Commentary Magazine

Article Preview

People Get Hooked

- Abstract

But after we got down to the Key that’s when I really started digging it, what was happening. We walked into that place and everything was a hundred miles away. First kicks on horse are strange, just the strangest, just the biggest gas in life, you know. I guess that’s why you keep on it. Everything was cold, but not terribly cold, just impersonally, beautifully cold and I saw all of these rows and rows of people and faces and everything and they were all just statues. They didn’t mean anything to me. I sat down at the bar and Bim Connors was there too, and he kept insisting that we go out and smoke some pot; that’s all I can remember of his conversation. He kept saying, “Well, I’ve got some pot, man. Don’t you want to get high?” And I didn’t realize it, but he’d been sitting there talking to me for about three quarters of an hour, sounding me. Finally he said, “Well, do you? Or don’t you?” And I couldn’t talk. I just sat there and smiled, listened to everything that everybody had to say but I didn’t say anything; I couldn’t. It was like being paralyzed in a very pleasant manner.

THE AMERICAN “narcotics problem” is an artificial tragedy with real victims. One such victim was “Janet Clark,” the pseudonym of a young heroin addict whose tape-recorded confessions were published a couple of years ago in a volume titled The Fantastic Lodge.* Reading passages in it such as the above, chosen almost at random, one realizes how little reality and compassion there have been in the prevailing notions of the drug addict. The studies in recent years by medical researchers, sociologists, and lawyers have done much to reveal the narrow, brutal, and ineffective framework of thinking that has governed our laws and attitudes concerning drug addiction. However, while directing attention to the artificiality of this social tragedy, the portraits of its victims drawn from scientific and legal data have tended to divest them of their actuality, not to mention their humanity. The gray image of the addicts produced by socio-medical research thus joins other, more lurid images of him that are prevalent in our culture, and while introducing a note of common sense and common justice into the rather hysterical discussion of the subject, has not particularly deepened public awareness of and concern for the plight of the addict.

About the Author