Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?

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Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?

Postby Charlie » 30 Nov 2013, 14:44

I can't help but think that the editors should have chosen a better title for this Spectator article.

If you look at some of the comments underneath, it seems to have clouded some people's judgement of the article itself. Well, it's either that or some people really think that Dalrymple is a nasty piece of work and/or that William Burroughs was a talented writer/countercultural genius.
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Re: Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?

Postby Paul » 30 Nov 2013, 16:13

Dalrymple's book 'Junk Medicine' is a good read into the mystique of addiction, particularly that of opiates, as the title suggests.

The comments under this article do indeed seem to be transparently skewed, leaning always towards the view that it is prohibition that is the biggest problem and that if only drugs were legal(ised), then somehow usage (and so correspondingly addiction) would decrease. People who may not be users of illicit drugs themselves (or certainly not opiates) and who may deride those people who do use them, have nevertheless taken on board a whole worldview (a groupthink) that it's really the authorities and not the drugs themselves (or more so the users) that is the main problem.

Herein is how almost an entire population can be and have been duped.

The very first comment begins in agreement (it's a self-choosing habit) but swiftly reduces to the 'it's an illness' mentality and so the addict is then a victim. Distrust these type of people is what I say.
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Re: Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?

Postby Rachel » 30 Nov 2013, 23:32

I disagree with a lot in this article.

TD writes about Mao getting people off drugs. Where is the evidence for that?
Are there reliable statistics and case studies?
China can't even give reliable statistics for the deaths in their great famine of the 1950's.

Then he gives that Vietnam example and extrapolates that to his mother's addiction to nicoteen.
In summary he infers that all drug addiction is the same regardless of drug and it is all willpower and attitude.

I have a personal example.
I was put on a sleeping pill some years ago by a doctor. It was from the valium family of drugs (benzodiazepines). I spent 6 months weening off it, I am free of it now.
Many doctors were unsympathetic, like Dalrymple , when I first asked them for help. They refused to prescribe the pill in smaller doses so that I could remove a bit at a time to wean off. They told me I should stop it at once. Stopping the tablet at once gave me heart palpitations, muscle contractions and other horrible symptoms.

It is documented that with benzodiazepines - about 50% of people are able to stop them without problems, and about 50% have horrible side effects.

Perhaps Cocaine, Crack, even Heroin are like benzodiazepines, in that a certain percentage of people can stop easily, and a certain percentage can't.
It's not right for TD to assume that because he has seen a lot of people get off Heroin easily, then it must be the same for everyone.

There are a few interesting things he says on our culture, for example:
"I have asked hundreds and possibly thousands of heroin addicts how they started taking heroin. Almost invariably they said, ‘I fell in with the wrong crowd...’"

I think he is asking the right questions on why people are starting drugs but he is wrong about addiction. If withdrawall symptoms really weren't horrible, then we could all take Heroin.
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Re: Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?

Postby Paul » 01 Dec 2013, 01:23

But Rachel, how do you know that withdrawal symptoms from heroin are really that horrible? From the worldview, reinforced by the media and the addiction 'industry'?

The word is, among those less melodramatic about situations, that opiate withdrawal is akin to a moderate dose of 'flu. Not nice but certainly not unbearable (such as many far worse illnesses or even alcohol withdrawal - see below) and only lasting a few days. This is confirmed, eventually and after much wheedling (or outright blunt force in a dialogue sense), by so-called heroin addicts themselves. If and when pressed they will, under continual pressure to be honest, eventually admit that the feeling is "like being a bit ill - with a bad cold or something like that". Maybe some sickness and stomach gripes. But hardly the suffering of life-threatening diseases or fatal conditions. Exactly like TD describes often, when one teases this admission out of 'addicts', one is liable to get a sidelong and knowing look, a grin, a nod and a wink and the understanding that you may have worked it out but hey - don't go telling everyone! Maintain the illusion for goodness' sake.

I think I'm right in saying (and I think TD would confirm this) that not a single person has died as a direct result of opiate withdrawal in and of itself.

(Many may have died from general neglect, decrepitude and secondary infections of course, at the point of deciding to withdraw from usage - often in a hospital for the mortally sick).

Conversely, very many people have died directly from the shock of alcohol withdrawal, a dangerous drug to withdraw from. I believe that tranquilisers and other anti-depressant drugs can be similarly dangerous or at least very unpleasant and damaging from which to withdraw, so I appreciate your concern in light of your own experience. I think TD highlights the differences between the 'dangerous drugs' and the everyday ones quite often in his book, quite naturally as it deals with addiction and hence withdrawal.

I've had the misfortune to know a few so-called heroin addicts, all people who actively sought to become what they were from a previously knowledgeable, modern status about such things - at least broadly speaking. Two of them were grammar-school educated (not my school), another an aircraft engineer for British Areospace and another a local business owner who kept it going for two decades or more (maybe still is somewhere)

I think that every one of them was (and maybe still are) operating somewhat of a sham status and condition because they knew how advantageous (in coarse ways) it was for them to do so. Few, if any of them, were 'addicted' in the classic and supposed way portrayed by popular thought. None of them ever seemed at death's door from the drug,and only looked rough (not all did) because of general dishevelment and poor hygiene and diet.

I've also known of, by anecdote, of a considerable number of other addicts. I also know, and have known, other people who themselves have anecdotes about the same characters and of new ones, all over-lapping within the local area. At various points in the last 25 years I have pondered these people and their problem (problem to the rest of us) and compared the stories and observations. As a result, I'm almost wholly on the side of TD in his view and that was before I read his book on the matter.
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Re: Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?

Postby Rachel » 01 Dec 2013, 21:00

You know more about Heroin withdrawall than me. Maybe Heroin withdrawall is less difficult than other drugs. I can not know what it is like.

But in the article TD doesn't talk specifically about Heroin. He talks about all drugs, infers that they are as easy to withdraw from as Heroin. The title is "Should we shoot cocaine addicts."

In another article I remember TD writing that drug users lack the ability to put up with suffering. That statement irritated me because it was what doctors said to me when I tried to find one to help me.

I haven't read Romancing Opiates but I get the feeling in the book he is lumping all Opiates together, the same way he has lumped all drug addictions together in the article. It seems logical that Morphine withdrawal might be completely different to Heroin withdrawall, even if they are both opiates. I read of one woman who was put on Morphine after an operation. She got addicted to it and when she tried to stop she ended up on a life support machine.

While I think he is too dismissive of the suffering drug withdrawal, he asks the right questions about why people start drugs.
"...why, in the 1950s, there were at most a couple of hundred heroin addicts in this country, and why now there are perhaps 250,000 of them, 150,000 of them injecting. "

He points out the evasion of responsibility with the phrase "they fell into the wrong crowd"

I like what he wrote here:
"Addiction is not something that happens to you, it is something that you do, that confers meaning on your life or disguises the absence of such meaning. The need for meaning is a permanent human one, but it is not easily satisfied."

I can't quibble over whether addiction is a desease or not because some people chose it. But once a person is addicted there are definitely real physical symptoms on withdrawal and those physical symptoms could be classed as an illness, and he is too dismissive of those symptoms. It's also not right to assume that all the drugs are the same.
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Re: Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?

Postby Paul » 05 Dec 2013, 23:42

Well Rachel, I hope you aren't inferring that I 'know about' heroin withdrawal personally, in the direct sense, but just to be absolutely clear - I do NOT.

What I do know is observations of my own, some of them quite close (many years ago) and the many anecdotes from trusted sources who weren't lying or exaggerating. Plus also of course the many anecdotes from TD himself, including his book on the subject.

I think I already said that withdrawal from heroin (and other opiates) and, (I suspect) cocaine is less dangerous and traumatic than withdrawal from alcohol dependency (can be lethal) and one-time barbiturate dependency and (I suspect) from other tranquilisers and similar anti-depressant drugs. This is information freely available, not just from TD, though he provides the same analysis through many of his writings - and he is a doctor after all.

Personally I would never take what I consider unnecessary medication, even from a doctor and particularly anti-depressants, sleeping pills and the like. I think it's well known that some doctors too easily dish out these drugs as a means, quite frankly, of keeping patients quiet and happy in the absence of not really knowing what else to do within the framework available. That's what I would think. It's also known that prescriptions for these drugs seem to roll on regardless and sooner or later (usually sooner) other problematic side-effects tend to occur in addition to dependency.

I shun even aspirin and paracetamol for all but the worst pains - and there are none (sorry I have had none) really that can't be endured or defeated by willpower alone. Pain is an indicator of a wrong and sometimes essential I think. Things like headaches and piercing toothache I have endured without drugs. Of course I do not mean prolonged and relentless pain, nor terminal pain. I am fortunate never to have suffered those. But, I would still shun the pills as much as possible and be seeking to get away from them by any means.

If it was 'depression' and a disease of the mind, I would much prefer alternative (not whacky) solutions. Alternatives to taking pills daily, pills which are known and labelled as having side effects such as drowsiness, a reduced ability to drive, operate machinery, etc. I would investigate diet, herbal treatments, exercise and, in the case of poor sleep quite possibly marijuana. Maybe that's not for everyone and is of course illegal. An odd hot milk and whiskey never harmed anyone much.

I'm not trying to trivialise your experience however, nor your original complaint but - beware of those easily prescribed pills. Maybe now you would be.

I think your doctors telling you to immediately quit was foolhardy and even dangerous. Most people would say that and most people aren't doctors but that doesn't mean people are intrinsically stupid about all matters medical.

I agree the article went off course, because whilst the title pointed at cocaine abuse, it very soon turned into a relating of tales linked to opiates, as did the comments. In fact cocaine seems to have been ignored from the title onwards. TD has a vast amount of experience dealing with opiate addicts, being GP in a slum area of one of Britain's cities where heroin will be (or would have been) the addictive drug of choice. Maybe not so much anymore, but that's only a perception I have.

I think your last paragraph is fatally flawed. Just because something is not too bad from the withdrawal of addiction, or even not addictive at all (as such), it doesn't mean we should all be able to take it at will. On that basis everyone could take marijuana but I'm sure not everyone does, nor wants to, nor would be advised to (legality apart).

More specifically heroin (more stringent legally too), if indeed it isn't too bad to withdraw from (and I don't believe it is) would still not be a good idea for all but the immensely pained or the terminally ill, because you would spend all day in a semi-torpor and regularly vomit over yourself, plus all the other attendant negligencies.

I think he's quite right to refer to the Maoist idea of heroin-free or a bullet. I'm not saying I would agree with that course of action of course but the anecdote highlights how the addict would soon give up if faced with a terrible alternative. The same would not be viable if said to a cancer patient nor one with polio or leprosy. Mao couldn't have said - 'be cured of cancer or be executed'. Nobody would be cured that way. Hence these complaints are genuine illnesses. Heroin addiction is not, or certainly nowhere in the same league. Even the common cold has more validity as an illness than opiate addiction. Maybe it would be better to say - 'heroin-free or a work camp - for five years!'
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Re: Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?

Postby Yessica » 06 Dec 2013, 08:13

Paul wrote:Personally I would never take what I consider unnecessary medication, even from a doctor and particularly anti-depressants, sleeping pills and the like. I think it's well known that some doctors too easily dish out these drugs as a means, quite frankly, of keeping patients quiet and happy in the absence of not really knowing what else to do within the framework available. That's what I would think. It's also known that prescriptions for these drugs seem to roll on regardless and sooner or later (usually sooner) other problematic side-effects tend to occur in addition to dependency.

I shun even aspirin and paracetamol for all but the worst pains - and there are none (sorry I have had none) really that can't be endured or defeated by willpower alone. Pain is an indicator of a wrong and sometimes essential I think. Things like headaches and piercing toothache I have endured without drugs. Of course I do not mean prolonged and relentless pain, nor terminal pain. I am fortunate never to have suffered those. But, I would still shun the pills as much as possible and be seeking to get away from them by any means.


On the one hand I agree. For example I heard that nearly all senior citizens in nursing homes are on at least one psychiatric medication. I really do not think that our old population is that deseased. I fear that they want to keep them drugged up and out of the way... this is just disgraceful we treat our old people like that.

Another example: I asked my gyn about birthcontrol but did not want anything hormonal because I was still nursing. He talked me into accepting a progesteron pill saying that the hormone would not be found in the breast milk. Well, the package insert told me otherwise. Changed the gyn after that.

The only drugs I readily accept are antibiotics because I think they have far more benefits than risks.

Pain killers... it depends. I would for example not have my leg amputated without painkillers. Just an example. My leg is fine thanks God. It is not what you would recommend and meant to say, Paul, is it?

As for psychiatric drugs. I do think that they are prescribed far to often those days. Our tolerance for mental quirks seems to be greatly diminished those days. Both from the part of the "sufferer" and the part of the society.

I put "sufferer" in quotation marks. I think that people do suffer from mental quirks - especially when other people point their fingers at them and say "look he or she is crazy" - but then it is important to remember that a person who has some "little defects" is still - well - a person and may live a great and meaningful live. I sometimes overhear people calling a loved one "my sufferer". To my mind this is very patronizing

I agree with TD here on psychiatrist often not adressing the root cause but only the feeling. If a young woman has no education and children fathered by four different thugs her sadness is not depression but a normal reaction to her life's circumstances. She would be better served by helping her to change her life than by antidepressant drugs.

.. but on the other hand: In former times the mentally ill were just locked up. Today with the right medication they can lead productive lives. I assume that many people, who have a mental health diagnosis those days, would not have received that diagnosis fifty years ago.... but then there are people who really do have psychosis or brain injury or depression.

An odd hot milk and whiskey never harmed anyone much.


An odd whisky - no. Repeated whisky in order to feel better - has harmed many, many people.
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Re: Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?

Postby Paul » 08 Dec 2013, 15:25

Sorry, it was a little flippant of me to say that whiskey is the answer to all (or any) ills or relevant to this thread. It does soothe toothache remarkably well however.

Have you noticed the spelling Yessica? I said whiskey, you said whisky. My version is used for Irish whiskey, yours is for Scotch whisky. It's not important, i was just saying.

No I wouldn't recommend having a leg amputated without painkillers, nor even with plain aspirin. You would probably die from shock. I just meant everyday aches and pains. Some people seem to exist on painkillers. It can't be good.

I do hear that in fact an aspirin a day can have beneficial effects - blood pressure I think, but I'm sure there are conflicting views on this and I'm not up to speed with such things at all.
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Re: Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?

Postby Lindsey » 08 Dec 2013, 17:04

Well as someone who functions on painkillers, I don't understand this backlash against them. You make it sound like peoe who take them are being soft I can't imagine you have suffered real toothache if a bit of milk and whiskey helped. I know of two people who ripped their own teeth out with pliers when unable to wait till the following Monday for a dentist. I'm lucky never to have had toothache that bad but if plyers are looking more appealing than whiskey then these people were far from being soft.
Personally I'd not function without painkillers to keep migraines under control and if I do not deal with them immediately with painkillers, I can lose three days to pain, vomiting , a hand that won't work and I can lose the ability to speak clearly. Obviously, I do actually worry about taking them, and I try to find alternative methods, of which I've found a few. I can easily see how a person can become addicted to strong painkillers, not so much because they enjoy taking them but because it gives them a quality of life they won't have if they come off them. That is contrast to those addicted to recreational drugs who would function better in society without them.
Going off on a tangent slightly, I have a friend I'm very worried about, who is constant pain in his legs and so takes prescription painkillers. He has twenty dehydrocodine a day, several oxycodine and several other things. His doctor prescribes them, his drugs worker "monitors" the situation. All in all he has built up a tollerance to all painkillers that he can quaff enough of them to kill a small horse. I do not know the data but I'm fairly certain something bad would happen if he stopped taking them, and I suspect they might be causing the pain in the first place. Perhaps doctors should be held in account if all they do to address a persons situation is to prescribe lethal amounts of painkillers? After all the most widely abused opiate in America is now prescription OxyContin. I had one once, I was high as a kite for 2 hours and then so ill all evening I was tempted to take another, but decided I'd rather not go down that road.
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Re: Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?

Postby Lindsey » 08 Dec 2013, 17:13

I hope that didn't come across as abrupt but I'm quite precious about my painkillers! They are little pills of functionality to me!
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Re: Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?

Postby Yessica » 08 Dec 2013, 18:21

Paul wrote:No I wouldn't recommend having a leg amputated without painkillers, nor even with plain aspirin. You would probably die from shock. I just meant everyday aches and pains. Some people seem to exist on painkillers. It can't be good.

I do hear that in fact an aspirin a day can have beneficial effects - blood pressure I think, but I'm sure there are conflicting views on this and I'm not up to speed with such things at all.


As far as I know aspirin changes the blood clotting, thus preventing heart attacks and strokes. It may however also make you bleed to dead if you get injured (or have your leg amputated) while on it.

Please do not take this as medical advice. I am not qualified to give such.
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Re: Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?

Postby Yessica » 08 Dec 2013, 18:41

Lindsey wrote:Well as someone who functions on painkillers, I don't understand this backlash against them. You make it sound like peoe who take them are being soft I can't imagine you have suffered real toothache if a bit of milk and whiskey helped. I know of two people who ripped their own teeth out with pliers when unable to wait till the following Monday for a dentist. I'm lucky never to have had toothache that bad but if plyers are looking more appealing than whiskey then these people were far from being soft.


Ouch!!!

I do not totally reject painkillers but I am somewhat more anti than pro.
I think in a man / non-pregnant woman it is actually nobody's business but I do not like it when pregnant women take painkillers and think that they do too easily.

It is impossible for an outsider to determinate how bad someones pain (or "nervousness" or "depression" or whatever) is. So I think people should not be judged based on taking those medications (unless they are pregnant). At the same time some people I know seem to pop painkillers like sweets and I think it cannot be healthy.... whiskey and whisky (both the Irish and the Scottish) to my mind are even worse.

I know a middle class man who recommended that his grown-up sons should drink whiskey if they could not sleep. He said so at a party and he was not joking. I sat there staring at him like "what did you just say???".

Have you told your friend about your concerns?
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Re: Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?

Postby Paul » 08 Dec 2013, 19:16

Oops goodness, maybe I shouldn't have commented. I'm sorry for any offence Lindsey. I wasn't saying you were soft. Remember I'm just talking about everyday, come-and-go pains, not lingering conditions.

Maybe it's just a threshold of pain that differs with different people. I'm not that hard but I'm sure I've had bad toothache at some point. Pulling one's own teeth with pliers is surely more painful than putting up with the tooth aching? The trouble with toothache is it is lingering. So you have to linger along with half a dozen or more painkillers in the day. Maybe for days. That's a lot of pills and I don't like the idea of that, is all. It's not for me, though it may be ok in the mind of others.

I have had and get a lot of knocks and bruises. I've had about a dozen tiny pieces of metal taken out of my eyes (on a dozen different occasions) at A & E via that big needle they use. I've had some pretty serious burns to the hands and fingers over the years but they all healed without scars. I've stood on a few nails. I had my arm broken at school, two fingers, a hand and a nose broken playing cricket. And etc. Just the usual stuff. I didn't take painkillers for any of those injuries.

I helped a lady I know move some furniture last week. Her teenaged son assisted (of a fashion). At one stage he and I were carrying his TV. Just as we were putting it in the van he suddenly began squealing and howling as if the most extreme tortures were being applied. His arm was 'killing him' ........ so he just let go of the TV and it dropped - onto it's screen. Fortunately only a couple of inches and onto rubber matting so it didn't break. He then proceeded to enact a worthy performance up and down the street, cursing and howling. He had a 'sore finger' and his arm had nearly been 'twisted off'. Absolute rubbish of course, he's just got no fibre and no willingness to endure a little pain (it is pain) in the exerting of his arm muscles. From what I can gather, most young people are like this, whereas once very few were. My grandfathers went down coal mines aged fourteen. I'm not going to start wailing about a headache or a sore finger. This kind of thing is all in the mind.
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Re: Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?

Postby Yessica » 08 Dec 2013, 19:43

Paul wrote:From what I can gather, most young people are like this, whereas once very few were.


I just don't know. I know both old ynd young people who are tough and old and young people who are soft.

In order to be sure we had to beat up 20 young and 20 middle-aged people and look who complains more (and who tries to beat us back).

+ I do not think it is always bad to be soft. For example: Person ignores that pain, and ignores it... and ignores it... until he decides to see a doctor and learns it is cancer.

To my mind it is also okay to sometimes (not all the times! not even most of the times) complain and whine and bitch and talk to people you know because you might even end up with some good advice and if not at least you have it from your chest.

Complaining all of the time on the other hand sucks and way to many people do it... and what kindergarten issues some people (young and old!) complain about. A woman I know was feeling stressed because she temporarily had no hot water. As much as I like a hot shower. That would not even be an issue to me.

A few weeks ago I went to the shop for bread, 20 minutes before it closed for that day. All bread but the funny "American sandwich" was sold out... and people behaved as if it was the end of the world.

Some people have so low tolerance thresholds. I wonder if it is an issue with their nervous system or just being spoilt.
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Re: Should we be threatening cocaine addicts with execution?

Postby Rachel » 10 Dec 2013, 16:43

I am sorry, I did not write well. I did not mean to infer that you had taken drugs. I just meant that you knew more because you have read TD's book and knew of other people who were addicts.

Paul wrote:I think I already said that withdrawal from heroin (and other opiates) and, (I suspect) cocaine is less dangerous and traumatic than withdrawal from alcohol dependency (can be lethal) and one-time barbiturate dependency and (I suspect) from other tranquilisers and similar anti-depressant drugs. This is information freely available, not just from TD, though he provides the same analysis through many of his writings - and he is a doctor after all.

True, but TD runs the risk of belittling the suffering of withdrawal from heroin or cocaine.

My benzopine withdrawal symptoms were belittled by a few doctors that I saw when I was trying to get off my drug. So after going through that, I wonder if TD is doing the same to cocaine and Heroin withdrawal.

You are right in your argument that it is not the same as the common cold and cancer treatment.
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