Gaaaaah!

Most street opiates (including heroin) are now laced or replaced with fentanyl – the drug that killed the singer Prince – and its analogues, far more powerful than heroin and so cheap that drug-dealing profits are skyrocketing at about the same rate as overdose deaths. The UK’s National Crime Agency said that traces of fentanyl have been found in 46 people who died this year. Users don’t know what they’re getting and they take too much. Fentanyl is recognised as a primary driver of the overdose epidemic.

Yep, fentanyl has a very much smaller “dose gap” (used because I don’t know the real phrase), that space between getting high and being dead. Variable amounts in illegal supplies therefore often kill.

Entirely true, quite right, fentanyl is killing people.

But the peculiar appeal of opioids tells us more about ourselves as a society, as a culture, than the tumultuous ups and downs of addiction statistics. Today’s young people come of age and carve out their adult lives in an environment of astronomical uncertainty. Corporations that used to pride themselves on fairness to their employees now strive only for profit. The upper echelons of management are as risk-infected as the lowest clerks. Massive layoffs rationalised by the eddies of globalisation make long-term contracts prehistoric relics. I ask the guys who come to the house to deliver packages how they like their jobs. They can’t say. They get up to three six-month contracts in a row and then get laid off so the company won’t have to pay them benefits.

People pour out of universities with all manner of degrees, yet with skills that are rapidly becoming irrelevant. But people without degrees are even worse off. They find themselves virtually unemployable, because there are so many others in the same pool, and employers will hire whoever comes cheapest. The absurdly low minimum wage figures in the US clearly exacerbate the situation. As hope for steady employment fizzles, so does the opportunity to connect with family, friends and society more broadly, and there is way too much time to kill. Opioids can help reduce the despair.

But you’ve just told us it’s the dosage problem with fentanyl which is causing it all!

39 comments on “Gaaaaah!

  1. “I ask the guys who come to the house to deliver packages how they like their jobs”

    I bet those ‘guys’ just love being asked about their jobs by a smug Guardian journalist as they deliver the latest Nespresso coffee machine.

    “Cor, blimey, Guv. Fanks for aksing abaat me job. it’s me littl’uns I worries abaat. Poor Doris ain’t got no food to eat. Cor, a shiny sixpence tip! You’re a right gent an no mistake!”

  2. And previous generations didn’t feel the pull of opiates?

    I have imagined the Opium Wars.

  3. Thank you, Kevin. I was trying to summon up the name of the good Dr Kiosk as I read the extract.

  4. ‘The absurdly low minimum wage figures in the US clearly exacerbate the situation’
    I know it the Graun, but they’re just clueless.

  5. The evils of capitalism are responsible for heroin–or nasty-not heroin addiction?

    When it is –in fact–quite hard and nasty work to become such an addict. The first few shoot-ups are apparently quite unpleasant experiences until you get used to it.

    It could just be that H-addicts are real losers–even for the world of addiction.

    And if socialism is the answer why was the soviet shithole so full of drunks? And no small number of druggies esp after their 1979 Afghanistan Holiday.

  6. Today’s young people come of age and carve out their adult lives in an environment of astronomical uncertainty

    Unlike the good old days where you could cut yourself and die from the resulting infection, even assuming you made it through childbirth. Oh, and the odd war to be conscripted into.
    What young people need is the certainty that the boring factory job gave them, for life.

    And if their degrees are useless, DON’T ENCOURAGE THEM TO GO TO UNIVERSITY.

    But hey, a degree is their birthright, like their forefathers.

    Young people today are clearly growing up in a terrible era, unprecedented in human history.

  7. “People pour out of universities with all manner of degrees, yet with skills that are rapidly becoming irrelevant.”

    You’d think, reading that, that the ‘Guardian’ bore absolutely no responsibility whatever for that state of affairs. Wouldn’t you?

  8. The problem isn’t the fentanyl, the problem is that the drugs are illegal which means the only people who sell them are criminals. The solution is blindingly obvious: legalise them.

    Then the government could do what it does with food and drink and all the other things we choose to put into our bodies: regulate and monitor the products so that what we’re buying is what we think we’re buying.

    Oh yes, and of course it would tax them.

  9. People pour out of universities with all manner of degrees, yet with skills that are rapidly becoming irrelevant.

    Weird – I thought it was the left which wanted everyone to go to university, and us who warned them that it would produce people with irrelevant ‘skills’?

    But people without degrees are even worse off. They find themselves virtually unemployable

    1. Get a job at McDonalds. You really can work your way up from the fries counter to chief exec. Okay, you won’t, but you can work your way up to a decent job on decent money. On the way, ignore the braying left shouting about ‘McJobs.’

    2. Join a business which will pay for your training. My wife’s business does this – all the kids they have are normal, hard-working, polite if slightly boring youngsters. My friend started at (whatever incarnation then existed of) Jaguar Landrover at 16 as an engineering apprentice and is now one rung below the board. Another person we know has just had her kid follow the exact same route.

    3. Join the Army as a 2lt. You can be a colonel in twenty years (fifteen these days if you have certan advantages eg a vagina or extra melanin, or one leg).

    4. Start your own business washing cars, or cleaning windows, or couriering, or baking cakes. The idea that you need to be ’employable’ is pure bollocks.

    The only snag is, all of these things can be hard boring yakka, and only those who perservere will succeed.

  10. Opiods can help reduce despair among workers on a low minimum wage, while City workers earning seven-figure bonuses have a predilection for cocaine. Mine’s a pint.

  11. “Corporations that used to pride themselves on fairness to their employees now strive only for profit.”

    Unlike his own employer.

  12. And I’m slightly amazed that the Graun doesn’t just think the answer is drug testing stations on every street corner. That way the young could get safely blissed out and happy – until they hit forty and realise they’re fucked.

  13. The vast majority of the harms of recreational drugs are down to the hypocritical moralistic posturing of our ‘leaders’ and the legal position they have imposed.

    “Society invents a spurious convoluted logic to absorb and change people whose behaviour is outside its mainstream. Suppose that you know the pros and cons, know that your going to have a short life, your of sound mind, ectetera, ectetera, but you still want to use smack? They won’t let you do it.
    They won’t let you do it, because it’s seen as a sign of their own failure.
    The fact is that you just simply choose to reject what they have to offer.

    Choose Life.
    Choose a job.
    Choose a career.
    Choose a family.
    Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments.
    Choose a starter home.
    Choose your friends.
    Choose leisurewear and matching luggage.
    Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics.
    Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning.
    Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth.
    Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves.

    Choose your future.

    Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?”

    “People think it’s all about misery and desperation and death and all that shite, which is not to be ignored, but what they forget is the pleasure of it. Otherwise we wouldn’t do it. After all, we’re not fucking stupid. At least, we’re not that fucking stupid.”

  14. “pedant2007

    What is “astronomical uncertainty”?”

    We’re not sure. That’s what makes it so astronomical.

  15. “But people without degrees are even worse off. They find themselves virtually unemployable”

    I’d say that those with a bit of a brain and determination who don’t want to go in to STEM are better off not going to university and starting work as soon as they can.

    A friend’s daughter wanted to get in to the PR in the music industry. She’s quite entrepreneurial having run a T-Shirt business from her bedroom as a teenager and got the requisite A Levels to go to a good university. Instead she decided to do some internships in London. Admittedly it was easier for her because she could stay with us and her father could afford to pay for her transport etc.

    After 3 months she was offered a full time job. She now manages a digital PR department and has graduates of her own age working for her on half her salary and massive student debts.

    Without being able to afford the internship she might not have been able to get on as easily so lets make it easier for kids to borrow to pay for that kind of “apprenticeship” along the lines of a student loan.

    Perhaps Trading Standards could also look at some of the degree courses and claims made by universities to concentrate minds?

  16. AndrewC,

    You knew my Mum and Dad? Was Dad wearing his Pearly King suit at the time, and did he doff his cap and pull his forelock in the approved manner?

    I remember that sixpence. It was a denomination so high that you couldn’t spend it all in one go.

  17. ” What does it feel like to be a youngish human growing up in the early 21st century? Why are we so stressed out that our internal supply of opioids isn’t enough?”

    Given that heroin users are under 200,000 people, so it seems that the vast majority are fine. Also according to the Guardian the number of addicts has fallen massively:

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/nov/03/number-young-heroin-addicts-england-down-79-decade-statistics

    “Many have proposed targeted education, community support and interpersonal bonding through group activities. Johann Hari’s powerful book, Chasing the Scream, reviews how such initiatives have worked in diverse societies. ”

    As Robert Putnam showed, diverse societies are more stressful, more atomised and lack societal and interpersonal trust compared to homogeneous societies.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_D._Putnam

    “People pour out of universities with all manner of degrees, yet with skills that are rapidly becoming irrelevant. But people without degrees are even worse off. They find themselves virtually unemployable, because there are so many others in the same pool, ” (my emphasis)

    How could there be so many more young people in the jobs market than in the past? The word ‘immigration doesn’t appear in the article once.

  18. “If it weren’t for the morally evil War on Drugs, heroin wouldn’t be laced with fentanyl anyway.”

    Exactly.

    “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” – Ronaldus Magnus

  19. Shouldn’t Prince be remembered as the singer formally known as the singer formally known as Prince.
    To be pendantic.

  20. Excavator Man

    Sixpence … eat like a prince, and still have enough left over for your bus fare home.

  21. …The first few shoot-ups are apparently quite unpleasant experiences…

    That’s “apparently” in the sense of “this is utterly untrue, like pretty well any purportedly factual statement make by the writer”.

    Heroin is great the first time. That’s why people keep taking it.

    And yes, the rational thing to do is to legalize and regulate. Like tobacco.

  22. Bloke in Spain: pedantically, perhaps ‘formerly’ bis.

    BernieG – would have bought school uniforms for all of us, bus fares on London buses, new shoes, school dinners for a term (only joking, they were free), except that Dad spent it all on Union dues and beer …

    By God, it was worse for the Northern Working Class:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2AcJSkUw6M

  23. MrsBud got lucky, a working class lad from Surrey went oop North to work for the NCB and saved her from a lifetime of hideous Yorkshireness.

  24. It certainly has not been my experience that companies have become less “fair” towards their employees, they have had to adapt to people putting greater emphasis on lifestyle, but it does help if you have skills that are valued. If you have low skills, it is far more difficult to differentiate yourself from your peers.

  25. SJW – the first time induces vomiting and the shits, quite often. It can also be very scary, depending on the dose.

  26. Fentanyl has a humungous therapeutic window, but at the higher end it’s an anaesthetic. So a fucking good idea to have an anaesthetist around if you are going to be using it.

    I suspect a lot of street heroin is actually fentanyl laced with heroin rather than the other way around. Much easier to get hold of fentanyl than heroin.

  27. Anyone going to a Swiss music festival this summer can have their illegal drugs tested for quality, for free, on a don’t ask don’t tell basis.

    This will obviously improve quality and maybe save a few lives, courtesy of the Swiss taxpayer.

    Not sure about the War on Drugs. A bit hopeless, but at least we’re not totally losing it.

  28. bif,

    That tolerance is not new.

    When I was working in Zurich in the late ’90s there was a van not very discretely parked on the south east end of Bahnhofbrücke every night that allegedly did clean needles and testing of drugs.

  29. “the War on Drugs”

    Which ignores alcohol.

    Bit like if in WWII we’d have fought Italy, Japan Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Bulgaria but not bothered fighting Germany because they had nice uniforms.

  30. Why do we need a war on alcohol? I’d favourably compare societies with a liberal approach to alcohol with miserable shitholes where it is prohibited any day of the week.

  31. “And yes, the rational thing to do is to legalize and regulate.”

    Government is the problem. You call for more government. The solution is for government to mind their own fvcking business. Who uses what is none of their business.

  32. I want to be able to buy a bottle of whisky without needing to assay its methanol content.

  33. Aha! The fantastic Mr Ecks knows about heroin too! And addiction! Sitting there in his dirty y-fronts shouting at Loose Women.

    SJW has it, the stuff is v moreish. Doesn’t matter if you void yourself, you know it may happen and you deal with it. I don’t know fentanyl, but the couple of guys I know that do it have to jump through hoops to extract it from the patches they’re prescribed to get any sort of hit.

    Legalise.

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