Read the story of Johann Hari‘s journey in ‘Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs‘, published by Bloomsbury, or read a short one here:
“It’s not your morality.It’s not your brain. It’s your cage.
Addiction is an adaptation to your environment. “
“The war on drugs is built on the idea that the chemicals are the problem. Once you realize that disconnection and isolation are the drivers of addiction, you suddenly realize that what we do actually makes addiction worse. We take addicts who are addicted because they’re isolated and suffering, isolate them in prison cells and make it impossible for them to get jobs when they leave, and inflict more pain and suffering on them.”
“If you ask, “Why were drugs banned?” I would guess that most people would say that they were banned for the same reasons we give them for banning them now. We don’t want people to become addicted, we don’t want kids to use them. That kind of thing.
But those barely come up if you study the time period. Drugs were banned in the United States in the middle of a race panic. There was a belief — which was obviously wrong — that African-Americans and Chinese-Americans were taking drugs, forgetting their place and attacking white people.
The way I tell this in the book primarily is through the story of Billie Holiday, and how she was stalked and killed by the man who launched the war on drugs. In 1939, not that far from where we are right now, Billie Holiday climbed onstage and sang the song “Strange Fruit,” a song against lynching. It was incredibly shocking at the time.
That night, she was told by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics to stop singing that song. The bureau was run by a crazed racist named Harry Anslinger, a man who was regarded as a crazed racist even by other crazed racists of the 1930s. He used the N-word so often that his own senator said in an official memo that he should have to resign.
Holiday grew up in segregated Baltimore, and she promised herself that she would never bow her head to any white man. She effectively said, Screw you, I’m going to carry on singing my song. And that’s when Anslingerdecides to have agents stalk her. He has her sent in prison in 1947, and when she gets out, he makes it almost impossible for her to sing anywhere, because she needs a license to perform anywhere alcohol was served, and that was denied to her.
When she collapsed with liver cancer in her early 40s in 1959 and was taken to the hospital, the agents handcuffed her to the bed. They didn’t let people see her, they took away her flowers and candies and she went into withdrawal. One of her friends insisted she be given methadone, and she started to recover. But 10 days later, they cut off her methadone and she died. One of her friends told the BBC that she looked like she’d been violently wrenched from life.”
The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.
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