Heroin is so addictive because it activates many regions of the brain particularly the regions that are responsible for producing both the pleasurable sensation of "reward" and physical dependence. Together, these actions account for the user's loss of control and the drug's habit-forming action.

My first experience with heroin:
I was 15 years old. I walked into a public bathroom at Wittenberg Platz U-Bahnhof. A couple of beers in me, I had to piss like a nine dick dinosaur. As I descended the stairs I heard a slight moaning. A truly horrific image.....a 20 something male lying on the floor of the bathroom. He was tied off with a needle in his arm. Blood spurting all over the bathroom. Some blood splashed on my pants and left shoe. He grumbled,"no police, no police" when I asked him if needed help. I left immediately.

My second experience with Charlie:
In 1994, I moved to Austin for educational purposes. I recognized a friend at the first party I attended. Bill and I worked at a summer camp together the previous summer. I didn't know many people at UT so I got his number. A week later I called Bill. His roommate told me Bill OD'd that weekend and passed away.

Another time a white horse crossed my path:
New Year's Eve going to 1999, my roommate and I traveled to Amsterdam. Upon entering the main train station an onslaught on American bums hit us up for money. It's a sad sight to see emaciated people try to relate to you in order to feed their addiction. I gave one a guilder. After being in Amsterdam a couple of days, I regretted my actions. Seems many American travelers get to Amsterdam, spend all of their money, and can't get home. Not every panhandlin junkie was American, but there were quite a few.

I have experimented with drugs in my life. Aside from smokes, I haven't let a drug rule me. Damn cigarettes. I really haven't done heroin, sniffed or mainlined. But I think my experiences with it explain why.

I lay on the threadbare rug that covered the concrete of our basement floor. The cold, hard, smoothness of the blue cement pained my back, but is tempered by about a six pack of beer. I search for the song Leslie told me to play--"skip ahead, play this one first." I find the groove--last song on the first side--and let the needle drop. The snap-crackle-pop of the vinyl record begins, slow and toneless. A guitar, quiet, low, electric, strumming, floated in over the vinyl distortion. Arpeggios of C and F, let rung out like a bell, followed by a single repeating note: BRRRINGG, DA-DA-DADA-DADA, BRRRRINGG, DA-DA-DADA-DADA. It was barely audible; a thud, the bass drum like a heartbeat: boom. Boom. Boom. Then it gets faster--the guitar is no longer sustained chords, the drums are now slowly building the rhythm: BOOM-BABOOM-BABOOM-BABOOMBA, BOOM-BABOOM-BABOOM-BABOOMBA. An electric viola, just this side of distortion, sounds a long, high note above, like a flatline, fighting the heartbeat of the drums. And then...

The voice. Monotone, Long Island accent, slow to start, almost stuttering, sleepy, barely able to get the words out. "I... don't know... just where I'm going (BOOM-BABOOM-BABOOM-BABOOMBA goes his exhausted heartbeat)... but I'm... gonna try... for the kingdom... if I can... cause it makes me feel like I'm a man" Suddenly the bass drum is thundering--BOOM-BADABOOM-BADABOOM-BADABOOMBA; the feedback on the electric viola is deafening, a squall piercing your ears. The guitar: like lightning, stuttering chords, running up and down the fretboard. "When I put a spike into my vein/You know that things aren't quite the same/and I guess but I just don't know...

"And I guess that I just don't know." And it slows again. The thunder stops. Just a low rumble. The viola is still the long, drawn-out squeal. The guitar is sustained, ringing out C and F chords. "I... have made... a big decision. (BOOM-BABOOM-BABOOM-BABOOMBA) I'm... gonna try...to nullify my life... cause when the blood begins to flow (BOOM-BADABOOM-BADABOOM-BADABOOMBA) when it shoots off the droppers nick/when I'm closing in on death" And the guitar starts stuttering again, the squall is constant, the heartbeat, pounding out of my chest.

And then it stops again. "I... wish that... I was born a 1000 years ago.... I... wish that... I'd sail the darkened seas/on a great big clipper ship." The thunder and squall, build again, and again release into drowsiness. And in that drowsy heartbeat, in the monotone voice of sleep, sleep like Morpheus, god of dreams, god of opiates, when all has returned to normal, you hear it.

"Hheeerrrooiiiiinnnn... be the death of meeeee/Heeeeeeroo-eeeeiin it's my wife and its my life because a mainline to my vein leads to a center in my head and then I'm better off than dead" And the feedback sending shivers, pain up your spine, the nihilism, and the vile, the anger, the bass drum like a horse, galloping, the viola as fast as it can go, the stuttering guitar like an amphetamine kick, faster, faster, until the drums disappear, "when the heroin is in my blood/and my blood is in my head/then thank God that I'm good as dead/and thank your God that I'm not aware/and thank God that I just don't care/and I guess I just don't know/ohhh... and I guess... that I just... don't... know." The heart returns, beating like normal. The guitar rings out arpeggios, the viola's long, sad note, and it ends, the quiet electric guitar with one last C chord. The pops and fuzz of the vinyl returns, then disappears with the needle automatically lifted back to its resting-place.

I can't stand up.

So now, little man, you've grown tired of grass L.S.D., goofballs, cocaine and hash, and someone, pretending to be a true friend, said, "I'll introduce you to Miss Heroin."

Well honey, before you start fooling with me, just let me inform you of how it will be.

For I will seduce you and make you my slave, I've sent men much stronger than you to their graves. You think you could never become a disgrace, and end up addicted to Poppyseed waste.

So you'll start inhaling me one afternoon, You'll take me into your arms very soon. And once I have entered deep down in your veins, the craving will nearly drive you insane.

You'll swindle your mother and just for a buck You'll turn into something vile and corrupt. You'll mug and you'll steal for my narcotic charm, and feel contentment when I'm in your arms.

The day, when you realize the monster you've grown, you'll solemnly promise to leave me alone.

If you think you've got the mystical knack, then sweetie, just try getting me off your back.

The vomit, the cramps, your gut tied a knot Your jangling nerves screaming for one more shot. The hot chills and cold sweats, withdrawl pains, can only be saved by my little white grains.

There's no other way, and there's no need to look, for deep down inside you will know you are hooked.

You'll desperately run to the pusher and then, you'll welcome me back to your arms once again.

And when you return, just as I foretold, I know that you'll give me your body and soul.

You'll give up your morals, your conscience, your heart And you will be mine until, "Death Do Us Part"


Heroin is a fascinating drug. But perhaps the most engaging thing about it to me is the depth of misconceptions about it that run rampant in our War on Drugs society. Even among the post-D.A.R.E. pro-drugs crowd, there are huge and gaping holes in the knowledge about how dangerous heroin is and why it's dangerous. And I believe that those misconceptions are the single biggest danger surrounding heroin usage.

Before I get into the reasons why, let me say the following: heroin is a dangerous drug that can ruin your life and/or kill you. There is no doubt about that. I don't advocate the use of heroin; I know people who have and do use heroin; I know people who have died as a result of heroin usage. It's a good way to fuck up your life. it's a good way to put yourself right in the path of a speeding Hepatitis C train. It's a good way to contract HIV. However, most of those problems are unneccesary consequences of heroin use. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Let's tackle some of the most common myths about the dangers of heroin usage:

Heroin is so addictive that drug dealers give free samples to get people hooked.
The physical addiction (tolerance and presence of withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the drug) that society associates with opiate addiction sets in very gradually. While moderate tolerance can be observed fairly quickly the physical dependance that produces withdrawal symptoms only sets in after a period of weeks or months of continuous daily usage. What is more, tolerance appears to be situationally specific -- give a regular user a fix in his usual surroundings, he's fine, but give him the same dose in an unfamiliar settings and the chances of an overdose skyrocket.

What is more of a problem is psychological dependancy (that term is not meant to suggest that there isn't a chemical component like dopamine or other mechanisms involved) and socialization. Studies suggest that for many street users of heroin, being an 'addict' may frequently or even usually involve sub-physically-addictive dosages and dosage intervals. At issue there is both classical psychological dependancy (a la cocaine addiction), which is certainly one of the major dangers of the drug, but also a social state -- the idea being that these people are addicts because they are part of heroin culture, not because they need the drug. They use because their friends use; they use as a diversion from the shitty reality of living on the street; and they use because in their minds they are addicts. However, it is not uncommon for people in these circumstances to stop using abruptly, and without significant consequences. Middle- and upper-class users who use regularly but without developing habits are called chippers and are much less likely to identify as addicts, even if they use as regularly as street users.

Heroin is very, very bad for you.
Actually, there is very little to suggest that heroin per se is harmful. Medically speaking, middle- and upper-class users tend to be in average physical condition. There are documented cases of people with opiate-dependencies spanning decades without significant health problems as a result. There are four ways that heroin users tend to harm themselves, and none of them except overdosing is a direct result of diacetylmorphine itself. They are: overdose (which is vastly less common than popularly thought, but more on that below); adulterant toxicity; malnutrition; and damage caused by needle usage (diseases like HIV and hepatitis, vein damage, etc). Overdose, adulterants, and needle problems are all solvable and for the most part have fairly obvious solutions (which, ironically, the War on Some Drugs discourages). Malnutrition is more a problem for street users than more well off users, and causes most of the physical characteristics associated with "heroin chic" -- emaciation, sunken eyes, etc.

Consider, as well, the use of long-term methadone use as a treatment for heroin addiction. Methadone is a long acting opiate which actually has worse (and longer) withdrawal symptoms than heroin. In maintenance methadone treatment users are given regular doses in order to keep off withdrawal. They effectively substitute one addiction for the other. This treatment can last indefinitely. It's useful because methadone doesn't have the euphoric kick that heroin does, so users are disinclined to elevate doses or dosing intervals. Methadone is otherwise very similar to heroin and other narcotic opiates and body toxicity would make it a poor choice for prolonged treatment (I know this doesn't prove that heroin isn't harmful to the body, but that fact is well documented; I'm just trying to give common sense support to that notion).

Heroin withdrawal is so horrible that a junkie will do anything to avoid it.
While it is true that heroin withdrawal produces shivers, vomiting and cold sweats, short term withdrawal symptoms have been wildy exaggerated in the media. The experience for a hardcore user (someone who is using multiple times a day for months at a time) is likened to a somewhat nasty flu and lasts only 48-72 hours. Many long-term junkies will periodically abstain for a while, choosing to go through withdrawal in order to reduce their tolerance. Others are forced to kick abruptly when their connection dries up, they run out of money, they end up in jail, etc. This withdrawal period is far less intense, uncomfortable or dangerous than alcohol or barbituate withdrawal, which in some settings can kill the user.

There is a long-term withdrawal, lasting 20-40 weeks, however, that many users have a harder time with. Primary symptoms are an increased appetite for sleep and dysthymia (long-term, low grade depression).

However, as mentioned before, heroin use, even regular and long term usage, doesn't immediately imply the presence of these symptoms when a user kicks. And again, a more difficult factor is setting and socialization.

Most people who use heroin eventually overdose and die; they eventually misjudge a dosage and are dead in minutes
There is some documentation to support the notion that heroin purity has gone up, and it is true that this factor makes overdosing more likely. But the popular notion of what happens in a heroin overdose is radically wrong, and though statistics on the matter are hard to come by, it would seem that the majority of deaths attributed to "heroin overdose" are actually a result of one or two other factors.

A heroin overdose causes the respiratory and cardiac systems to slow for a period of 4-6 hours until eventually respiration ceases entirely. For most of this period it is possible to reverse the effects of the overdose by stimulating the central nervous system. This is most effectively done with a drug like naloxone (trade name Narcan) which stimulates the CNS and blocks opiate receptors. However, due to general paranoia about criminal repercussions, many overdoses are either treated late or not at all. It appears that a quarter to a third of I.V. heroin deaths are caused solely from acute morphine intoxication (heroin is metabolized to morphine, which is then responsible for the effects on the body -- it is more powerful than morphine only because it is able to cross the blood-brain barrier much more rapidly).

The other causes of heroin deaths attributed to 'overdose' appear to be quinine intoxication and interaction with other CNS depressants such as alcohol and barbiturates. The incidence of sudden death in heroin users was only reported after 1939, when quinine began appearing as a cut in heroin (possibly as a result of a malaria outbreak among users, though this may be apocryphal). Quinine is also bitter and has a similar texture to heroin, making it a good candidate for an adulterant. Alcohol and barbiturates both have the properties of being cheap and alleviating the discomfort of withdrawal somewhat. Together these explanations seem to cover the two-thirds to three-quarters (some researchers claim the figure is higher and potentially accounts for nearly all heroin deaths). In many 'overdose cases there is little to suggest that the user had taken enough heroin to cause an overdose in even an opiate-naive person. Many of these cases exhibit pulmonary edema and sometimes cerebral edema, which can be explained via the quinine theory. Other studies show that heroin tolerance drops dramatically with the presence of alcohol in the bloodstream, and while barbituates don't seem to show the strength of the drop that alcohol does, any CNS depressant will place the user at higher risk. Sociological studies of heroin users show that most regular users don't drink much while they are using, but those that do undoubtedly put themselves at a far greater risk than nondrinkers.

An assessment of the relationship of the harms outlined above to the manner in which the War on Drugs attempts to control heroin usage isn't very encouraging. The government has fought against needle exchange programs, which are an obvious and well-substantiated way to control the spread of HIV and hepatitis. The emphasis on punishment over treatment means that it is difficult for street addicts (those most likely to be caught in the war) to escape the social setting of other heroin users. And the primary dangers of shooting up -- 'overdose' in it's different guises, can be avoided by giving users easier access to Narcan; by making available methods to clean up heroin of adulterants (a fairly simple process; and what a strange irony that this substance, considered incredibly dangerous, would be considerably less dangerous if it was always pure!); and by educating people about the danger of polydrug abuse. Heroin deaths could drop drastically. Unfortunately the primary mechanism of action in the WOD is to make drugs so dangerous that people won't want to use them; the casualties that come as a result, regardless of how preventable they are, are simply collateral damage that feeds back into the next year's D.A.R.E. statistics handout.

Further information for those interested in reading about how the War on Drugs is killing people:

  • Heroin withdrawal : http://www.heroin-information.org/heroin/pages/how_bad_withdrawal.html
  • Fatal heroin 'overdose': a review : http://www.lindesmith.org/library/darke2.html
  • The heroin problem: an overview : http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/heroin/opiates.htm
  • The "heroin overdose" mystery : http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/Library/studies/cu/cu12.htm
  • Ethanol abuse in the etiology of heroin-related deaths : http://www.hoboes.com/html/Politics/Prohibition/Notes/Heroin-Ethanol_Abuse.html
  • Drug War Facts - Heroin : http://www.drugwarfacts.org/heroin.htm
  • The persistent, Dangerous Myth of the Heroin Overdose : http://www.peele.net/lib/heroinoverdose.html
  • Heroin, Myths and Reality, Jara A. Krivanek
  • The Hardest Drug, John Kaplan
  • Careers in Dope, D. Walden

Its not so difficult to play this little ditty by the Velvet Underground (written by Lou Reed at the age of 19).

You've listened to it a thousand times before, but you might need to listen to it again, closely.

The slow, soft parts go like this:
strum the D chord, pluck string (3) (2) (1)(2)(1)
strum the G chord, pluck string (3) (2) (1) (2)
strum the D chord, pluck string (3) (2) (1 with the pinky on the 3rd fret and then pull off)(2)(1)
strum the G chord, pluck string (3) (2) (1)(2)(1)

The hard parts are just strumming, of course.

And that little break between the verses where the chord pattern breaks and it crescendos in pitch is just sliding the D chord up so the top fingers are on the 7th then 9th fret.

As for the chords, here they are:

       D    G

Songs written by junkies are usually really good. E.G. The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Pink Floyd.

Oh heroin, deliver me from the ugliness of the world. See also the Tao Te Ching

Heroin is the compound diacetyl morphine which, contrary to the node this will lead you to, is a morphine group with two acetyl groups attached. Morphine is the same in structure except the acetyl groups are replaced with hydrogens making the characteristic hydroxyl or OH group. As I lamely tried to show, there is a bridge connecting A and B which consists of two carbons. A is an ordinary carbon, while B is a nitrogen.

              |   \______
                  //    \\
               __//      \\
              /  \        /
             O    \======/            ______
            /     /      \           /      \
           /____A/        \         /        \
          /      \        /        A          B
O==C--O__/        \______/
   |     \        /      \
          \======/        \

As usual with the skeleton structure diagram, the lines have carbons at vertices unless otherwise noted, and the remaining valences must be filled with hydrogen.

The two hydroxyl groups in morphine, and the two acetyl groups in heroin would seem to suggest that a reaction can readily occur with morphine to yield heroin. In fact all one needs to do is add some acetic anhydride(ethanoic anhydride). The OH groups of the morphine combine with the anhydride to yield ethanoic acid and an ester. If this is done with both of morphine's hydroxyl groups, we get heroin.

Both morphine and heroin are said to be good analgesics, but heroin, however, is stronger, and has less of an effect on the respiratory system (which is good). The telltale nausea of morphine is still present though, and heroin is more addictive.

Warning: Do not try this at home unless you have a death wish, an ample supply of methadone, or enjoy being anally raped by fat men named Bubba.


Obtaining raw opium from a poppy plant is something of an art form. The opium base is a latex-like substance that builds up in the pod of the plant after it sheds its flower. To get to the opium, you have to score the surface of the pod, by drawing tiny dotted lines with a sharp knife. This will make the opium slowly ooze out of the pod. You can expect to get about 80mg of opium out of each poppy you score.

This opium base is not pure, though: you will first want to boil it in water and strain out the twigs, stems, and other foreign objects that have worked their way in. Boiling the resultant liquid again, letting the water evaporate, will give you a nice goopy blob of opium that you can either smoke on the spot or continue to process into newer, more exciting narcotics.

"But this node is supposed to be about heroin!" you say. No, sailor, you have to make morphine before you can make heroin. To do this, you need to dissolve the opium you've just refined in another pot of boiling water, and add about one part of lime for every five parts of opium. When the mixture cools, the drugs in the opium will still be dissolved, but the other substances in the opium will solidify as a salt on the bottom. Filter the mixture and throw the solids out.

You now need to heat the solution and add ammonia until the solution reaches a slightly basic state, with a pH of around 8-9 (a pool testing kit helps here). Once the pH reaches the target range, remove the solution from the heat. The morphine and codeine in the solution will solidify as a dark powder on the bottom: filter it out, and throw the water away. Let the powder dry in the sun.

The next step is to dissolve the morphine in about three times as much acetic anhydride over medium heat. Leave it alone for a few hours so that the morphine can completely dissolve. The chemical reactions will leave you with a solution of acetic acid and heroin base, which you dilute with water. Add a shot of chloroform and let the solution sit for about 20 minutes: the chloroform will pull the impurities to the bottom of the pot, and you can pour out the good solution from the top. Add the sodium carbonate to the good solution until it has a fairly neutral pH, filter the neutral mixture through cloth, and set the white grains aside to dry.

You don't have heroin yet, but you're getting close. The last step in the process is to take this powder, dissolve it in ether and alcohol, and slowly add more acid until the solution is converted to a hydrochloric salt. Add more ether and alcohol, and let the salt harden until it becomes pure, street-ready heroin.

Now go spot some trains.

Source: INR 4931 "Drug Trafficking," Florida International University, et al. Whoever said poli sci wasn't useful?

Heroin is a great drug. Most of the negativity associated with it is the result of the fact that it is illegal (illegal things are bad for some reason). Pure heroin is harmless, hell they use it in hospitals in countries which are not the united states. Even in the USA they use morphine in hospitals, the difference between these chemicals: two acetyl groups, as noted above. All things which are used in hospitals are infallible.

So if the chemical itself isn’t the problem, then the problem must be social. Which means humans have a problem integrating this substance into our lives. Or more accurately: society has a problem dealing with the fact of its existence. The government likes to pretend that it is synonymous with society. In trying to come to terms with the existence of heroin the government has taken the approach that it will not deal with the problem, and instead tries to pretend drug addiction isn’t really there and sweep it under the carpet with submachine guns. Obviously, the government doesn’t know how to deal with those things it pretends are its problems. History has shown that you can't hide social problems with guns and jail, instead you run the risk of enriching the arms industry and the illegal drug trade. The eternal conflict which is the war on drugs will continue to be a barrier to society reorienting itself to come to terms with the existence of drugs. Instead conflict itself will continue to sustain the hegemony of power relations within society, while simultaneously ensuring the marginalization and dehumanization of the periphery. Because the fat rich white guy always wins.

This approach has resulted in much of the negativity associated with heroin. Having the buying and selling of heroin simultaneously illegal and in high demand has created this fancy thing called "the black market". Part of the nature of a black market is that things there are grossly overpriced, especially on a money maker like heroin. The high cost coupled with addiction makes people do things for money (or drugs) they wouldn’t normally do, like: sell their cars, not pay bills, not buy food for their children, rob banks, prostitute themselves, and the all the other things they tell you drugs will make you do. The black market makes drug dealers, terrorists and organized crime types RICH. As well as providing a good source of income and incarceration to some of the poorest Americans. Thanks Uncle Sam!

Black markets have another neat aspect: no oversight. This means that there is no guarantee of purity or safety of the product. You could be buying rat poison for all you know, thankfully, most dealers are not that stupid and realize that killing they’re customers is stupid and unprofitable. However, most dealers do cut drugs with something. Stretching out the product with baking soda is an easy way to make a profit. For regular heroin users, it is usually easy to spot a pattern. Heroin comes in bags, and bags are labeled by different brands (e.g. lightning, thug life, ill be back, bin laden, top gun, hot shots). Bags are purist when they first come out. The longer a brand has been out on the market the less pure (and the less full) it is likely to be; as the dealer stretches out his supply until the next shipment comes in. Sometimes, brands repeat themselves, or you get a new dealer, you’ve been out of town, or something screws up. And when the bags should be low in purity, unknown to the user it is actually kinda high. When this happens, people overdose. When junkies read about overdoses in the paper, they try to find out where they can get that stuff. Of course, this scenario only happens because the government lets it. It would be as if every 20th car in the show room blew up on the drive home. The government thinks that it can't allow this to happen, but dead impoverished drug addicts is OK.

Users of heroin may become dependent. This isn’t so bad, honestly. It can be kinda fun, if you want it. If you don’t, then you shouldn’t do heroin, kinda simple. The thing is, using heroin creates a chemical dependency, which is only bad if it interferes with "normal" life; for example: your archetypical dope fiend. When this happens, psychologists call this "addiction". Addiction is a purely psychological phenomena, that is, it is entirely socially constructed. Most of the bad things about heroin are the result of addiction to the drug. Yet, the addiction itself arises out of the context which is created by the prohibition and criminalization of heroin use itself. Without prohibition, most heroin addicts would be chemically dependent. Akin to diabetics, AIDS patients, or old people.

One can function fine on heroin. A user would be a little slower and more mellow, but in a world where everyone is complaining about stress I can't see how that could be bad. Your co-worker could be a heroin addict, you wouldn't even know unless they just shot up. Immediately after a heroin injection depending on the quality, the user may be in a stupor for a few minutes. This doesn't last long and is extremely euphoric, the eye sight may be blurred and body movement a tad sloppy. Within 20 minutes or so the user is functional and euphoric for several hours.

Everyone would be better off if people would stop being so stupid. If you don't like heroin then don't use it. If you like heroin and want to use it, then do it. It's that simple. This situation is happening RIGHT NOW, the difference being that people who don't like heroin hate looking at people who do. So they shoot them and put them in giant cages, consequently ensuring future demand for the drug by engineering jobless poverty. That's pretty dumb. You can’t have poor people unless the rich are afraid of them.

It is unfortunate that the song 'Heroin', by the Velvet Underground, is called just that. I've heard it said that it was written by Lou Reed at the age of 19, and it is certainly strange that a song that can touch so well on so many general and specific points of the human condition should be written by one so young, and so illiterate.

The song could have been written, and been as famous as it was, without mention of heroin. It has given it a great deal of fame, or infamy, but the discussion of nilhism would have been just as meaningful if it was called "Heading for the Kingdom", or something of the sort. In many ways, I must compare this song to the songs of The Pixies. Many Pixies songs contain just this strong of images, of messages, without ever giving the listener an obvious hook to distract them from that message, to fix it falsely in their head.

Heroin to me, is a song about a royal system. The line about "heading for the kingdom" is not coincidence, neither is the line about "being Jesus' son", and the blood is not the blood that carries the heroin to his brain, but the blood that carries the sacred lineage of the ancestor king. The system of royalty, which turns people into subjects instead of citizens, makes people the passive subjects of whatever happens to them, makes them consent to whatever happens, emerging them in an ouroboric reality, where nothing matters but the continued cycle of royal whims, or of heroin addiction. It takes away the responsibility to think, and to care. Perhaps heroin can make people forget the bodies piled up in mounds, but for most people, the narrative of national conquest works much better.

The line about "Jesus' son" may seem a bit odd, and is in fact jarring, but it should be remembered that in some countries today, being a descendant of a mythic god-ancestor is the only way to be a member of that society. And being on a personal mission to accomplish God's kingdom on Earth has caused more abdication of moral thinking than a crippiling physical addiction ever could.

I do not at all mean that this should be seen as a literal interpretation of what a dumb teenager dreamed up in his mind one day, but in not being literal, or directly connected, it becomes all the more true.

The History of Legal Heroin

The subject of heroin is one about which few people seem to have a neutral opinion. There are many reasons for this and it is not difficult to find any number of examples as to why. What is not a matter of opinion, however, is the fact that heroin is illegal to sell, possess, or prescribe in the United States and in most other industrialized nations in the world. Conversely, it is also a matter of fact that heroin was at one time perfectly legal in the United States. Because I am not entirely familiar with the specific circumstances surrounding the legalization and subsequent outlawing of heroin in other countries, I will primarily confine my discussion to the brief but powerful stint of legal heroin in the United States.

As we are all aware, heroin is a derivative of morphine, which is in turn a derivative of opium. Morphine rose to prominence on the North American continent during the American Civil War as a general anesthetic used during operations (usually amputations) on wounded soldiers on both sides of the battlefield. After the war, this inadvertently created a new class of morphine addicts. In or around 1874, an English chemist by the name of C.R. Wright mixed morphine and acetic anhydride together and then boiled the solution. Wright called the compound diacetylmorphine, and most estimates placed its potency as being around 10 times that of regular morphine. Initial tests apparently determined that diacetylmorphine lacked the addictive qualities of its less potent forebearer.

In the late 1890s, a man by the name of Heinrich Dreser working for the German pharmaceutical company Bayer decided that diacetylmorphine would be a medical -- and perhaps more importantly, commercial -- success and began synthesizing it. Some of Bayer's early test subjects described the feeling that diacetylmorphine gave them as having an "heroic" quality*. Dreser therefore recommended that diacetylmorphine be marketed under the brand name Heroin. Dreser was a very important figure at Bayer, and his word was the law. Dreser determined what got made and what didn't and it was a very rare occurrence indeed when he did not get his way. In addition to getting his way about the production of Heroin, it was around this time that he also got his way in the rejection of another drug submitted to him. The drug he dismissed as having "no value" was a compound known as acetylsalicylic acid. Generally speaking, we now call this compound aspirin.

Herr Dreser now had a problem: he knew that heroin did something, but what exactly did it do? Among other things, heroin depresses respiration and sedates the user. Dreser was a shrewd salesman above all else and realized that these two properties made heroin an effective and attractive cough suppressant. Bayer therefore began an aggressive marketing campaign in Europe and in the United States to sell physicians and other manufacturers on the wonders of heroin, particularly in the context of the battle against diseases like tuberculosis.

It worked.

The medical community in America was almost immediately taken with heroin and it soon became an incredibly popular additive to many types of drugs. Although it was most commonly used for its stated purpose (a cough suppressant), it was also used as a method for curing morphine addiction, especially among Civil War veterans. After all, it was a scientifically-proven fact that heroin was not possessed of any addictive qualities and that it was therefore superior to morphine. Predictably, it did not take long for many of these morphine addicts to become heroin addicts. Somewhat more predictably, people who had hitherto never been addicted to anything became addicted to heroin by using certain types of lozenges and cough syrups. As you can probably imagine, this did not bode well for heroin's future as a legitimate drug and it certainly did not bode well for Bayer as a commercial entity or more specifically for Heinrich Dreser. Or so it would seem.

In addition to being a shrewd salesman, Herr Dreser was also a smart gambler. You see, the reason he gave for initially rejecting acetylsalicylic acid -- that it had the potential to weaken the heart and that it was without medical merit -- was not really the truth. The real reason Dreser rejected ASA had to do with his concern that promoting it might have had the unforseen effect of forcing heroin -- his pet project -- to compete with aspirin. After heroin became relatively well-established, Dreser authorized the production and subsequent marketing of aspirin. And then, after it became obvious that heroin was causing more problems than it was solving and in light of the hostility that medical experts in the United States and Europe were beginning to develop towards heroin, Dreser had Bayer refocus its marketing prowess behind aspirin.

In 1906, the American Medical Association released a report that reaffirmed heroin's status as an acceptable medical drug, but noted rather belatedly for the first time that heroin had the potential to be addicting. Seven years later, with aspirin doing extremely well and more than making up for lagging heroin sales, Bayer ended its production of heroin. In 1914, heroin was banned in the United States without a prescription. In 1919, it was made illegal for doctors to prescribe heroin to those addicted to it. In 1924, the production, sale, possession, and prescription of heroin was outlawed altogether. Many countries had already done this before 1924 and most of those that hadn't did so not too long afterwards. Somewhat coincidentally, 1924 is also the year in which the obscenely wealthy Heinrich Dreser died from a stroke.

*: http://www.bbc.co.uk/crime/drugs/heroin.shtml ;
http://www.recovery.org.uk/druginfo/heroin.html ;

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