Ho hum, Johann Hari doesn’t change, does he?

The leopard is not changing his shorts:

At first, I thought this was merely a quirk of rats, until I discovered that there was — at the same time as the Rat Park experiment — a helpful human equivalent taking place. It was called the Vietnam War. Time magazine reported using heroin was “as common as chewing gum” among U.S. soldiers, and there is solid evidence to back this up: some 20 percent of U.S. soldiers had become addicted to heroin there, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Many people were understandably terrified; they believed a huge number of addicts were about to head home when the war ended.

But in fact some 95 percent of the addicted soldiers — according to the same study — simply stopped. Very few had rehab. They shifted from a terrifying cage back to a pleasant one, so didn’t want the drug any more.

Stanton Peele was pointing this out 25 years ago. I read him pointing this out 20 years ago. Wonder if Hari mentions him in his new book? Be fun if he didn’t, wouldn’t it? And no, I’m not buying it to find out.

Hmm, according to search inside, he doesn’t. Now isn’t that lovely? Hmm, and hmm again.

I wonder what a detailed comparison would show us all. Of course, it could just be that search inside isn’t very accurate…..

31 comments on “Ho hum, Johann Hari doesn’t change, does he?

  1. If the soldiers simply stopped taking heroin (without rehab or anything) when they returned home then they were not addicted, they were merely users of heroin.
    Hari seemingly does not know the meaning of “addict”.

  2. So Hari is agreeing with Peter Hitchens! This is a point that Hitchens has made many times.

  3. Daniels (aka Theodore Dalrymple) has also been pointing out for years that getting off smack is much easier than getting off booze.

  4. Dalrymple was a prison doctor. People abruptly withdraw from heroin routinely after being locked up. It’s an absolute commonplace in prisons, especially remand ones. At worst it’s like a cross between flu and incontinence.

  5. Dalrymple has long said this (and I’m sure it’s true, I’ve seen a lot of people use opium and stop when the source ends), but it’s not true that people stop in prison – prisons are awash with drugs.

    I suspect the guards turn a blind eye, keeps the cons quiet.

  6. Heroin is more common in jail than cannabis; the effects are similar-ish, but cannabis shows up for months in piss tests whereas heroin’s gone in 24 hours.

  7. “Heroin is more common in jail than cannabis; the effects are similar-ish, but cannabis shows up for months in piss tests whereas heroin’s gone in 24 hours.”

    been a long time since, but having no tolerance I was nailed to the floor all day on less than 1 GBP worth of brown. Cannabis does not last that long, penny for penny.

    OTOH, one gets used to cannabis, but one’s metabolism becomes tolerant to heroin, so after regular use of either, small quantities of cannabis offers better VFM – but only once one has become tolerant of heroin.

    I have also observed that junkies NEED a small bag every day, perhaps as little as a fiver’s worth will keep the sweats at bay (clucking), but that if its available then they might happily do 10 quid hits and get through a hundred quids worth in a day.

    Lacking tolerance, a ten quid hit will kill you in less than a minute – probably not safe to do even a 2 quid hit if you have no tolerance – and you will be properly nailed for several hours on a one quid hit.

    Smoking it is a lots safer, it still goes a long way until tolerance develops.

    I was once given a single pill of the junkies choice (palfium – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dextromoramide ) – lay flat on my back for half a day, wobbly for the next two days (one pill). My friend was getting through about six a day of them !!!

    They banned palfium because it was so very popular with junkies and caused so many ODs.

  8. Drug addiction is a complex interaction between the person, the lifestyle and the substance – yes, a returning soldier might easily quit, but then they might not, its simplistic to say the you “can” or “cannot” easily quit a drug, depends on the person, the circumstance, the drug.

  9. Interested – “but it’s not true that people stop in prison – prisons are awash with drugs. I suspect the guards turn a blind eye, keeps the cons quiet.”

    What makes you think either of those? Where is the evidence? TD also says that young men regularly go into prison emaciated due to drug use and they come out as fit, healthy, specimens of manhood.

    If it was true that prisons were awash with drugs we would expect a lot of HIV and drug overdoses in prison. How many people die of overdoses in prison per year?

  10. Heroin use has nothing to do with weight loss. Junkies on the out are skinny because they spend their food money on smack. Where they have enough for both, they have both. Philip Seymour Hoffman wasn’t a racing snake, was he?

    Drugs are available in prison, it’s a fucking well known fact. If you need more specific info Google is your best bet.

  11. Johnny>

    It seems to me that many ‘addicts’ of the stereotypical kind are actually self-harmers using drug abuse as their method. There are other ‘addicts’ who seem to have nothing more than a non-harmful habit they don’t care to stop. And it doesn’t seem to matter much whether we’re talking about addiction to World of Warcrack or to actual crack.

  12. Last I heard, D wing at Pentonville was basically a crack house. My impression is, though, that the provincial prisons are far less awash with drugs and that if you’re an imprisoned junky wanting to go on the wagon for good, getting into a provincial prison will substantially improve your chances.

  13. I don’t believe the 20% figure for soldiers in Viet Nam.

    Coming off heroin is not very nice. You will feel quite sorry for yourself for a few days and woe betide you if you are any distance from the bog as the cessation of the opioid antimotility effect will turn you into a shit fountain. But withdrawal can be ameliorated (preferably with suboxone under medical supervision and benzodiazepines). Suddenly stopping drinking can kill you. Staying off it is quite another matter. The physical cravings go away relatively fast. The psychological dependency is a much harder thing to break, and this is true of all abused substances. Some methods seem to work better than others, but relapse is sadly frequent no matter what.

  14. Pingback: A Note on Johann Hari, David Henderson | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty

  15. Interested – “Heroin use has nothing to do with weight loss. Junkies on the out are skinny because they spend their food money on smack. Where they have enough for both, they have both. Philip Seymour Hoffman wasn’t a racing snake, was he?”

    Actually heroin also depresses the body’s usual functions including appetite. Constipation is one of the side effects. So is a lack of desire to eat. PSH is unusual in that I am pretty sure we can all agree that heroin users tend to be thin.

    “Drugs are available in prison, it’s a fucking well known fact. If you need more specific info Google is your best bet.”

    I know it is well known. Is it a fact? I am not sure it is. Nor am I sure that abuse is the best response to someone questioning a well known fact. People do die from drugs in prison, usually alcohol poisoning after they have been brought in for being drunk. I don’t think overdoses are all that common. In fact they may be zero. Which suggests that people aren’t using inside.

  16. john77 – “If the soldiers simply stopped taking heroin (without rehab or anything) when they returned home then they were not addicted, they were merely users of heroin. Hari seemingly does not know the meaning of “addict”.”

    May I ask what you think the distinction is between using and being addicted? I tend to think that drug use is a moral issue – people who like drugs use drugs. I also think that the medical profession likes to turn moral issues into medical ones. So they have invented a disease and called it “addiction”. What they mean is that some people have poor characters and so use drugs a lot.

    But I know my opinion is not a majority opinion. How do you define addiction?

  17. “May I ask what you think the distinction is between using and being addicted?”

    I would have thought it was obvious. The difference between, say, an alcoholic and a heavy drinker is not the amount each one drinks, but in how much control each has over that quantity. Addiction treatment programmes don’t really have an awful lot to say about the substance the addict is being treated for past the initial detox and withdrawal phase. They’re almost entirely about changing mental states by acting differently (rather than, and this may come as a surprise, the other way round). It’s why most of them stress complete cessation of use. A ‘user’ rather than an addict can decide to cut down, stop, alter circumstances of use etc.. Addicts on the whole cannot. It is not a failure of willpower.

  18. This is pretty much Stanton Peele’s point. People don’t become physically addicted (although booze does have that potential to kill in that cold turkey and nicotine is the most difficult to come off physically) but they do become psychologically addicted to being buzzed. Change the psychological circumstances and that need will often (it would be stretching it to say always will) disappear.

    His argument is not that addiction doesn’t exist: but that physical addiction doesn’t so much.

    What would be really fun is for someone to look at Hari’s book and do a close analysis against Peele’s work. Would just be fascinating if we fond that he’d used the ideas without attricution in this, what is supposed to be his resurrection book.

  19. Bloke in Costa Rica – “The difference between, say, an alcoholic and a heavy drinker is not the amount each one drinks, but in how much control each has over that quantity. …. A ‘user’ rather than an addict can decide to cut down, stop, alter circumstances of use etc.. Addicts on the whole cannot. It is not a failure of willpower.”

    Sorry but you have just described a failure of willpower – the distinction is not in how much they drink but in the amount of self control they have. Am I misunderstanding you?

    A lot of this seems to come from the Alcoholics Anonymous programme. Which is interesting because of its growth from the Oxford movement. That is some of those nasty Puritan evangelicals Ian B keeps talking about. So we have to accept that we are fallen and cannot be saved except with God’s grace. We have to admit we are sinners and resolve never to sin again.

    But does AA work? It would seem not. There is, at least, virtually no evidence it does. That does not seem to be a ringing endorsement of their methods.

  20. @ SMFS
    So Cardinal Newman was a puritan evangelical? I hadn’t realised that!
    Addicts are those who feel a compulsion to take whatever they are addicted to, analogous to someone dying of thirst craves a drink of water. They can’t just “snap out of it” which is why there are rehab programmes and why AA and similar programmes for drug users are not there to break the habit but help people *stay* off it *after* they have stopped drinking/using drugs.
    There seems to be a lot of evidence that AA works and the £multi-million “Weight-Watchers” programme was invented because it did. Have *you* any evidence that it doesn’t (not that there are a few drop-outs – have you any evidence that everyone or even a majority regresses)?

    .

  21. Strange that after Chairman Mao shot 10,000 opium addicts the rest of them were able to “just snap out of it.”

    And weight watchers is wank as well.

  22. @john77

    Pendantry.

    Cardinal Newman, although he wasn’t a Cardinal then, was an Evangelical before he joined (and then led and then abandoned for the RC) the Oxford Movement.

    Probably neither a genuine not an IanB “Puritan”, though.

  23. @ SE
    The Puritans fought a Civil War to rid the country of Anglo-Catholicism .
    John Henry Newman ceased to be an “Evangelical” before he joined the Oxford Movement which was always Anglo-Catholic.
    I mentioned him because I thought even SMFS would have noticed that he was a Catholic and because there isn’t space on this blog to write an essay on the Oxford Movement (and if there was I should probably make mistakes and be corrected by one of its supporters).

  24. john77 – “So Cardinal Newman was a puritan evangelical? I hadn’t realised that!”

    Not that Oxford movement. The one that lead to Moral Re-armament. And AA.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_Group

    “Addicts are those who feel a compulsion to take whatever they are addicted to, analogous to someone dying of thirst craves a drink of water.”

    Well without water you die. Without alcohol your life is not very nice if you have been drinking a lot. But without heroin life does not look that bad. So it is not quite the same.

    “They can’t just “snap out of it” which is why there are rehab programmes and why AA and similar programmes for drug users are not there to break the habit but help people *stay* off it *after* they have stopped drinking/using drugs.”

    These have virtually no record of working for drugs whatsoever. On the other hand drug users do often just snap out of it. If they decide to stop using, they usually just stop using.

    “Have *you* any evidence that it doesn’t (not that there are a few drop-outs – have you any evidence that everyone or even a majority regresses)?”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/03/the-irrationality-of-alcoholics-anonymous/386255/

    The Scientific American has done articles that are slightly more favourable. But the evidence does not look strong.

  25. @ SE
    That article is not evidence (it doesn’t know the meaning of scientific evidence when it says there is no scientific evidence and then describes the choice of 28 days as being the result of observing the resultys of experiments) – it is a tirade against the *USA’s* AA (and what does sound like massive malprescription of AA-type rehabs for non-addicts) based on a handful of anecdata.

  26. Hide a fucking opium addiction in Mao’s China? Are you for real?

    It is simply a fact that in 1949 there were AT LEAST 70 million opium addicts in China. By 1955 there weren’t any. Why? Because dealers and addicts were publicly executed and possession was punishable by death, for any amount, no exceptions, and the authorities meant it. So people stopped doing it. Chairman Mao is the most effective rehab counsellor who ever lived.

    Strangely if you threaten someone with rheumatoid arthritis with execution they don’t recover. Which makes people like me think the ‘disease’ model of addiction is a pile of irrational self-indulgent wank, rather like heroin users themselves.

  27. Apparently only a few tens of dealers were executed. Many more addicts were forcibly interned into ‘treatment centres’ if they refused to volunteer for treatment. So what did the treatment involve and what was its efficacy?

    Curiously, it’s much easier to find people banging on about Mao’s success at treating drug addiction by threatening to kill people than the detail of what happened at the treatment centres. Or indeed more detail about the efficacy of the propaganda campaign against drugs and other social pressures.

    It is simply a fact that in 1949 there were AT LEAST 70 million opium addicts in China. By 1955 there weren’t any.

    As the New China News Agency reported, so it must be true.

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