The Hard Drugs

The hard drugs are highly addictive, although one, two, or even three attempts will not make an addict, in most instances. Indeed, the first use will produce nausea and feelings of fear. But, given a socially supportive environment – “friends” – an initiate tries a drug repeatedly; it is not long before he becomes addicted. Then, too, these drugs, unlike cocaine and the amphetamines, produce a physical dependence, which means that if user attempts to stop, he experiences cramps, diarrhea, headache, and a sense of impending doom.

Such withdrawal symptoms serve to reinforce the user’s devotion to a way of life that is organized exclusively around drug-taking. Psychically, hard drugs dull the responses, induce drowsiness, and sharply reduce sex drive. There are cases of long-time morphine users who, under the direction of physicians, are kept on low-level doses and can function with apparently few physical handicaps; however, the reports on these individuals show that they are unable to maintain a lasting interpersonal relationship or stick to any line of work.

In the treatment of heroin addiction, methadone presents a different story: fixed amounts taken orally as a heroin substitute allow the individual to function normally – if his psychic resources were more or less intact before addiction. The fact that methadone itself is addictive makes this methadone-maintenance treatment somewhat less than ideal. Doctors also use narcotic antagonists to treat heroin addiction.

If one of these drugs is taken prior to heroin, all of heroin’s “pleasurable” effects are wiped out. Since there is no reinforcement, the habit dies. However, this treatment is effective only if the addict takes the antidrug medicine every day; many addicts duck the treatment because taking heroin is so rewarding. The hard-drug addict has only a slim chance of being cure. Psychological treatment of addiction to heroin, in fact to any drug, must, in my view, be pronounced a failure.

There is no evidence that any of the therapeutic communities or rehabilitative programs achieve a higher cure rate than do addicts who are left to their own devices. They certainly do not have as good a record as the methadone programs. Summary: the hard drugs are powerfully addictive; to keep a habit means a hard life, full of potential danger from the law and from overdose, allergic reaction, poisoning, and infection.

In pure form, they are probably safer physically than alcohol; physically, they can cause devastating changes in personality, sex drive, and general outlook. By and large, treatment for addiction is possible but difficult.


Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Center. Retrieved April 7, 2007 at: http://www. mclean. harvard. edu/research/adarc/bsl. php Asthma drug ‘raises cataract risk’ Article Retrieved April 7, 2007 at: http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/health/3113978. stm

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