Interestingly, although the Disease model allowed Alcoholism to become accepted into modern society as an addictive disease, there was no such model which allowed narcotics to be given the same treatment. In the USA, the campaign against narcotics under the leadership of Harry Anslinger (Founder of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics) began by imposing stern legislation on labelling, importation, and administration of opiates11. This strict legislature shows that even though Heroin was only regulated to a small number of inner-city addicts, politically, economically and medically, it suggests that ‘Heroin began to be seen in American society as the nonpareil drug of addiction- as leading inescapably from even the most casual contact to a obstinate dependence’.Harry Anslinger was the first U.S.
Commissioner of Narcotics, a position he held for 32 years; and was U.S. Representative on the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs. In his book “The Murderers,” he wrote about his campaign against marijuana: “By 1937, under my direction, the bureau launched two important steps: first, a legislative plan to seek from Congress a new law that would place marijuana and its distribution directly under federal control. Secondly, on radio and at major forums.
..I told of this evil weed of the fields and riverbeds and roadsides. I wrote articles for magazines; our agents gave hundreds of lectures to parents, educators, social and civic leaders. In network broadcasts I reported on the growing list of crime, including murder and rape.
” 12The official reasons given by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics for its opposition to the use of marijuana shifted completely during 1949-1950 from the claim that use of marijuana led to crime and violence to the claim that marijuana use led to heroin use. In journalist Martin Booth’s 1996 history of opium he states “Addiction is the compulsive taking of drugs which have such a hold over the addict he or she cannot stop using them without suffering severe symptoms and even death,” he writes.”Opiate dependence..
.is as fundamental to an addict’s existence as food and water, a physio-chemical fact: an addict’s body is chemically reliant upon its drug for opiates actually alter the body’s chemistry so it cannot function properly without being periodically primed. A hunger for the drug forms when the quantity in the bloodstream falls below a certain level….Fail to feed the body and it deteriorates and may die from drug starvation.” Booth also declares that “everyone.
..is a potential addict”; that “addiction can start with the very first dose”; and that “with continued use addiction is a certainty.”14 However, although Booth’s description perpetuates the common beliefs about the evils of Heroin, if one examines this idea it can be seen as wrong or grossly misleading in several ways.In a Robbins 1974 study of Vietnam veterans, only 12 percent of those who were addicted to heroin in Vietnam took up the habit again during the three years after their return to the United States. (This was not because they couldn’t find heroin; half of them used it at least once after their return, generally without becoming addicted again.
) Those who had undergone treatment (half of the group) were just as likely to be re-addicted as those who had not. Since those with stronger addictions were more likely to receive treatment, this does not necessarily mean that treatment was useless, but it clearly was not a prerequisite for giving up heroin.This could be seen to show that Heroin is not as innately addictive as presumed as been as most soldiers gave it up. Jacob Sullum (2003) suggests that ‘Despite its reputation, then, heroin is neither irresistible nor inescapable. Only a very small share of the population ever uses it, and a large majority of those who do never become addicted. Even within the minority who develop a daily habit, most manage to stop using heroin, often without professional intervention.
Yet heroin is still perceived as the paradigmatic voodoo drug, ineluctably turning its users into zombies who must obey its commands’.Another myth that helps to back up the traditional ideas suggested by the media is the hellish withdrawal symptoms from Heroin. However withdrawal from using drugs, especially ‘hard’ ones like ‘crack’ or heroin, is frequently believed to be more difficult than it actually can be.
Whilst quick withdrawal from certain drugs (alcohol, barbiturates and tranquillisers) can be dangerous, withdrawal from heroin may be comparable to a nasty bout of flu. Undesirable, but hardly life threatenin.However, even though the withdrawal symptoms from Heroin are by no means pleasant, it can be said that the process of cold turkey is at times greatly over-exaggerated.
In the John Lennon song ‘Cold Turkey’ he speaks of his own hell coming off Heroin: ‘My feet are so heavy, So is my head…I promise you anything.. Get me out of this hell’. The media is also quick to emphasise the dreadful withdrawal effects, possibly to put off anyone using Heroin in the first place but simultaneously putting off existing addicts from getting off the drug due to the fear of unbearable pain.
Within the literature on ‘addiction’, it is often assumed that voluntary acts are brought into the mainstream of symptomatology by the interaction of two mechanisms. These mechanisms are (a) craving and (b) withdrawal symptoms. These two factors are in some way responsible for the re-classifying of behaviours which are voluntary in normal people as non-voluntary or symptomatic in ‘addicts.’In Gossop (1990) and West and Kranzler 17(1990) the authors accept self-ratings of craving as an indicant of a specific inner (subjective) state, central to which is some sort of compulsive desire which can be accessed through verbal report.18 It appears that there are problems with the concept of craving, especially where this is postulated as an independent entity.
In ordinary usage, craving is a response to some basic biological need, giving it an implied compulsive quality, and semantically distinguishing it from a simple want. Thus, lack of food may produce craving for food, and various associated physiological states will give the craving its particular quality. The implication of craving is that the person in question does not simply want, but in some sense has to have, something.Craving cannot be seen from merely observing behaviour.
Thus, in animal experiments, the fact that the animals regularly overdosed on some substance suffer from withdrawals and show ‘drug-seeking behaviour’ is an established fact; but whether the animal craves drugs remains problematic, in the sense that animals cannot express whether they crave the drug or not. Drug seeking is not in itself evidence of craving if we wish to look at the notion craving as an independent entity. We cannot assume that animals who are involved in drug experiments crave because there is no independent measure. If we ask a person to say how they feel in such circumstances, however, his/her verbal report will be taken as evidence for an independent craving process.One can use the word ‘craving’ is an alternative word which we can use to describe an experience of discomfort, and an accompanying desire to curtail or avoid it. Craving can be seen to be people consistently choose to reduce their discomfort, and there being a consensus belief about the biological determinants of the discomfort.
Thus, whilst drug users ‘crave’ (have to have) drugs and hungry people ‘crave’ food, people merely ‘want’ wide screen TVs or exotic holidays.The use of the word ‘craving’ is an interesting exercise in attribution, and its primary purpose is to convey how we are intended to perceive the addiction process. It refers to the fact that sometimes people feel a strong desire to use, or use more of, their preferred drug, but it gives the impression of an autonomous force whose power cannot be resisted; hence its attraction. In fact, whether people resist the experience depends on whether they have good reasons, or no good reasons, for doing so.
People in the dentist’s chair have a craving to get up and leave; but by and large they stay put.It is necessary to note from the outset that withdrawal symptoms are real, in the sense that changes to homeostasis brought about by regular drug use lead to discomfort and temporary illness when the drug is absent or withdrawn. As we have established earlier in the essay, especially with Heroin withdrawal can lead to many uncomfortable physical side effects such as vomiting, cramps, stomach pains, diarrhoea and the shakes. One cannot dispute the fact that drug use, especially concerning opiates can cause a physical withdrawal. A theoretical argument about possible mechanisms for withdrawals implicates endogenous opiates, namely the enkephalins, beta-endorphins, and dynorphins .These are opiate-like substances which occur naturally in the body, and they have the function of inhibiting neurotransmitters and so producing analgesia.
Taking opiate drugs over a prolonged period makes the role of the endogenous opiates redundant in some sense, and their production is therefore reduced as part of a homeostatic feedback mechanism. When the opiate drug is withdrawn the body is left without its natural analgesic defences against over-activity in the excitatory systems.However according to John Booth Davies: “withdrawals are real enough and convincing pharmacological models exist to explain their existence, it is also the case that the precise nature and extent of the symptoms, particularly the behavioural manifestations, are not uniquely specified by the drug and its pharmacological effects20” This implies that withdrawal is more than just a difficult physical process that a user may go through but that people have to be psychologically prepared for withdrawal from drug addiction as this can be an equally challenging factor.It seems that in society today people tend to have fixed ideas of the notions of addiction, tolerance and craving. Heroin users are constantly stereotyped into being criminals and good-for-nothing people in our society and with the scare-mongering caused by the media, many of us think we understand the addiction cycle.
Heroin is portrayed as the most sinister illegal drug due to many things such as our predisposed idea of the typical ‘addict’ and the fact that injecting is considered very dangerous as users who inject heroin risk contracting HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other blood-borne viruses.However despite the many risks involved in Heroin abuse, it can be said that the idea portrayed by the media that everyone who trys Heroin eventually becomes addicted is grossly unrealistic. People are generally very uninformed as there is a tendency to accept addiction as a unequivocal part of Heroin use. When a Heroin user dies there is a lot of media attention surrounding it as it is quite uncommon but in 1990 there were 62 Heroin related deaths which pales in comparison to the 110,000 caused by tobacco and the 30,000 caused by alcohol22.
However, due to the fear of Heroin users and the misconceptions about the nature of addiction, tolerance and withdrawal, Heroin is still portrayed in an unrealistic way.People do build up a physical tolerance to Heroin and craving and withdrawal are often fundamental elements in precluding Heroin use but one should bear in mind that although withdrawing from Heroin represents a huge challenge for many users, it is entirely possible. One can conclude that there is a lot more to drug addiction than the physical requirement for a drug and the psychological desire for a drug can often play a very important role in drug addiction.