Perhaps not everyone knows William Burroughs, who wrote about experiences with drugs, especially interesting because they relate to the 1950s, at a time when addiction was a problem for adults (including many doctors).
In “The monkey on the back”, the news that the Government was taking an aggressive interest in the problem for the growing cases among the boys and perceived as fake news, impossible: what drug dealer would want a boy as a customer: without money, with parents ready to sue anyone who sells them drugs, and easy to crack once arrested
The drug dealersthey are not a rich entrepreneurial category, but mostly drug addicts who periodically try to support themselves, without too much success. It is like a “social” function within the drug addict community, from which a drug addict does not expect to earn, but to have drugs available.
Another world, compared to the present day when the age of addiction is lowered to early adolescence, young people with a lot of money in their pockets and parents ready to cover their debts are golden customers; and drug dealers are, in poor neighborhoods but also among “good” young people, models of social success and easy money.
These are some of the notes of the period, which help to consider drug addiction without false clichés related to the historical moment. “The monkey on the back” (Junkie) also has a scientific-popular value.
In the concluding chapter, de Burroughs explains drug addiction, and discreetly, better than many contemporary textbooks. Some contradictions and still some residues of bogus concepts, but some surprising ideas, as they coincide with the scientific discoveries that will soon accumulate.
He affirms that drug addiction is a disease that is acquired, as if from a “germ”, from drugs, and that the addict does not exist as a personality, which therefore expresses itself through addiction. There is no reason outside of drug addiction, reason is in its mechanism, and its mechanism derives from the action of opium. Opium passes and passes through the brain, and generates a kind of “parasite” that guides the brain towards opium.
Being drug-free, you do nothing but starve it, but it doesn’t eradicate it. The parasite “has established itself in areas it prefers” (areas with heroin receptors that mediate the sense of fulfillment), requires morphine simply “to exist”, so it is only a source of desire for morphine, which does not it is good for the organism but for the parasite, which keeps it that way. The parasite also makes sure that if heroin does not arrive, an acute malaise develops, which causes the craving for heroin (abstinence) to escalate.
Burroughs also says that the addict’s personality is simply a mirror of his addiction, and not the other way around. The particularities that may exist in those who will become drug addicts are not fundamental, on the contrary they could be the same that characterize those who will catch malaria.
This actually results: from personality studies it appears that drug addicts are more often cyclothymics, but cyclothymia is also the basis of personality that predisposes, for example, to contracting infectious sexually transmitted diseases (HIV).
Drug addiction and therefore an “after”: a disease that you take. He defines it as “a sensitivity to drugs that is maintained throughout life”: in fact the only final difference even in the drug addict treated is that he can no longer freely manage heroin, that is, once his brain he feels it “spends” it in a way that leads to addiction.
More than once she gets angry at the doctors’ expression “because she needs heroin
“, because he believes that this” necessity “is simply the expression of a distortion caused to the brain by heroin used for a certain period, and not a real necessity. No weakness of soul, moral vice, simply an acquired anomaly that is expressed as such.
A recurring contradiction in Burroughs’ analysis and when he states that drug addict “needs a lot of heroin to be well”, whereas before he could also be fine without it. This is a misconception with withdrawal malaise, which is transient and creates no real bond. The parasite requires heroin, but as a parasite when it has it it does not benefit the organism, rather it grows at the expense of the organism: the addiction is not in equilibrium with the brain, and a self-destructive mechanism which therefore does not correspond only to a new balance that requires a certain amount of heroin, but to a mechanism in which the influx of substance generates even more addiction, with the added discomfort of abstinence, at times, to give the torment.
The addict craves heroin, but when she has it she is not at all well: heroin marks the way to her psychic deterioration and on the level of personal happiness. The paradox develops from a first phase in which heroin actually adds pleasure and satisfaction, but then a “madness” occurs, which Burroughs most often calls addiction, with a meaning that is perhaps affected by the translation: the English term ” addiction ”does not have the same meaning of addiction but rather of slavery, a priority bond that the person would like to get rid of but cannot.
Another incorrect idea is that the drug induces addiction (addiction yes) taken in any way: the route of intake is crucial to determine the binding power and the speed with which one comes to lose control. This happens because it changes how quickly the substance reaches the brain (maximum for inhalation or intravenous administration, minimum for ingestion or controlled-release medicines).

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