So, Should Heroin Be Legalized?

Almost 70 bags of heroin were found in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s apartment along with syringes, prescription drugs, and other drug paraphernalia. Hoffman was no tourist in the lifestyle.

According to the NY Post, investigators are also trying to find the drug dealer who supplied the actor with the heroin. Timothy Bugge, the new commanding officer of Manhattan South Narcotics, sent out an alert to supervisors trying to find the source of heroin labeled “Ace of Spades,” or “Ace of Hearts.” So who is the culprit; was it the source supplying the heroin or the troubled actor who consumed the heroin? Isn’t the source arbitrary in the case where a multimillionaire had a sad, insatiable appetite, and enough money to fund it? The answer is both; a great deal has to do with the type of heroin being sold on the streets.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdoses have been on the rise in the U.S. Drug overdose deaths increased by 102 percent between 1999 and 2010. Jeff Deeney, former user and writer for the Atlantic stated that, “Overdoses become advertisements for strong product.”

I can tell you that it’s particularly dangerous out there right now. Recently, an unpredictable and hard-to-track bad batch of Fentanyl-tainted heroin dipped and dodged its way through the mid-Atlantic: Camden, Philadelphia, moving west to Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and now Pittsburgh. It also popped up to the south in Baltimore. Health practitioners in North Philly are getting bombarded with faxes from the Centers for Disease Control about the bad bags working their way around the streets, with instructions to warn their patients who might be using. Fentanyl-tainted bags go fast; ironically, when news of a batch laying users low spreads on the streets, heavy users seek the potent bags out by their brand stamp.

In the Atlantic article, the argument is presented that legalizing heroin could have saved Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s life; such as an American version of Insite, Vancouver’s celebrated, medically supervised, legal injecting space.

If Philip Seymour Hoffman had taken his last bags to a legal injecting space, would he still be alive? Had he overdosed there, medical staff on call might have reversed it with Naloxone. Had he acquired an abscess or other skin infection, he could have sought nonjudgmental medical intervention. Perhaps injection site staff could have directed him back to treatment.

The answer to that question is “yes” and “no.” “Yes,” if that scenario would have occurred it would have saved Hoffman’s life. But, “no,” in the age of TMZ, Twitter, and iPhones, a famous Oscar winning actor would never go to a public legal injecting space to consume heroin.

What are your thoughts? Do you think heroin should be legalized? Could a legal injecting space have saved Hoffman’s life? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Heroin is the New Maple Syrup

Vermont is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. Vermont is the 2nd least populous of the 50 United States and the largest producer of maple syrup in the country. More on Vermont: The state is not all about the maple syrup; there’s also the heroin.

The drug problem has gotten so bad in Vermont, that Gov. Peter Shumlin recently spent his entire 34-minute State of the State address talking about Vermont’s: “full-blown heroin crisis.”

Ready for an insane stat? The “Freedom and Unity’ state has the heroin rate in the country with 15% of people surveyed saying they’ve used the “H” within the past month. (The state has roughly 625,000 residents.) The quandary is crazy; Vermonters suffer from high unemployment, yet too many job applicants are failing drug tests. The Vermont heroin problem is another barrier to finding the right people to fill open manufacturing jobs, and rightfully so! You don’t really want people on smack operating heavy machinery.

Another Vermont fun fact: on a daily basis police across Vermont

respond to burglaries or armed robberies. Reports theorized that the reason for the crime is insatiable hunger for money to feed heroin habits. According to ABC News, Vermont ranks second in the country for the rate of people being treated for opiate abuse; over the past five years, the number of serious drug crimes rose 46 percent. Last year, the number of heroin overdose deaths went from nine to seventeen. Five times as many heroin dealers were indicted in 2013 as in 2010.

The theories behind the epidemic:

Large incentives for big-city drug dealers. A bag of heroin that would cost $5 in New York can sell for as much as $30 in Rutland, Vermont.

Location! Location! Location! Vermont’s proximity to Montreal makes it a convenient rest stop for drug dealers traveling from Canada.

Heroin is easier to get, and less expensive, than other drugs like prescription pain pills.

Maj. Glenn Hall, head of the Vermont State Police’s criminal division:

“For years now, when we do heroin cases, we find pills intermixed. Many times, heroin users have pills. When they don’t have heroin, they’re looking for the pill. When they don’t have the pills, they’re looking for heroin.”

(I believe that’s called chasing the dragon.)

“Anyone who doesn’t believe that they have an opiate challenge in their state is in denial,” Gov. Shumlin stated. “The point is that if we can shift from our belief, our fantasy, that we can solve all of these problems with law enforcement, we’ll go a long way toward solving the problem. This is primarily a public health crisis.”

Talking Heroin, Fame, & ‘The Heroin Chronicles’ With Author Jerry Stahl

It’s ridiculous out there. It’s so cold that I saw a cab driver explaining something to a potential fare and his middle finger froze. It’s so cold that my lawyer put his hands in his own pocket. OK, OK, I’ll stop. It’s hard to get people to go anywhere when it’s like this. January and February can be rough on clubs and bars and such – especially in a world where homes have so many ways to entertain: thousands of TV channels, the World Wide Web, and other etceteras I cannot mention in a family column. 

Tonight I will brave the weather but stay in Brooklyn. Jerry Stahl, the author of Bad Sex On Speed, will be reading from his new book: The Heroin Chronicles. According to Zoe Hanson, my fierce friend who contributed to this book, Jerry is… the man. The event will be early, at 7pm at Word in Brooklyn, 126 Franklin St. Brooklyn Brewery is providing it’s product. The tome is available on Akashic Books. If you can’t make it tonight, they’ll do it again tomorrow night at St Mark’s Bookshop, also at 7pm. The crowd that gathers to hear these tales will be super hot and smart and cool…all those things noticeably absent at most joints in town. Dress warm, juice up on some yerba mate, and join me. 

I asked Jerry Stahl a few questions.

Was heroin ever chic? Is it always chic? Does it give the users a certain badge – a certain credibility – or is it just a very bad thing?
Heroin involves a lot of puking on your shoes. And, I think we can all agree, nothing says ‘chic’ like shoe-puking. I never bought into the heroin chic thing myself. I mean, a real dope fiend has to try not to look like a dope fiend, or risk being busted. So anybody who actually wants to look that way is either a poser, in a fashion spread, or Keith Richards. Keith is the exception that proves the rule – plus, he always had the dough for lawyers who could get him off, or a judge who figured setting a charity concert was better than sending him to jail.

On the other hand, an old-time needle jockey once told me how he went to see Charlie Parker in New York, and hours after he was supposed to go on, when the crowd was ready to split, an announcer stepped up to the mic and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Parker is just pulling down his sleeve….”  Which – I can’t lie – sounds pretty goddamn glam. But the truth is, "Bird" was probably backstage wiping puke off his shoes.

Are the stories chronicled success stories or screams or what?
I would describe them as successful screams. Or, in the immortal words of Jonathan Swift, “crawling is performed in the same position as climbing.” I have no idea how this applies to your question, but it’s a great quote, and – if you kind of squint – it does sort of apply

Is a junkie always a junkie, even after the using is chronicled in the rooms/at meetings?
Well, junkies are like veterans. They all share that wartime experience, but not all of them are still living in the jungle 20 years after the war’s over. 

Russell Brand Smokes Heroin In BBC Documentary

In a new documentary to air later this month on BBC Three, Russell Brand watches footage of himself smoking heroin in his 20s — and confesses that drug addiction felt so good that he longs to have it back.

In Russell Brand: From Addition To Recovery, the comic walks his friend Martino Sclavi through his addiction at his worst. While watching the footage of himself doing smack in a Hackney apartment, Brand muses, "This is when you know it’s a disease. It doesn’t matter that I sat in that flat in Hackney and now I’m in the Savoy. I’m jealous of me then." He continues, "It doesn’t make a different to me. The money, the fame, the power, the sex, the women — none of it. I’d rather be a drug addict." 

 In April, he testified before Parliament about the UK’s drug policy, urging them to treat drug addiction as an illness, rather than solely a criminal problem. In his testimony, Brand confessed "I was a criminal when I was a drug addict by virtue of my addiction and the ways that I had to acquire money to get drugs." In the throes of his heroin addiction, the actor was told he only had six months to live; the 37-year-old has been clean for 10 years.  

The Taliban Is Having Gardening Problems

Times are tough for the Taliban. As if they didn’t have enough to worry about between drone strikes and NATO raids, they’re having problems with their plants, too. A fungus has hit Afghanistan’s opium poppies, infecting what’s thought to be about half of the country’s poppy crop.

The poppy fungus could hit the Taliban hard. Afghanistan produces 92% of the world’s opium, and the insurgent group derives a big chunk of its income from the drug industry, by taxing poppy farmers and processing the raw opium and turning it into heroin.

Some believe NATO is behind the poppy fungus, but UN officials insist that isn’t the case. Still, farmers have noted that the fungus appears to be an “aerial spray,” or at least look like one. Whatever the cause, the poppy fungus is expected to hinder the Taliban by limiting its ability to pay troops, making jobs with the Afghan Security Forces or U.S.-backed development organizations more attractive. But, it could also have the opposite effect. Many farmers rely on the poppy crop for their income, and the tough times could drive some to join the insurgency. And, the poor crop has already caused a jump in opium prices, making growing more profitable for those who are fungus-free.

Wes Bentley Admits Drugs Torpedoed His Career

We never really knew why Wes Bentley never fulfilled the promise he showed in American Beauty. Four Feathers was bad, but it wasn’t a career killer. And yet somehow, Bentley managed to transform himself into a Hollywood cautionary tale: How to Disappear. But a surprising new profile in the New York Times reveals it wasn’t the scripts that were bad (although Ghost Rider was very, very bad), it was the drugs.

The piercingly blue-eyed actor says he was so overwhelmed with his overnight success that he turned to drugs and alcohol. But drugs and alcohol in young Hollywood are like food and water everywhere else, so what made Bentley different from any other sudden acting sensation with a coke habit and money to burn? We’re actually not really sure. A lack of support, maybe? Bentley says that after the success of Beauty, he moved into a “group house” with other budding thespians. That’s a recipe for disaster, and eventually “heroin had him completely.”

Anyone who’s watched an episode of Entourage knows that in Hollywood, you’re only as hot as your next project, and that fame is something that needs to be both controlled and nurtured. According to one of Bentley’s friends, there was a “sense among Wes and others that once they got their break, the jobs and scripts would just keep coming.” At one point, Bentley came face-to-face with potential career salvation when he met with Gus Van Sant to discuss a role in some gay cowboy movie. Ironically, it was Bentley’s Four Feathers costar Heath Ledger who performed career resuscitation with that picture.

The article goes on to describe Bentley’s shocking descent towards rock bottom—”From 2002 to 2009, Mr. Bentley said, he stopped caring about acting, and only did the occasional film for money to pay bills or buy drugs.” It’s shocking because, well, who knew? And speaking of bottom, that’s exactly where Bentley is starting his comeback effort. He’s currently one of two leads in Venus in Fur, an Off Broadway production that’s received positive reviews. As far as a sweeping comeback is concerned, Bentley certainly doesn’t have the talent of a Robert Downey or the magnetism of a Mickey Rourke. But we’ll be damned if he wasn’t the best part of American Beauty, and that’s something.