Sunday, May 18, 2008

The trouble with heroin - it's very moreish

I've blogged before about drug addiction and my own personal and family experience. I have come to agree with those doctors who have judged that addiction to illicit drugs like heroin is not stronger than that to legal drugs like cigarettes.

This message has not yet reached the public and has therefore not prevented the emergence of a huge therapeutic bureaucracy. Theodore Dalrymple, who has worked as a prison psychiatrist, analyses this therapeutic community in his new book Junk Medicine: Doctors, Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy, which is dedicated to the war against withdrawal symptoms. He thoroughly debunks the disease model of addiction claiming that we should be really talking about a moral and spiritual problem requiring changes in behaviour.

In it he makes the following, extremely telling, points:

  • Just as with smokers the vast majority of people who try heroin either never use it again, use it just a few times, or only use it intermittently.
  • Even among heroin users, the heroin addict is the exception.
  • Experiments have shown that withdrawal symptoms were eliminated with placebo injections of saline solution.
  • Histrionic addicts…who complain of horrible discomfort in the presence of doctors…to obtain narcotics but act normally both before the visit and after.
  • Patients who repeatedly receive large doses of narcotics for pain... rarely become addicted.

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