There's more.“Years ago, when I started selling it, I wouldn’t sell it to a woman if she had a kid in a pram,” a middle-aged drug-dealer tells me, within spitting distance of his MP’s constituency office in a Glasgow housing scheme. Like many dealers, this gentleman made his initial incursion into the grim, morally-ambivalent world of drugs as a low-level supplier, turning a modest profit by purchasing relatively small amounts from a bigger player to meet the local demand in his area.
However, as is often the case, he succumbed to the curious allure of the substance he was peddling: heroin.
“Are you not aware of the damage the drug causes?” I ask, perhaps glibly, keen to hear how he now justifies selling the drug to vulnerable people, like young mothers and the homeless. He pauses briefly, locating what, to him at least, feels like an appropriate, face-saving response: “I never took heroin until I was 27. I went through a heavy withdrawal.”
The withdrawal associated with heroin and, indeed, all opiates, is brutal and unforgiving. Indeed, the phrase “kicking-the-habit” refers to the physical agony of going cold-turkey, where addicts become emotionally and physically excruciated as the substance makes its long, painful retreat from their tortured minds and bodies, forcing them to kick-out involuntarily, as if convulsing.
Serious heroin addicts with a high tolerance for the drug become trapped in the hellish cycle of scoring drugs to escape withdrawal symptoms, which isn’t cheap. This is why criminality becomes a necessity for many.
This bone-chilling fear of withdrawal trumps the shame of social exclusion, the indignity of prison and the permanence of death. The need to pursue the next fix, at the cost of all else, leaves many drug-abusers physically and morally disfigured.
My social mobility shame
BY DARREN 'LOKI' MCGARVEY
Only when contending with that reality, does my 50-year-old drug-dealing friend’s rationalisation for peddling smack sound a little more believable. Having gone through a ‘rattle’ — slang for withdrawal — he, in his own words, “knew how much these people needed it”.
It’s broad-daylight in the heart of this bustling post-industrial community. Another two men loiter behind a pair of battered phone-boxes which partly shield them from the glare of a busy high street. They’re here to score. It’s not even tea-time and nobody anywhere is battling an eye-lid. The police-station round the corner will close shortly, not that it will make a difference. Here, even the cops have all but accepted that drugs and their attendant miseries are inevitable.
Scotland has a proud pioneering history. We brought the world antibiotics, telecommunications and a paradigm-shifting enlightenment. But we also lead the way in delusional hubris, and finger-pointing. In Scotland our successes are our own, but our failures — and they are many — are usually someone else’s fault. And by far the greatest blemish on our storied history in recent times is the collective abandonment of the most vulnerable, persecuted and excluded group in our society: drug-addicts.
Data recently published has revealed that in Scotland, drug-related deaths rose by a shameful 27% last year to 1,187. That means the death-toll in Scotland was equivalent to five Lockerbie bombings or fifty 7/7s. It is nearly three times that of the UK as a whole, and, per capita, the drug death rate in Scotland is higher than that of the U.S. Yet no national emergency has been declared.
The even more deadly hurricane surging across America
BY IAN BIRRELL
In 1996, an e-coli outbreak, which affected 200 people and caused 21 deaths, led to a public inquiry which produced a damning report placing blame on a Wishaw butcher and council health officials. But in 2019, with tens-of-thousands hooked on drugs and 1,187 dead last year, there is quite simply no accountability. The buck stops nowhere.
In Scotland, the drug-problem is now out of control. Much like a fire that leaps from one structure to another, it has taken on a life of its own. It is now self-sustaining, independent of the conditions that caused it.
And the cause has baffled many. Myself included. It may be attributable to a number of factors, including the sharp managed-decline of the industries around which many working-class communities formerly cohered. The mechanisms by which they once lifted themselves out of poverty were sacrificed on the altar of the free-market and replaced with Frankie and Benny’s, American-style shopping malls, casinos and, in Dundee (the drug-death capital) a world-leading design museum — partly funded by the billionaires implicated in the U.S. opioid crisis.
Drug-related deaths, like untreated disease and violence, beget drug-related deaths. Much like flowers that drop seeds before wilting, those who perish in such sordid, undignified and often terrifying ways, don’t serve as warnings to others; instead, they become martyrs of sorts. They are mourned, not just by their families, but by those they with whom they sought and used the drugs that killed them.
Opiates such as heroin, diazepam, methadone and morphine are implicated, but by far the most consequential development in recent years has been the rise of counterfeit versions of prescription benzodiazepines, such as etizolam (street Valium) as well as cheap, deadly imitations of the popular American anti-anxiety drug, Xanax.
Opiate withdrawal is something I've experienced now given they put me on oxycodone after one of my surgeries. Hot flashes, sweating, couldn't sleep, felt like arse. I woulda thought it was the flu if not for the hot flashes. I only had it for one night and that was bad enough, supposedly hard core addicts can have it for as long as a year.
And that was after just 2-3 whole days of being on oxycodone (a few doses a day in hospital), so it doesn't take long for it to happen.