heroin in 2012, compared with 373,000 in 2007. (This may be because some former pill addicts move on to heroin, as Hoffman did).
That’s what prohibition (which includes policies that levy draconian punishments for pill possession) does—it causes rippling effects in human behavior. It does not stop drug use, though it may change a user’s drug of choice. Regardless, it’s time to give up trying to scare addicts into getting healthy and do what Portugal did in 2001 and decriminalize all drugs. Laws can’t stop people from using drugs, they can only make drug use a more harrowing experience for addicts who have to deal with jail time and police harassment and products that, thanks to a lack of oversight, may contain dangerous chemicals.
This country needs to grow up and realize that the legal system is a hammer, and drug users and addicts are not nails. End the drug war. End it all.
Over the past decade, prescription pills have become the latest drug-epidemic bogeyman. A study published earlier this year claimed that one in four American teenagers have misused medications at least once—a 33 percent increase from 2008—and OxyContin has been leading the charge. The painkiller’s active ingredient, oxycodone, gives users a feel-good high similar to heroin and is much easier to score than other hard drugs. But how did it get so popular in the first place?