Friday, May 26, 2006

Dalrymple on Heroin Addiction

In what sure seems like a controversial article, Theodore Dalrymple writes that you have to work to get addicted to heroin, and it's not that hard to kick the habit. Trust me, I have no idea either way. In any case, historians might find this part interesting:

It is not true either that addicts cannot give up without the help of an apparatus of medical and paramedical care. Thousands of American servicemen returning from Vietnam, where they had addicted themselves to heroin, gave up on their return home without any assistance whatsoever. And in China, millions of Chinese addicts gave up with only minimal help: Mao Tse-Tung's credible offer to shoot them if they did not. There is thus no question that Mao was the greatest drug-addiction therapist in history.
For those of you keeping score, that's one for Mao, and tens of millions against.


Jeff said...


I realize you linked the article b/c of his funny aside about Mao--but the author's central point (drug addiction is essentially a moral lapse) is patently incorrect. Addiction is not simply a product of bad morals. For some addicts that might be true--but for most addiction is (like most things in this world) complex. I would counter that a willful lack of compassion and understanding is. I cannot even begin to understand why the WSJ would publish such absolute tripe. Anyone who knows anything about addiction knows that this guy is completely off base.

Tom said...


Again, I know very little about the topic, but I will say that Dalrymple is someone to be taken seriously. His real name is Anthony Daniels and he is a medical doctor in psychiatry who worked, among other places, as a doctor in a prison hospital.

And, to be fair, he was only talking about addictions to opiates, specifically heroin, not other drugs or alcohol. His point was that heroin is not as addictive as it is often portrayed, the addiction to heroin is more mental than physical, that you have to work pretty hard to get yourself addicted to heroin, and the people who do so usually have serious problems beforehand. Also, Mao would shoot such people in the head if they didn't stop.

All that said, I would be interested (seriously) in what Dalrymple/Daniels would have to say about why so many musicians seemed to get hooked on smack.

Also, Anthony Daniels is the name of the guy who did C-3PO's voice in Star Wars, but that's not important right now.

What is important is that "Theodore Dalyrmple" is a bizarre pen name. Brings to mind that Eddie Izzard bit on how Englebert Humberdinck came up with his name:

"And Engelbert Humperdinck! Yes, he was the man. That's not his real name; he's from Britain, but that's not his name. There's very few Humperdincks in Britain. He was born Gerry Dorsey, not Engelbert Humperdinck. His parents were not Mr. and Mrs. Humperdinck. They never said,

"What shall we call our son so he does not get the shit kicked out of him at school?"

“We shall call him Engelbert!"

"Good, that'll work!"

No, his name was Gerry Dorsey, and he released songs as Gerry Dorsey, songs such as ( mumbles ) which didn't work ‘cause nobody could hear what he was saying. And then his managers, obviously, said, "We're going to change your name, Gerry! It's the name that's the problem." And his name changed from Gerry Dorsey to Engelbert Humperdinck. I mean, I just wanted to be in the room when they were working that one through.

"Zingelbert Bembledack! Yingybert Dambleban! Zangelbert Bingledack! Wingelbert Humptyback! Slut Bunwalla!"


"All right, Kringelbert Fishtybuns! Steviebuns Bottrittrundle..."

"No, Gerry Dorsey, I like Gerry Dorsey!"

"No, we can't do it... Who we got? Zingelbert Bembledack, Tringelbert Wangledack, Slut Bunwalla, Klingybun Fistelvase, Dindlebert Zindledack, Gerry Dorsey, Engelbert Humptyback, Zengelbert Bingledack, Engelbert Humperdinck, Vingelbert Wingledanck…"

"No, no, go back one. Go back one. "Engelbert Humperdinck." That's it."

Okay, heroin addiction to Englebert Humperdinck. I'm done now.

greg said...

Anthony Daniels as C-3PO is always important. I'm not so sure about Engelbert Humperdinck.

Jeff said...


CP30 and Humperdink aside--the author uses his observations on heroin (which may be valid--that the affects of heroin addiction are misunderstood) but then he uses heroin to generalize about addiction in general at the end of his article---read below (his words)

Addicts want to place the responsibility for their plight elsewhere, and the orthodox view is the very raison d'ĂȘtre of the therapists. Finally, as a society, we are always on the lookout for a category of victims upon whom to expend our virtuous, which is to say conspicuous, compassion. Contrary to the orthodoxy, drug addiction is a matter of morals, which is why threats such as Mao's, and experiences such as religious conversion, are so often effective in "curing" addicts.

His generalizations and conclusion are patently wrong. I realize your point in posting the article was not about drug addiction in general--but his conclusion left me gasping and wondering how a reputable publication could countenance this stuff

Tom said...

Jeff, you were right. I was so excited about Mao that I missed his more generalized conclusions about drug addicts. However, I will neither defend nor condemn Dalrymple's argument, nor will I totally defer to his expertise. I will, however, admit that he is an expert on this issue and that maybe he is not as patently wrong as it might appear. At the very least I expect there is a pretty siginificant literature on drug addiction that argues all sides, and I'm not about to do the work to find out. Because I'm lazy, and I don't really care, and because Mao sucks.

Tom said...

By the way, when are you moving out to sunny Kansas?

Jeff said...

We are in agreement that Mao sucks. Anyway, we have purchased a house and will be moving at the latest--in mid-July. I plan to go to the Davis family Bar BQ if it doesn't conflict with Ricky and Renee's wedding. Sometime before school starts I will stop by in Leavenworth.