“To say it country simple, most folks enjoy junk”: William S. Burroughs on addiction, rehab and Opium Jones

“I was on junk for almost 15 years. In that time I took 10 cures … In every case I relapsed at the first opportunity.”

William S Burroughs: “Junk is a generic term for all habit-forming preparations and derivatives of opium including the synthetics. There are also non-habit-forming derivatives and preparations of opium. Papaverene, which is found in raw opium, is non-habit-forming. Apomorphine, which is derived from morphine, is non-habit-forming. Yet both substances are classified as narcotics in America under the Harrison Narcotics Act. Any form of junk can cause addiction. Nor does it make much difference whether it is injected, sniffed or taken orally. The result is always the same – addiction. The addict functions on junk. Like a diver depends on his air-line, the addict depends on his junk line. When his junk is cut off, he suffers agonising withdrawal symptoms: watering, burning eyes, light fever, hot and cold flashes, leg and stomach cramps, diarrhoea, insomnia, prostration, and in some cases death from circulatory collapse and shock. Withdrawal symptoms are distinguished from any syndrome of comparable severity by the fact that they are immediately relieved by administering a sufficient quantity of opiates. The withdrawal symptoms reach their peak on the fourth day, then gradually disappear over a period of three to six weeks. The later stages are marked by profound depression.The exact mechanisms of addiction are not known. Doctor Isbell of the Public Health Centre at Lexington, Kentucky, has suggested that junk blankets the cell receptors. This cell-blanketing action could account both for the pain-killing and the habit-forming action of junk. The way in which junk relieves pain is habit-forming, and all preparations of junk so far tested have proved habit-forming to the exact extent of their effectiveness as pain-killers. Any preparation of junk that relieves acute pain will afford proportionate relief to withdrawal symptoms. A non-habit-forming morphine would seem to be a latter-day philosopher’s stone, yet much of the research at Lexington is currently orientated in this barren direction. When the cell-blanketing agent is removed the body undergoes an agonising period of reconversion to normal metabolism characterised by the withdrawal symptoms already described. …”
News Statesman
Guardian: Junky and William Burroughs’ oblique moral vision
W – Junkie

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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