The Drug Experience: Heroin, Part 3

In the last Briefing, we started to describe the experiences of people whose lives are seriously affected by heroin. The experiences are based on those described in the seminal book Beating the Dragon: The Recovery from Dependent Drug Use by James McIntosh and Neil McKeganey, and our own research with clients on the Peterborough Nene Drug Interventions Programme.

The recognition by individuals that they are addicted to, or dependent on, heroin can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months or even years, depending upon the amount of drug being used, the frequency with which it was being taken, and the person’s ability to fund their habit.

For the majority of individuals in each of the above research studies, the recognition that they were addicted usually came from the experience of withdrawal symptoms which arose when they purposefully attempted to stop using the drug, or through not having heroin available. The most common reason for being deprived of heroin is a lack of money to purchase the drug.

These withdrawal symptoms disappeared when heroin was used again. Some people are actually surprised to find that they actually needed heroin to function normally. They were no longer in control of their drug-taking; rather, it was controlling them.

These withdrawal symptoms included stomach cramps, vomiting and retching, muscle pains, the shakes, hot and cold spells, and headaches. Some people experience considerable discomfort and pain, and seek out the drug to escape or avoid this discomfort and pain.

The authors of Beating the Dragon: The Recovery from Dependent Drug Use describe Michael’s experience, who was taken to prison at a time of his drug-using career that he had never experienced withdrawal, and never considered the possibility that he might be addicted to the drug.

Once he started to experience withdrawal in the police cell, Michael started to ask for help believing that there was something wrong with him. The policeman knew what was wrong and asked, ‘Did your pals not tell you this?’

Michael continued:

‘But, as soon as I got out next day, I went straight for a hit and that was me, within seconds I was brand-new again. So that was me, I wasn’t usin’ it for fun anymore, I was usin’ it ‘cos I had to use it.’

Being deprived of the heroin they are using, for whatever reason, is absolutely fundamental to an individual’s realisation that they are addicted to heroin. In the absence of such enforced abstinence, and its physical consequences, it is possible for a person to maintain a belief that whilst they are using heroin they are doing so out of choice, rather than because they are dependent on the drug.

Heroin users will say that, apart from the experiences associated with withdrawal, there is little to indicate that they have become addicted to the drug.

“There’s no sign that says, ‘you’re now entering addiction’, there’s no big sign that says, ‘you’ll need to stop now, if you go once more that’s you’. You just cross that line and you don’t realise you’ve crossed it until you try to stop. I didn’t think about withdrawal symptoms or anything like that ‘cos I always had access to money.” (from Beating the Dragon: The Recovery from Dependent Drug Use)

When heroin users realise that they addicted to the drug, they respond in a number of ways. Some accept that they are addicted to the drug, but decide not to do anything about it at this time as they are enjoying using heroin and/or the drug-using lifestyle. They are also able to fund their habit.

Other users do not want to continue using the drug, but they soon discover that it is not just a simple case of stopping. This becomes a difficult and often emotional time as they realise that they have no choice. They have to continue using the drug to avoid the physical symptoms of withdrawal.

Some of our interviewees described becoming depressed, others either considered or tried to commit suicide.

Many heroin users point out that they reached a time where they no longer experienced pleasurable effects of the drug. They continue to take it just to feel ‘normal. Some say that they never really experience the same effect as those first few times that they injected or smoked heroin.

Sometimes, family members or friends inform the heroin user that they believe that they have a drug problem. This appears to happen less frequently than one might expect. This may be because heroin users hide their habit well from their families, or because the family members choose to deny that there is a problem or simply ignore it.

When the issue is first raised, the heroin user usually denies that there is a problem. As long as they can sustain their habit and avoid the distress of withdrawal, they can maintain the belief that they are in control.

Irrespective of whether heroin addicts regard their addiction as a problem or not, once they become dependent their lives become dominated by the need to feed their habit and to secure the means of doing so. In our next Briefing, we will focus on living with addiction.

Recommended Reading:

Beating the Dragon: The Recovery from Dependent Drug Use by James McIntosh and Neil McKeganey, Prentice Hall, 2002.

The Heroin Users by Tam Stewart, Oram Press, 1996.

Using Heroin, Trying to Stop and Accessing Treatment by Aimee Hopkins and David Clark, 2005.

> pdf document

> To be continued.

The Drug Experience: Heroin, Part 2

Heroin can have a devastating effect on human lives, although as we described in the last Briefing, evidence indicates that it has this impact on only a minority of people who first try the drug.

In this Briefing, we start to describe the experiences of people whose lives are seriously affected by heroin. The experiences are based on those described in the seminal book Beating the Dragon: The Recovery from Dependent Drug Use by James McIntosh and Neil McKeganey, and our own research with clients on the Peterborough Nene Drug Interventions Programme.

The majority of people in these studies committed crimes to fund their heroin habits. In fact, the Peterborough project recruited many of the highest-level offenders in Peterborough. However, it must be emphasised that this does not mean that all people who take heroin commit crimes.

Many people who use heroin describe a steady progression from use of legal substances (alcohol, solvents), through to softer drugs such as cannabis and then on to heroin.

The most frequently cited reasons for trying heroin are curiosity and a desire to comply with the expectations of others, particularly of a peer group. However, there is little indication that heroin users are pressurised to take the drug for the first time—the vast majority feel that they have made their own decision.

However, this decision is often not well-informed. Many of our interviewees emphasised that they were naïve about the effects of heroin before they first tried the drug. Some believed that it was no worse than other drugs; others were not even aware that they were trying heroin.

Some people admit to not thinking about the consequences of their actions, and in fact do not think much about their drug use at all. Many others, when they first start taking heroin, are confident that they will not become addicted. A common belief is that:

‘… addiction is not something that could happen to me; it happens to other people.’

Many of our interviewees discussed the ease of availability and frequent exposure to various substances, including heroin. Drugs were rife on the housing estates in Peterborough on which some of our interviewees had been brought up.

Many people who first try heroin will say that they experienced a feeling of great relaxation and detachment from the outside world. They may feel drowsy, experience a clouding of mental functioning, and feelings of warmth (from dilation of blood vessels). They may also experience feelings of euphoria, particularly after intravenous injection. Heroin also reduces anxiety and emotional pain—it helps people escape from reality.

There is a reduction in respiration, heat rate and pupil size. Many first-time users feel sick and vomit, although this vomiting is often not enough to stop them using again, as the pleasurable effects far outweigh this negative side effect. This vomiting subsides in many people after the first few experiences of heroin.

Many first-time users try the drug again because they enjoyed the first experience. Others, some of whom may even have had a bad initial experience, continue taking the drug because they remain in the same social circles that led them to their first use.

Some people very rapidly move towards daily use of the drug, whilst others may continue to use on a periodic basis over a period of weeks or months. Our Peterborough sample, whose lives were badly affected by heroin, all ended up using the drug daily.

Heroin users develop a tolerance to the drug, such that increasing amounts of the drug must be taken in order to achieve the same positive effects. This tolerance results in the drug habit becoming more costly.  Some users will shift from smoking heroin to injecting the drug because the same effects can be achieved with much smaller amounts of the drug.

They may also start injecting drug as part of a continued desire to experiment and to find new “highs”. As part of this process of finding new “highs”, some people use multiple drugs, sometimes at the same time. Use of benzodiazepines, legally and illegally obtained, is common amongst heroin users.

Many heroin users recognise the decision to inject as having been a significant step in their drug using career. Injecting is an invasive process that heightens the risk of overdose and introduces additional risks such as contracting hepatitis C, HIV and other blood-borne infections.

Often, these are not the factors that make people reluctant to start injecting. Rather, they appear to be apprehensive about the actual process of injecting. Many users have a fear of injections and, of course, generally people do not know how to inject. Other users help first-time injectors and continue to do so until the latter person feels confident in the process.

There are variations in individuals’ experiences when they first inject heroin. Many people experience a pronounced euphoria almost immediately after injection. Other people do not experience this rush, whilst others report feeling very ill.

However, many of those who initially have negative experiences continue to persevere taking the drug and eventually became intravenous drug users.

In our next Briefing, we will continue to look at the experiences of those people whose lives are seriously affected by heroin, focusing first on the withdrawal syndrome.

Recommended Reading:

Beating the Dragon: The Recovery from Dependent Drug Use by James McIntosh and Neil McKeganey, Prentice Hall, 2002.

The Heroin Users by Tam Stewart, Oram Press, 1996.

Using Heroin, Trying to Stop and Accessing Treatment by Aimee Hopkins and David Clark, 2005.

> pdf document

> Part 3

The Drug Experience: Heroin, Part 1

Heroin is the illegal drug that has the worst reputation. The popular press never tires of informing us of new ‘heroin deaths’. Government considers heroin to be the cause for much of the acquisitive crime that occurs within the UK. Local officials will often ignore heroin problems in the community because of the stigma associated with the drug.

Heroin is also the drug of which myths are made. In their book Heroin Century – Heroin Addiction Care and Control: The British System 1916-1984, Tom Carnworth and Ian Smith point out that no drug has been subject to more misinformation and moral panic.

Here is a drug that is pilloried on the one hand, and yet is used [diamorphine] in the UK without controversy to treat severe and intractable pain, such as that arising from illnesses such as cancer.

It is a drug that is so controversial that when two Scottish researchers published a paper that identified 126 long-term heroin users in Glasgow who were not experiencing the health and social problems normally associated with the drug, there was an outcry from certain circles. Some people considered it irresponsible that such research was published.

In one sense, the first part of the title of this Background Briefing is misleading: ‘The drug experience…’ There is, of course, no single drug experience, rather a multitude of experiences. It is important to emphasise this point, particularly when considering a drug as controversial as heroin.

Heroin has terrible long-term consequences for some people who try the drug. They become addicted to, or dependent on heroin, and experience withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. They reach a point where the drug is more important to them than anything else. They need it on a daily basis in order to function normally.

Their addiction to heroin has many repercussions, which can include a deterioration in their physical and mental health, breakdown of family relationships, loss of employment, housing and material possessions, and participation in criminal offences to fund their habit. They risk overdose, as well as catching blood-borne viruses, such as hepatitis C or HIV, from sharing needles and syringes.

However, only a small minority of people of people who try heroin take this drastic path.

This is clearly evident from statistical data from the US National Household Survey. The vast majority of people who try heroin do not become addicts. This fact is evidenced by findings from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use & Health in the US showing that approximately 1.9% of Americans aged 12 years or older have ever used heroin. In the same survey, the percentage using heroin in the last 30 days was 0.2%. Therefore, about 89.5% of people who have tried heroin at some time in their lives have not used it during the past month, i.e. i.e. they were not using heroin in an addictive manner.

It is easy to consider drug effects in a simplistic, physiologically pre-determined fashion. However, as we have discussed in various Briefings, the subjective effects of drugs are determined by drug, set (e.g. a person’s personality, expectancies, emotional state) and setting (the physical and social setting in which drug use takes place). This fact is no less relevant to heroin, than to other drugs that are considered less dangerous.

Whilst some people experience great difficulty in stopping use of heroin, I have previously described a large-scale study which showed that the vast majority of American soldiers who were addicted to heroin in Vietnam, did not show addictive behaviour in the twelve months following their return to the US.

If we are to understand the factors that underlie problematic drug use and addiction, and help people recover so that they can lead healthy lives, then we need to look at the lives of people who use heroin, (and stop or try to stop using the drug). Ethnographic studies dating back to the work of Robert Park and his colleagues in the US in the 1920s have provided important insights.

Chuck Faupel (1991), on the basis of interviews with heroin users in Delaware, talked in terms of heroin ‘careers’. He described a career as, ‘a series of meaningful related statuses, roles and activities around which an individual organises some aspect of his or her life.’

Faupel provided a chart of four common patterns of heroin use which depended on two key elements: the availability of the drug and the underlying structure of the user’s life. Structure was considered as a function of the regularity of social networks and patterns of behaviour.

Four types of user were described by Faupel: the occasional user, the stable user, the free-wheeling user and the ‘street junkie’.

The street junkie is the type of user most described by the popular press, the one that most people perceive as being the ‘typical’ heroin user. The street junkie is the most visible heroin user—and the one most likely to attend treatment services.

The most common route into ‘junkiehood’ is through lack of life structure. Many people who become street junkies do not have a life structured around conventional jobs and activities, and do not have a commitment to a conventional personal identity, factors which can help keep drug use under control. They commonly lack adequate funds to purchase heroin. In fact, many of these people have had bad life experiences (e.g. social deprivation, long-term unemployment, sexual abuse) before they started taking heroin.

In our next Briefing, we will look at the heroin experience from the perspective of people of whose lives have been seriously affected.

NB. That the statistics relating to heroin use shown in the Background Briefing linked to below have been updated here.

Recommended Reading:

Heroin Century – Heroin Addiction Care and Control: The British System 1916-1984 by Tom Carnwath and Ian Smith, Routledge, 2002.

> pdf document

> Part 2

The Drug Experience: Cocaine, Part 3

Dan Waldorf and colleagues were ‘pleasantly surprised’ by the relative ease with which so many cocaine users managed to quit. Their research emphasises the importance of one’s personal and social identity in influencing drug use. (895 words)


In the last two Briefings, we focused on the most comprehensive ethnographic study of heavy cocaine users, conducted by Dan Waldorf and colleagues in Northern California. They interviewed 267 current and former heavy users of cocaine, a sample that did not include people in treatment programmes or in prison. Most of the respondents were ‘solidly working- or middle-class, fairly well-educated, and steadily employed.’

This research challenged many of the prevailing myths. In the present Briefing, we look at the process of giving up use of cocaine. Waldorf and colleagues interviewed 106 quitters—30 of these had received some form of treatment, whilst 76 stopped using cocaine without treatment.

When respondents were given a list of personal reasons for quitting, the most common (47% of sample) was given as health problems. The next most cited reasons were financial problems (41%), work problems (36%) and pressure from spouse and/or lover (36%). Only 7% cited actual arrest, although 28% cited fear of arrest as a reason for quitting.

Respondents were also given an open-ended summary question on the most important reason or reasons to quit. A total of 61% mentioned some form of psychological problem or stressful state caused by cocaine as the most important reason to quit. The next most common reasons were financial problems (23%), and severe or recurrent health problems or concerns (19%).

There was great diversity in actions that respondents took to quit using cocaine. Some made a number of attempts to stop before they actually succeeded. They despaired over the hold the drug had over them and had great difficulty in maintaining a resolve to stop using.

However, over a half of the sample stopped using on their first try, although this was not always easy. Two-thirds of the untreated cases stopped on their first attempt, whilst only one in five of treated cases did so.

More than 40% of all quitters reported making some sort of geographic move as part of their successful attempt to quit. Two-thirds of these people said they moved to another city or state, at least in part to help them stay away from cocaine.

The most frequently used strategies for stopping to use cocaine were social avoidance strategies. Nearly two-thirds of the quitters said they had stopped going to places where cocaine was being used, or had made conscious efforts to avoid seeing cocaine-using friends. Over 40% had also sought out new friends who did not use cocaine.

More than 75% of the sample became more concerned about their physical health whilst quitting, and acted upon these concerns. Two-thirds improved their eating habits, and a half undertook new programmes of physical conditioning.

Over half of the quitters sought out new interests, with 39% participating in sports to help them avoid using cocaine. Similarly, 55% of the sample used informal help, such as family or friends, to stop using cocaine.

Only 17% of the sample started using other drugs after quitting cocaine. Of those that did, the majority used only marijuana, which almost all had used before and during their cocaine use. Whilst 21% drank more alcohol, most drank less after giving up cocaine.

Most of this diverse sample had used cocaine heavily for a good number of years—but few were ever merely cocaine abusers. Moreover, their use had not led them to becoming stigmatised. The majority worked regularly, maintained homes, and were responsible citizens:

‘… a commitment to their everyday lives gave them a stake in normalcy and bonded them to the conventional world.’

The sample were different to heroin addicts in other studies, many of whom came from disadvantaged backgrounds, had been criminalised and stigmatised, and had few private resources (e.g. education, jobs).

For many of the present sample, prolonged use of cocaine stopped being fun and started disrupting, rather than enhancing, everyday lives. Since these lives had meaning and value, the difficulties caused by cocaine became powerful spurs for cessation.

The researchers were ‘pleasantly surprised’ by the relative ease with which so many cocaine users managed to quit. Their strategies were in general fairly common-sensical social avoidance strategies, designed simply to put distance between themselves and the drug.

Most of the quitters were able to manage the cravings they experienced after stopping cocaine use. They realised that cravings were only transitory—distractions caused them to subside. New interests and activities provided such distractions. Many quitters found cravings:

‘… little different from yearnings one might feel for an old lover – one feels the desire, but with time it subsides and one thinks of him or her less and less.’

These findings emphasise the importance of one’s personal and social identity in influencing drug use. A commitment to a conventional identity and everyday life helps form the social-psychological and social-organizational context within which control and cessation of drug use is possible.

It is commonly stated that drugs come to dominate identities and lives. This was true in the most problematic cases in the Waldorf study.  However, for the bulk of the sample, identities and lives usually dominated drug use. This is a critical fact that must be remembered when we try to help people overcome problems caused by drugs and alcohol.

Recommended reading:

Cocaine Changes: The Experience of Using and Quitting by Dan Waldorf, Craig Reinarman and Sheigla Murphy. Temple University Press, USA.

> pdf document

The Drug Experience: Cocaine, Part 2

While cocaine is portrayed as having a very high addiction potential, the majority of people who use the drug do not have a problem. Research by Dan Waldorf and colleagues reveals a number of social and social psychological factors that influence how a person uses a drug. (887 words)


Cocaine is often portrayed as having a very high addiction potential, and that most people who use it are risking serious physiological and psychological harm. Whilst some cocaine users do develop difficulties, the majority do not.

The most comprehensive ethnographic study of heavy cocaine users was conducted by Dan Waldorf and colleagues in Northern California. They interviewed 267 current and former heavy users of cocaine, a sample that did not include people in treatment programmes or in prison. Most of the respondents were ‘solidly working- or middle-class, fairly well-educated, and steadily employed.’

These researchers showed that about a half of interviewees maintained a controlled pattern of cocaine use, some of them for even up to a decade. According to Waldorf, controlled use can be defined as either, ‘regular ingestion without escalation to abuse or addiction, and without disruption of daily social functioning’, or ‘a pattern in which users do not ingest more than they want to and which does not result in any dysfunction in the roles and responsibilities of daily life.’

Based on their observations, Waldorf and colleagues described the ideal type of controlled users:

  • ‘Controlled users tended to be people who did not use cocaine to help them manage pre-existing psychological problems, and did not also abuse other drugs, especially alcohol.
  • Controlled users generally had a multiplicity of meaningful roles which gave them a positive identity and a stake in conventional life (e.g., secure employment, homes, families). Both of these anchored them against drifting toward a drug-centered life.
  • Controlled users, perhaps because they are more anchored in meaningful lives and identities, were more often able to develop, and stick to, rules, routines, and rituals that helped them limit their cocaine use to specific times, places, occasions, amounts, or spheres of activity.’

This research suggests that a stake in conventional life and identity are central for understanding continued controlled use. Such stakes seem to keep a person’s drug use from overtaking their life and identity. They also facilitate an individual reasserting control after a period of problematic use (I will discuss this issue in a later Briefing).

The fact that these social and social psychological factors mitigate against cocaine misuse and related problems suggests that not everyone need develop a problem with cocaine, even when using heavily as this population was.

At the same time, it follows that those people with the least stake in conventional life may be at the highest risk for problematic cocaine use. Cocaine, and in particular crack, have had a marked impact in poor neighbourhoods, causing problems to many individuals and communities.

Obviously, these forms of social control are not fool-proof for maintaining controlled use. Some people with a large investment in conventional life did lose control of their cocaine use and develop serious problems. Waldorf and colleagues report that:

‘… after scouring our other interview transcripts, we could not put our fingers on any one magical ‘factor X’ that explained why some people get into trouble and others did not.’

Other researchers in the US and other countries have reported controlled use of cocaine by a significant proportion of users (see Decorte, 2000 for review).

Waldorf and colleagues recognise that some well-intentioned parents and policy makers might not want to broadcast findings about controlled use for fear of facilitating the denial of some misusers or increasing the risks for some new users.

However, they contend that the:

‘… considerable possibilities for exercising control over cocaine use can be seen as cultural resources that can facilitate personal capacities for control and social capabilities for harm reduction.’

The researchers made the very good point that if the only frameworks in society for interpreting one’s drug-using behaviour are addiction and abstinence, then the idea that one can and should exercise control can atrophy. The interviews revealed that one important reason that control was possible for so many of the participants was that they believed that it was possible. They believed that cocaine was ‘not necessarily addicting, that it could and should be used in a controlled fashion.’

Whilst cocaine is often portrayed as a powerful reinforcing psychoactive drug, we sadly do not often hear that its powers are also mediated by users’ norms, values, practices, and circumstances. We underestimate the powers of social, social psychological and cultural aspects, whilst overestimating the pharmacological power of the drug.

Waldorf and colleagues point out that heavy cocaine users have taught us:

‘… that beyond the drug itself, how users think about and behave towards drugs matters a great deal. Cultural norms matter. Subcultural practices matter. How closely we look out for each other matters. The uses to which we put consciousness-altering substances matters. The personal and social resources of users matter. The values placed on productive daily lives matters. And, of course, the social distribution of opportunities for productive lives matters…’

Recommended reading:

Cocaine Changes: The Experience of Using and Quitting by Dan Waldorf, Craig Reinarman and Sheigla Murphy. Temple University Press, USA.

The Taming of Cocaine: Cocaine Use in European and American cities by Tom Decorte. VUB University Press, Belgium.

> pdf document

> Part 3

The Drug Experience: Cocaine, Part 1

Exploring the dynamic world of heavy cocaine use as revealed in a provocative, high-quality study by Dan Waldorf and colleagues. This research, conducted in the US in the 1980s, challenged many of the prevailing myths about cocaine. (875 words)


There is a good deal of misinformation about cocaine, which does little to help society tackle the problems that excess use of this drug can produce.

In their book Cocaine Changes: The Experience of Using and Quitting, Dan Waldorf and his colleagues state that they set out to study cocaine users and present their world as they see it, without making moral judgements about the drug-using behaviours.

The research involved interviewing 267 current and former heavy users of cocaine from Northern California. The sample did not include people in treatment programmes or in prison, as is common in other research. Most of the respondents were ‘solidly working- or middle-class, fairly well-educated, and steadily employed.’

Nearly all the respondents first tried cocaine when it was offered by a trusted friend. Many of the sample reported that they did not get high the first time they snorted cocaine. They had to learn both to experience and then to appreciate the subtle euphoric effects of the drug.

The majority of respondents increased their use gradually—there was no uniform progression or pattern. The slow escalation was likely due in part to the general greater availability of the drug. Two other factors were often cited as contributing to escalating use: a slow increase in tolerance for the drug, and the seductive and insidious nature of the drug itself.

The tolerance reported with cocaine appeared to be somewhat different to that observed with opiates. Whilst some users reported increasing their doses of drug, they did not generally report decreased effects of the same dose. Rather than needing more of the drug to get the same effect, they reported wanting the same effect again and again.

Many participants ‘… agreed that cocaine’s euphoric effects offered not only a sense of well-being, but a feeling of mastery or power that was so reinforcing it often led them to use more frequently than they planned or expected.’

The researchers described four relatively discrete patterns of use. Hogs showed a consistent, very heavy daily use. This pattern of use caused more dramatic effects, greater compulsion, as well as marked painful ‘comedowns’ and depression.

Nippers used regularly, often every day, but only in relatively small amounts. These users kept their drug use subordinated to work and family responsibilities, and often avoided the negative effects associated with heavy use.

Bingers used cocaine heavily and then lay off the drug for days or weeks. Use was often constrained by personal finances or by prolonged negative effects. Some bingers found their binges getting longer and longer. Ceremonial or occasional users used the drug on special social occasions.

The researchers reported a considerable movement by individuals from one form of use to another. Although some users followed a downward spiral from experimental use to addiction, as many others nipped and then binged and then nipped again. Others moved from heavy binge use or sustained abuse to ceremonial use.

One striking aspect of the study was the proportion of people who used the drug on a controlled basis—approximately 50%.

Long-term daily use of cocaine or regular heavy binges often led to problems. The most frequently mentioned were nasal irritations, insomnia, paranoia, strained relationships with wife or husband, depleted savings, hangover days at work, and periodic sexual difficulties. The most frequent and severe problems were reported by the heaviest users.

Some of these problems were reported as serious, but many were not. Most of the respondents appeared to find most of the problems manageable most of the time. They seemed to get pleasure from cocaine, and accepted the problems as part of the territory.

Most of the sample agreed that moderate use of cocaine can be an exceedingly enjoyable experience —it produced euphoria, more energy, a certain intellectual focus, enhanced sensations, an increased sociability and social intimacy.

However, daily use or regular binges transformed the experience of the cocaine high. The initial euphoria slowly and subtly became dysphoria, feelings of well-being turned into feelings of being unwell and unhappy. Feeling energetic was replaced with feeling apathetic.

These changes in physical feelings were accompanied by transformations in social experience. The person used the drug in isolation, rather than in social groups as was done initially.

Some heavy users noted psychological transformations. The world that had once been good to live in became a place that was far less hospitable—paranoia increased and depression sometimes developed.

A shift in the balance between positive and negative effects of cocaine occurred. The shift to the negative often resulted in considerable psychological pain, and a questioning of the rationality and desirability of continuing to use the drug.

At this time, those people with conventional stakes in families, homes, jobs, communities and identities tended to find the resources and resolve to abstain or reduce their drug use.

Those with fewer such stakes and social supports were more likely to feel indecisive and helpless to overcome their cocaine use problem.

Recommended reading:

Cocaine Changes: The Experience of Using and Quitting by Dan Waldorf, Craig Reinarman and Sheigla Murphy. Temple University Press, USA.

> pdf document

> Part 2

 

 

Hidden Heroin Users

Describes an important research study conducted by Roy Egginton and Professor Howard Parker at the end of the 1990s that illustrated the life experiences of a group of young heroin users, and offered a practice and policy framework for intervening in their drug journeys to social exclusion. (933 words)


The 1990s saw a large increase in the ‘recreational’ use of drugs such as cannabis, amphetamine and ecstasy amongst young people. Whilst the vast majority rejected use of heroin because of its addictive properties and association with ‘junkies’, the number of young people starting to use the drug increased significantly in the latter part of the 1990s.

A study by Roy Egginton and Howard Parker provided important insights into the life experiences of a group of young heroin users they termed ‘hidden heroin users’ [1]. The researchers pointed out that local officials often ignored local problems with heroin, due to the stigma associated with the drug. Failing to address heroin use amongst young people leads to difficulties at a later time when they present for treatment with a more serious problem.

The study involved interviews with 86 young heroin users (aged 15 – 20 years) from four different areas in England.

Whilst the participants’ childhoods were far from ideal, only a minority could be described as developmentally damaging. However, from age 13 years, the interviewees were routinely out and about with peers, unsupervised and doing things to which most parents would object. The parents did not know where they were.

They were early smokers and drinkers and entered a phase of ‘florid drugs experimentation’. On average, they started to take heroin aged 15 years.

The educational performance of most of the interviewees deteriorated during secondary school. They truanted regularly and many became disruptive at school, and were repeatedly temporarily or permanently excluded. A few obtained some educational qualifications but most were still under-qualified at the time of the interview. Few had been successfully employed. Most were receiving state benefits.

The first time a person tried heroin was usually with drug using peers and involved smoking (91%). Over a half described the experience as ‘good’. Re-trying followed rapidly (60% within a week) and most moved to weekly and then daily use.

Experimental injecting was widespread and 46% were injectors. A poly-drug repertoire became common with more regular heroin use, involving cannabis (80% tried in last month), tranquillisers (45%), methadone (45%) and crack cocaine (33%). Although interviewees had been early drinkers, current regular alcohol use was not high. Over 50% had not drunk in the past week.

Members of the sample gradually became stigmatised as smackheads. They were dislocated from parts of their family, ‘straighter’ friends and conventional activities. They gravitated into poly-drug using networks and cohabitations which provided support.

73% of interviewees said that their health had been affected by their drug/heroin use. Most showed clear signs of physical and psychological dependency on heroin and other drugs. This dependency and associated anxiety increased with the length of use and the switch to injecting.

Average drug bills were over £160 per week. Most interviewees utilised benefits and acquisitive crime (especially shoplifting) to pay for their drugs. Drug dealing, and to a lesser extent, begging and prostitution were also being used. Most interviewees had been convicted, but not imprisoned.

Approximately 50% had delinquent careers prior to heroin use, but their drug habit amplified their offending. For most others, heroin use led to offending.

The sample were initially very naïve and ill-informed about heroin. They did not understand its subtle potency and addictiveness, and had little idea where a heroin career might take them. They claimed to regret having ever taken heroin.

The drug knowledge of this sample was obtained by their own experiences and those in the local heroin networks, far more than from public health or drugs educational sources. They were basically too insecure and immature to visualise the benefits of ‘presenting’ to a treatment agency and simultaneously distrusted adult authority.

The researchers emphasised the need for early interventions to be developed, including provision of accurate targeted information: how dependency develops and its consequences; how to avoid and respond to accidents and overdosing; the dangers of injecting an sharing equipment; the additional ‘price’ of tackling crack cocaine, and the knowledge and skills required to detox/come off heroin.

They emphasised the need to specifically target heroin using networks (where there is trust) with information in order to maximise the potential for reduced harm. Parents who knew about their child’s heroin use were viewed as potential sources of influence if relationships were still intact or repairable.

Many of the interviewees had difficulties at school (truanting, exclusion) and may not have therefore benefited from drugs education in this environment.

The researchers pointed out that as young people’s drug services develop they must pay full attention to understanding and monitoring their local drugs situation, reaching out to hidden adolescents developing problematic drug use, and providing user-friendly, flexible services.

The professionals (e.g. police, teachers, youth and community workers) who come into contact with young heroin users must increase their knowledge about drug issues and experience of how to intervene and advocate help.

Egginton and Parker argued that a deterioration in the ‘heavy-end’ drugs scene was underway. Whilst problem drug use remained correlated with socio-economic deprivation and difficult family life, there were signs that new waves of young users will also contain young people from more conventional, adequate family backgrounds.

They also pointed out that:

‘In the current absence of effective routine monitoring systems, more immediate efforts should be made to better define what is happening in heavy-end drugs scenes across the UK.’

Endnote:

[1] Hidden Heroin Users: Young People’s Unchallenged Journeys to Problematic Drug Use, Roy Eggington and Howard Parker, London: Drugscope, 2000.

> pdf document

The Normalisation of Recreational Drug Use, Part 2

Continues to look at British youth culture and the role of drugs and alcohol among adolescents during the 1990s. (952 words)


Parker and colleagues described four distinct drug pathways that young people in their study had taken during their adolescence.

Abstainers held anti-drug attitudes, had never taken a drug, and never intended to. Former triers held fairly negative attitudes to drug use and whilst they had tried or used illicit drugs, they had no intention of doing so again.

Those in transition held fairly positive drug attitudes, most had tried drugs, and all felt they might use drugs in the future. Current users held pro-drug attitudes, used one or more drugs regularly, and expected their drug careers to continue into the future.

By reflecting on and reviewing their attitudes to drugs, young people could switch pathways. As young people in the study moved into adulthood, there was an increase in the proportion who became current users and a reduction in the number of abstainers. Young people in transition were more likely to use the ‘softer’ drugs such as cannabis, whereas current users had a larger drug repertoire, including amphetamines and ecstasy.

However, the researchers noted that:

‘Whilst current users have the most florid, risk-taking antecedents, including early smoking, drinking and sexual experiences, they do not have strong delinquent tendencies nor fit into any typology of abnormal development.’

‘… today’s young drug takers are of both sexes, come from all social and educational backgrounds and are in most other respects conventional.’

Parker and colleagues used in-depth interviews to build on the pathway analysis, by providing a perspective of the actual experiential journeys their drug triers and users took during adolescence.

The vast majority of the drug users had gotten their drugs via friends or friends of friends. Direct contact with professional dealers was rare. In terms of drug initiation, interviewees stressed personal curiosity and the support, sometimes encouragement, occasionally ‘pressure’, of friendship networks.

Most first time experiences were with cannabis and were benign. LSD and amphetamines and, in late adolescence, ecstasy, were occasionally more problematic.

The researchers argued that most young people were drug wise and they differentiated between the range of drugs readily available on the youth market in terms of their effects, both positive and negative. 

Nearly all of the sample rejected heroin and cocaine out of hand, as drugs with dreadful reputations because of their addictive potential and the world of dealers. Cannabis was viewed as a fairly safe drug, whilst amphetamines, LSD and ecstasy were more equivocally defined.

The decision to take a drug involved assessing the balance between risk and possible costs against personal enjoyment from taking a particular drug. The risk assessed were in terms of stigma and risk societycensure by parents, partners, friends, teachers, criminal justice system. Personal relationships and career opportunities might be damaged. However, whilst immediate health risks were assessed, long-term health risks were rarely assessed.

In their excellent book Illegal Leisure: The Normalization of Adolescent Recreational Drug Use [1], Parker and colleagues argued that the nature of the experience of growing up had changed in the world of the 1990s. Rapid social changes in so many aspects of everyday life had resulted in growing up ‘feeling’ far less secure and more uncertain for far longer than had happened prior to this time. ‘To grow up today is to grow up in a risk society.’

‘The unprecedented increase in recreational drug use is deeply embedded in these other and social processes since such drug use is both about risk taking but also about ‘time out’ to self-medicate the impact of the stresses and strains of both success and failure in ‘modern’ times.’

The researchers emphasised that the UK drug strategy, being embedded in a ‘war on drugs’ discourse, missed the point. It was based on many misconceptions about young people and drugs.

The first misconception was that young drug takers would become addicted to or disinhibited by their drugs, and become young offenders spiralling out of control into a life of crime and disorder. However, only a small minority of persistent offenders committed crimes and took drugs. Many of these young people also drank too much alcohol, grew up in care, were excluded from school, and needed psychiatric help. What was the cause of the crime? Many also committed crimes before having problems with drugs.

The vast majority of young people who took drugs did not follow this path. Also, there were few signs of dependency in the recreational scene of this study.

Another government misconception was that young people were pressured into taking drugs. However, participants in this study insisted that they made their own drugs decisions for which they took responsibility. The notion of peer pressure was a source of resentment to many young people when expounded by adults delivering drug education.

Parker and colleagues also argued that young people’s drug use had become entangled in the wider moral panic about, and blaming of youth, for society problems. They emphasised that continuing the ‘war on drugs’ and ignoring the reality of young people’s drug taking was resulting in a neglect in dealing with reducing the harms and risks of drug use.

They pointed out the need to:

  • accept that drug use occurs and treat the user as a citizen
  • try and help assure that street drugs are quality tested
  • help young people share information and experiences about drugs, in particular bad experiences
  • create a situation where young people trust the information (including scientific) on drugs provided by older people
  • create a situation where young people feel that they can come forward and talk about their drug problem without censure.

Endnote:

[1] Illegal Leisure: The Normalization of Adolescent Recreational Drug Use by Howard Parker, Judith Aldridge and Fiona Measham: Routledge, 1998.

> pdf document

The Normalisation of Recreational Drug Use, Part 1

British youth culture and the role of drugs and alcohol among adolescents during the 1990s. (874 words)


Only a small minority of people who try an illicit drug develop a problem. Many people who try an illicit drug do so on one or a few occasions and decide the experience is not for them. Some may use one or more illicit drugs on a periodic basis, whilst others may use more regularly, but still their use is recreational and controlled.

The use of illicit drugs has increased greatly over the past forty years, in particular during the 1990s. As an example of this change, a large-scale annual survey by the University of Exeter’s Health Education Unit (involving 30,000 children from 150 schools in England and Scotland) revealed that the proportion of 15- and 16-year olds who reported ever having tried an illicit drug rose from 10% in 1989 to 40% in 1996.

In 1991, Professor Howard Parker and his colleagues initiated a unique piece of research which tracked a large sample of young people (14 – 18 years old) from the North West of England over a five-year period. The study confirmed the widespread recreational use of illicit drugs, and provided essential insights into British youth culture and the role of drugs and alcohol among adolescents.

This study took place against the backdrop of a ‘youth-drugs-crime-danger’ message both from media and politicians. When John Major, the then Prime Minister, announced his new drug strategy (Tackling Drugs Together) in a speech to the Social Market Foundation (9 September 1994), he chose ‘yob-culture’ as the soundbite he wanted the media to highlight.

Tackling Drugs Together was about offenders and crime, indeed ‘no single crime prevention measure would be more significant than success on the front against drugs.’ One premise of the strategy was that young people were ‘at risk of drug abuse’ and succumb because of peer pressure. The second premise was that drugs are dangerous and a menace. The third was that because drug use leads to crime, local communities are at risk from drug users.

The war-on-drugs rhetoric of the Tory Government, and the desire to link drugs and crime, was later hijacked by the Labour Party in opposition. It was continued once Labour came into power.

In their book Illegal Leisure: The Normalization of Adolescent Recreational Drug Use [1], Parker and colleagues emphasised that this political discourse has an:

‘… energy of its own. It promotes public fear and anxiety about crime, drugs and youth which in turn it then uses to interfere simplistically, and with apparent public consent, in drugs and criminal justice policy and practice. This process, because it can barely be challenged, thus spins along reinforcing itself.’

But this simplistic rhetoric ignored the question as to why the majority of young people try illicit drugs and a significant minority continue to use them regularly. In trying to understand this situation, Parker and colleagues emphasised that that the very nature of adolescence was changing—the context and the conditions in which young people were growing up was very different to generations before.

The research study involved a sample of over 700 14-year olds being tracked annually for up to five years. Each year, they were asked about their personal and family circumstances, their disposable income, use of leisure, and perspectives on personal and social relationships. They were asked in detail about their use of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use.

As they matured, more complex issues were pursued, including their attitudes towards drug use and drug users, their assessment of health education they received, and their experiences at parties and nightclubs.

Five annual self-report surveys were undertaken, and 86 interviews were conducted when respondents were 17 years old. Eight co-educational state secondary schools in the North West metropolitan area of the UK were used. The questionnaires were distributed in the classrooms with teachers absent.

The overall aim of the study was to assess how ‘ordinary’ young people growing up in England in the 1990s developed attitudes and behaviours in relation to the unprecedented ready availability of drugs, alongside other consumption options such as alcohol and tobacco.

The findings suggested that recreational drug use had become widespread amongst British youth. Over 36% of the sample had tried an illicit drug by age 14, and this increased to 51% by age 16, and 64% by age 18. Over 60% and 90% of the sample had received drug offers at age 14 and 18 years, respectively.

The most commonly tried drugs by age 18 were cannabis (59% tried), amyl nitrites or “poppers” (35%), amphetamines (33%), LSD (28%) and ecstasy (20%). Only 6% had tried cocaine and l0.6% had tried heroin.

Females were almost as likely as males to have tried an illicit drug by age 18, and there were no differences between youth from working and middle-class backgrounds. At age 18, nearly one-quarter of the sample had tried an illicit drug in the past week.

The study also revealed that young people reported many more positive experiences of drug use than negative outcomes.

By age 14 years, 90% of the sample had tried alcohol, with 30% claiming to drink on a weekly basis. This percentage rose to 80% in 18-year olds, with a mean consumption of ten units on the last drinking occasion. At age 18 years, just over a third of the sample were current smokers.

Endnote:

[1] Illegal Leisure: The Normalization of Adolescent Recreational Drug Use by Howard Parker, Judith Aldridge and Fiona Measham: Routledge, 1998.

> pdf document

 

The Drug Experience and Beyond: Amphetamine

The experience of taking amphetamine, including the subjective pleasurable experiences of initial use, amphetamine-induced anxiety and psychosis, and withdrawal symptoms following long-term use. Also includes a brief consideration of the various factors that can influence the amphetamine experience. (964 words)


The ‘drug experience’ produced by a particular psychoactive substance depends on both drug and non-drug factors. Drug factors are the chemical properties or type of drug used, the dose, route of administration, and presence or absence of another drug. Non-drug factors include personal characteristics of the user (e.g. biological make-up, personality, previous experience), and the context or setting in which the drug is taken.

A person will first try a drug because of social or intrapersonal factors, such as curiosity about the effects of a drug, or the fact that their friends are taking it. They will probably have certain expectancies about the effects of the drug from conversations with experienced users and/or because of media exposure.

Once a person has taken a drug, the drug experience creates cognitive expectancies which become another factor that influences subsequent drug-taking. A person may continue to take the drug to increase his psychological comfort or change his level of consciousness.

Low doses of amphetamine produce a number of subjective effects: feelings of euphoria; heightened alertness; increased energy and excitement; increased feelings of well-being, confidence and power; increased ability to concentrate and stay awake; increased sociability and friendliness; a feeling of being less bored or tired; hyperactivity, talkativeness, and a rapid flow of ideas; a suppression of sexual inhibitions; lack of desire for food; nervousness and anxiety.

With higher drug doses, there are other effects. These are much more likely to occur when the drug has been taken repeatedly rather than on a single occasion. The user may experience repetitive (stereotyped) thought patterns and show repetitive behaviours, e.g. continually take apart and re-assemble some object, or pick continually at their skin. They may show restlessness, irritability, and various types of anxiety condition, including panic states.

The person may develop suspiciousness, paranoia (delusions of persecution), and experience visual and auditory hallucinations. This is known as amphetamine psychosis, which resembles paranoid schizophrenia.

Amphetamine psychosis is usually seen with chronic use of drug, but can be seen after an acute administration. The incidence of amphetamine psychosis increases greatly when the user switches to intravenous drug administration.The psychosis is transitory and usually terminates after drug use is terminated. Long-term amphetamine use can sometimes lead to sudden and intense acts of aggression and violence.

The subjective effects of amphetamine and similar-acting substances are not fixed. The amphetamine-like stimulant methylphenidate (Ritalin) is, paradoxically, used to treat hyperactivity in children. Some adults report the drug exerting a calming effect, allowing them to cope better.

In well-controlled laboratory conditions, under conditions where neither subject nor experimenter knew whether drug or placebo was administered, a fixed dose of amphetamine produced either euphoria or anxiety in different subjects.

Once a person has tried amphetamine, they may use the drug on a recreational basis, even over an extended period of time. They may keep a strict adherence to a particular pattern of drug use so that the drug is only used on certain occasions (e.g. weekends). The user retains control over drug use and there may be no medical or social complications—however, there is the possibility of legal sanction. Of course, a person may try amphetamine once and never do so again.

However, the pattern of drug-taking may intensify and a number of changes may occur. For example, a person may switch from oral or intranasal use to intravenous use. Drug effects will intensify when such a change occurs.

In another pattern of use, the person initiates repeated ‘runs’, taking amphetamine for hours and sometimes days. They may snort new lines of drug whenever they feel the drug effects wearing off. This pattern of drug-taking is more evident with cocaine, which is a much shorter–acting drug.

In yet another pattern of use, they may chronically abuse amphetamine in combination with depressant drugs. They may drink large amounts of alcohol whilst under the influence of amphetamine.

Users may use depressant drugs (benzodiazepines, alcohol, opiates) to take ‘the edge off’ the stimulant, and help them feel less anxious. Research suggests that users who abuse stimulants and depressants experience more psychological and physical problems than those who only abuse stimulants.

Tolerance develops to many of the psychological and physical effects of amphetamine, e.g. euphoria, anorexia, hyperthermia and hypertension. This tolerance may develop within hours to days. However, there appears to be little tolerance to the anxiogenic effects of the drug. In fact, repeated use of amphetamine may sensitise individuals to amphetamine psychosis.

The effects of a single dose of amphetamine lasts 2 – 4 hours and generally leaves the user feeling tired after the drug’s primary effects are over. It may take as long as a couple of days to feel normal again. With chronic drug use, feelings of tiredness, lethargy and irritability become stronger and may have a more dramatic onset following the wearing off of drug effects.

The user may want to keep taking drug to avoid these feelings. Tolerance develops with regular use and higher doses will be required. Eventually, ‘what goes up must come down’. The ‘withdrawal’ effects are even stronger when a user has completed repeated ‘runs’ over a period of days. Amphetamine produces a withdrawal syndrome, which not only includes tiredness, but also anhedonia (an inability to feel pleasure), depression, anxiety, dysphoria, sleep disturbances, and a strong craving for drug.

The person may experience terrible mood swings as he oscillates between periods of drug-taking and withdrawal. He may experience periods of paranoia and anxiety when taking the drug, and periods of deep depression when not taking the drug. The impact of this on psychological well-being can be considerable.

> pdf document

The Harms and Risks of Substance Use

Reflections on the harms and risk factors related to drugs, alcohol and solvents. (979 words)


There is much discussion about the harms and risks of drug use, particularly in the popular press. The relative harms of different drugs are compared, and the law tries to operate a control system with drugs purportedly graded by their dangers, albeit with alcohol and tobacco forgotten.

Heroin and cocaine are considered to be particularly dangerous. And yet, there are people that have taken cocaine or prescribed heroin for many years and have suffered no physical harm. There is no given in the world of drugs—except that all substances (even water) can kill if given in sufficient quantity.

In his excellent book Matters of Substance: is legalization the right answer – or the wrong question [1], the late Griffith Edwards points out:

‘With drugs nothing is always. Their use does not carry a guarantee of danger, but neither is their safety guaranteed. What one needs to ask about any substance is not whether in absolute terms it is safe, but rather the degree of risk which may attach to its use.’

The harm caused by substance use needs to be considered in a variety of ways. Use of drugs, alcohol and solvents can carry risk to different aspects of life. They may threaten physical or mental health, social circumstances, educational and employment status, and may put a person at risk with the criminal justice system.

Substance use may also affect the safety and welfare of others. Other people may be affected negatively by the transmission of blood borne viruses through sexual contact with an infected drug user, through violence committed by a person who is drunk, or by someone who is driving while under the influence of a sedative prescription drug. The harmony and happiness of families can be disrupted, and in the extreme whole communities can be affected.

Harm done by substance use can be major or minor. It can also be a one-off or chronic. Harm may be caused directly by the drug itself, and/or by the lifestyle associated with use of the drug, for example, with street heroin.

For some harm, an increasing risk is associated with longer-term and heavier substance use. However, for other types of problems, the risk can be much more random: the twentieth experience with ecstasy or a solvent may trigger some reaction leading to death; the first injection of heroin may lead to infection with hepatitis C which kills the person years later; the heavy drinking session may lead to the person tripping on the pavement into the path of an approaching vehicle.

With illicit drugs, there is the possibility of contaminants in the drug which can cause illness and even death. In one example, heroin users in California injected unknowingly a synthetic drug known as MPTP, which produced symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. This movement disorder, caused by a massive depletion of dopamine in the brain, mostly occurs in people over 60 years old. In this case, young heroin users developed the symptoms within 24 hours of taking the drug. The condition was irreversible and could only be alleviated by l-Dopa or neural grafts of foetal tissue [2,3].

The particular harm caused by substances is also dependent on the route by which they are administered. Injecting drugs can lead to the transmission of blood borne viruses, smoking can cause lung damage, and drinking of alcohol to cancer of the gullet. Accidental overdose is more likely to occur following injection than ingestion of tablets. Users of illicit heroin are also unaware of the purity of the substance they purchase—an unusually pure, or contaminated, batch of heroin can cause overdose.

One of the dangers of drugs and alcohol is their propensity to cause addiction or dependence. In simple terms, addiction can be seen as an impairment in a person’s ability or power to choose. The drug becomes more important to the person than other aspects of their life, which the majority of people would consider as essential. Addiction drives forward heavy and persistent drug use, ultimately increasing the likelihood of self-harm.

The particular effects of a drug, and the development of addiction, are influenced not only by the intrinsic properties of the drug and its route of administration, but also by the previous drug experience of the user, their physical and psychological characteristics, and the setting in which the drug is taken. Therefore, these factors can influence the harm caused by drugs.

Overdoses are more likely when a heroin user leaves prison, since he is likely to forget or not understand that his body has lost its tolerance to the drug. Amphetamine psychosis will be more likely to occur in an individual with a propensity to schizophrenic symptoms. Alcohol-induced violence is more likely to occur in certain environments than in others. Life-threatening seizures can occur when a person withdraws from long-term use of the prescription drugs Valium and Librium.

Finally, and not least, is that the dangers of many substances can be exacerbated by taking another at the same time. For example, the likelihood of overdose after heroin is increased if the person is also drinking alcohol.

Psychoactive substances have been used in society for thousands of years. They will remain with us for as long as mankind wishes to change his state of consciousness, for whatever reason. These substances—be they legal or illegal—will always have harm and risks associated with them.

What is important in today’s society is to keep people well-informed about the potential harms of drugs, alcohol and solvents and the circumstances in which they can be dangerous. We do not need media hype or campaigns that over-exaggerate the risks. We need to be objective and realistic.

Endnotes:

[1] Matters of Substance: is legalization the right answer – or the wrong question, Griffith Edwards, Penguin, 2005.

[2] MPTP, Wikipedia.

[3] The MPTP Story, J. William Langston, Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, 7, S11-S22, 2017.

> pdf document

 

 

The Regulation and Control of Drugs, Part 2

Continues to look at the development of laws regulating recreational drug use, in particular in America, which has influenced world drug policy so strongly. (881 words)

Read More ➔

Should Recreational Drug Use Be Criminalised? (Part 1)

Explores the regulation and control of drugs by looking at philosopher Douglas Husak’s views on the justice of US drug laws. (909 words)

Read More ➔

Should Recreational Drug Use Be Criminalised? (Part 2)

Continues to look at Douglas Husak’s arguments about prohibition and its consequences. (907 words)

Read More ➔

The Regulation and Control of Drugs, Part 1

Describes factors that have influenced the development of laws regulating recreational drug use, in particular influential happenings in America. (912 words)

Read More ➔

Historical Perspectives: Cocaine

Traces the history of cocaine, linking the Incas, Freud, Thomas Edison, Sherlock Holmes and Coca Cola. (880 words)

Read More ➔

Drugs, Chemicals, the Brain and Behaviour

How psychoactive drugs influence chemical and electrical events in the brain, and how these changes may relate to their effects on behaviour. (1,047 words)

Read More ➔

Historical Perspectives: Opium, Morphine and Opiates (Part 3)

Concluding a brief history of the opiates by looking at the massive increase in heroin use that occurred in America and the UK during the later parts of the 20th century. (1,012 words)

Read More ➔

Historical Perspectives: Opium, Morphine and Opiates (Part 2)

Continues a brief history of the opiates, which includes describing the different responses of the United States and Britain to opiate problems in the earlier parts of the 19th century. (880 words)

Read More ➔

Historical Perspectives: Opium, Morphine and Opiates (Part 1)

Traces the history of the opiates, from use in Summarian and Assyrian civilisations through to the Opium wars between China and Britain and the cultural impact of opium smoking by Chinese in the Californian gold fields. (915 words)

Read More ➔