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Gritty First Hand Account of What it Like to Be a Heroin Addict, and Not Want to Be

For most of us, the word “heroin” evokes the idea of an evil entity that hunts souls and destroys lives. We accept that heroin “hooks” those who try it, dooming them to ruin and even death, omnipresent, omnipowerful. After all, it’s a “monkey on their backs.” We believe that those who try heroin have no choice–junkies for life. This comes as no surprise. In the United States alone, 2.4 million people have tried heroin and 265, 000 have stuck with it, and those figures do not include closet users (The Household Survey On Drug Abuse and The Statistical Analysis of the United States, 1996).

Like anything said often enough, heroin stereotypes become accepted as truisms.

While not always true, stereotypes are not all bad. Heroin stereotypes serve society in that they warn us of danger, and no one denies that heroin is a dangerous drug. In spite of this warning, heroin stereotypes fail society when the danger signals becomes transformed. One result of this transformation is that we begin anthropomorphizing heroin. A metamorphosis takes place and heroin becomes, miraculously, an evil entity. I was skeptical.

Unsatisfied by anthropomorphic confusion and stereotypical inaccuracies, I decided that subjective experience was necessary to better understand heroin’s lure. I know. What if the stories were true? After years studying philosophy and method, I have learned to distinguish the difference between coherent and consistent information, the foundation of knowledge, and that of metaphorical hyperbole. Reason and logic are no more our enemy than heroin. In this case, the problem of coherency and consistency manifests itself in the contradictory belief that heroin is an inanimate object devoid of life, but at the same time, and in some mysterious way, controls people. This just doesn’t make sense.

The cost of knowledge is sometimes high. Every action necessitates a reaction, and a first hand experience of heroin is no exception. Once I had the experienced, I would be stereotyped. A fact of experience is that you have it forever, and no amount of thinking or wishing can undo it. Acknowledging that fact, I set out to find the infamous drug. I made the decision to smoke it, not inject it (injection is the preferred method). After putting myself in an environment conducive to such acquisitions, one question was enough to obtain the drug. I thought that my inexperienced fumbling may ruin a portion, so I requested double my needs. In less than thirty minutes, I had the heroin.

The cost: $20.00. It looked like road tar, black and sticky, with a sharp, unpleasant chemical smell, approximately the size of a large house fly. This form of heroin is the California version. It comes from Mexico, and from its appearance comes its name: “Mexican Tar Heroin.” I arrived home, and in great anticipation, fabricated a crude tin foil pipe to smoke the heroin. Tar heroin melts when heated, boils, then begins to evaporate into a thick, white smoke. The smoke is then inhaled. Heating and inhaling heroin from a small piece of tin foil is called “Chasing the Dragon.” This metaphor exemplifies the anthropomorphic specter of heroin.

Take a Trip Inside the Expereince

I smoked some of the heroin and waited for the dragon. Immediately I noticed that my eyes would not focus. While reading, the words seemed to jitter, giving them a fuzzy look. I gave up reading. The cerebral aspect of the experience, the best I can describe it, is strong, thick and gluey, greatly inhibiting my ability to think analytically. My entire body felt heavy, dense, and relaxed. Despite that fact, the physical feeling wasn’t nearly the ecstasy I had expected.

Fifteen minutes passed. I decided to smoke more. After all, in order to justify the experience, a dose large enough was necessary. Once again I was rewarded with an increased sense of druggedness: A heavy physical feeling and a general slowing down of my thought processes. The feeling was again agreeable. Yet I couldn’t help thinking that this wasn’t why people continue in the face of physical addiction, the dismantling and destruction of their lives, and in many cases, death. I indulged myself again, determined to experience heroin’s, arguably, most powerful lure, “The Nod.”

Now I began to lapse in and out of consciousness, if consciousness is what one might call it. The lapsing in and out of consciousness is called, colloquially and quite accurately, “nodding off.” I wouldn’t equate the heroin induced state of consciousness with our generally accepted understanding of the term “consciousness,” however. They are not similar. For instance, while nodding off, I couldn’t think or contemplate in any normal sense. I also felt nauseous, unless I lay unmoving flat on my back (This condition, I am told, diminishes with each use until there is no nausea). So there I was, flat on my back, unable to think, not wanting to move, and nodding in and out of what I will call a between state–that is, between consciousness and unconsciousness. I am at a loss to better explain it. The experience is definitely not one of thought and contemplation, as I simply couldn’t think much at all. Upon reflection, the best I can explain it is five hours of missing time.

Eventually I slept, and except for fits of itching, a symptom of heroin use, I slept well. Before sleeping, I remember thinking, “How could that experience be attractive to anyone?” The next morning, and once again in full possession of my cognitive faculties, I had at least one answer.

Heroin greatly diminishes emotion. Without emotion, psychological suffering is avoided. In other words, depending on the dosage and the time elapsed after the introduction into the system, heroin temporarily obliterates suffering by snuffing out emotion. My admittedly inexperienced opinion is that at some point the pains and stresses of life become such a burden that an emotionless existence is preferred. For where there is an absences or great diminishing of emotion, there is also the absences or great diminishing of psychological suffering.

Again, when on heroin there is no worry, fear, want—no suffering—for the brain’s ability to produce those thoughts has been numbed. The human brain becomes much the same as a lower animal in the sense that it is cognitively unaware of the psychological aspects of worry, fear, and pain. That is to say, a fish hasn’t the ability to experience emotion. While heroin intoxicated, neither do we. The point is just this. The normal emotional state is greatly diminished, resulting in a decrease, if not obliteration, of the user’s psychological suffering.

This was my epiphany. The reason for using heroin isn’t because of physical ecstasy or because heroin controls people, but to escape psychological suffering. Heroin use is a temporary escape from the human condition—despair, hopelessness, purposelessness, depression. For these reasons, once the user is back in the “real world,” an emotionless existence is preferred. What’s more, the urge to use is further amplified by physical need. Thus begins the viscous cycle of physical and psychological addiction.

Even if one could escape the physical complications of heroin addiction, there is a price to pay. By escaping all pain, we also escape that which makes us human—emotions. For some, that state of existence, a twilight area between life and death, is preferred. This is what it is to experience heroin.



Do to a small, but very time consuming minority, I need explain some guidelines. Please take the time to read them before replying to the essay:

I am not an authority on heroin. I wrote about my one time SUBJECTIVE experience with Mexican Tar heroin drawing some very general conclusions. These general conclusions are as follows:
  • Heroin is an inanimate object, but stereotypes confuse this fact. 

  • People don’t become addicted to heroin for purely physical aspects. There are deep rooted psychological reasons for using heroin. This leads to the next point. 

  • Heroin allows the user to escape their psychological pain by escaping emotion.  This leads to repeated usage and physical addiction. 

  • Your comments allow me to clarify what I am trying to say. This reduces misunderstandings.  Thus, with your input, the essay continues to evolve in a positive manner.

The following points further explain the main points listed above:

  • This essay is not about “What Addiction Is.” Please don’t write objecting that I don’t know what addiction is, because I don’t! 

  • There are many different types of heroin on the street, Mexican
    Tar, White Powder, etc. Please do not write to me with the objection that your dope was the real stuff and that I should try the real stuff before writing essays. This is rubbish.  Although I realize that heroin comes in different flavors and potencies, people become just as addicted to the lower grades of heroin as they do to the higher.

  • If you write an objection that distorts the essay, I will write you back explaining just that. You may want to question me to make sure you understand the essay before writing your analysis. 

  • I am not and have never been addicted to heroin. I don’t have any idea what your experiences are, and I don’t claim to have any.

Douglas Wright Dallam