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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Doped Up Nation

As published at Unz Review, OpEd News and Intrepid Report, 6/30/17:

All over America, I’ve seen posters warning against drug addictions. In Cheyenne, it’s “METHAMPHETAMINE / Don’t live this tragic story.” A few blocks away, I stepped over used needles on the sidewalk. In Buffalo, it’s an image of a beer bottle and a pill bottle, with “HEROIN addiction starts here...” Appended to it was a homemade sign, “SHOOT YOUR LOCAL HEROIN DEALER.” Also in Buffalo, it’s a photo of a seemingly dead man on the floor, with “Learn how to recognize OPIOID OVERDOSE and SAVE A LIFE!” In Cleveland, it’s a tagged toe in a morgue, with “DEATH BY HEROIN OVERDOSE IN CUYAHOGA COUNTY HAS QUADRUPLED,” and this was in 2014, before the prevalence of fentanyl.

In 2016, Philly had 277 murders and 907 fatal drug overdoses. For 2017, murders are up 21% and drug deaths, 33%. What’s your town’s drug toll?

A 33-year-old friend admits to popping street-bought Xanax every now and then to help her sleep. I suspect she’s on various pills, if not heroin, for she’s always broke and borrowing money. She has a spotty memory, sporadic hygiene and pinpoint pupils.

At Friendly, I sat next to my buddy Jeff, who’s in his late 40’s and a HIV positive. Each day, Jeff pops a dozen pills, including Klonopin, a benzodiazepine that can trigger paranoid or suicidal thoughts, as well as degrade your memory, judgment and coordination. Mixed with other substances, particularly alcohol, it can slow your breathing or even kill you. Jeff is always drinking.

“Jeff, man, you’re always so outgoing, so gregarious, I can’t imagine you having anxieties!”

“That’s because of the Klonopin, dude. Without it, I’d be a mess. Without it, I’d be up all night pissed off, you know, about some stupid argument I had 15 years ago, some fight with a hot dog vendor who gave me ketchup instead of mustard!”

“That’s serious.”

“Here’s what it looks like,” Jeff showed me some innocent white pills in a yellow bottle. “You want one?”

“No, thanks.”

Jeff took one out anyway and gave it to the bartender, 42-years-old Lisa. She stashed it away for later.

Lisa is prescribed Buspar, also for anxiety, but it’s weaker than Klonopin and slower to kick in. Lisa justified, “After eight or nine hours here, sometimes you’re, like, whoaaa, so the Buspar helps, but I don’t take it often.” She’s also swallowing pain-killers for a foot.

Down the bar was a new guy, Dominic. It turned out he’s a writer, with a book of stories coming out in 2018. “Congratulations, man!” I shouted. “It’s not easy to get fiction published these days.”

Dominic said he had a story online, “And it has pills in it, too.”

Millions of people ingest pills unnecessarily, but Dominic's character is a bonafide walking hell. From his “Sick Little Man”:

That’s the core of psychosis, really: sickness. And since your knowledge of the world is filtered through that sickness, the whole world begins to look as grotesque and spoiled as you. And when there’s no good left to spoil, your sickness turns on you, it becomes you, and you the sickness turn on yourself, a black hole for which all things rot and disappear, like light lost in shadow. There’s nothing in this world that doesn’t sicken you to your bones, sad and dank and putrid animals that reek of death and stupidity, a stupidity so hopeless and consuming that you buckle over nauseated, sick to your stomach, sick to your sickness.

In my 20’s and 30’s, I had manic bouts where I thought God spoke to me, and everyone and everything just adored me. Finally, I was in the House of Light, and everything in the world was eager to help me. Unmolestable, at last, I had no anxieties.

As I walked across a bridge, all these hovering pigeons surrounded me and flapped their wings most vigorously. Fanning my face, they just wanted to bring me comfort and joy, you see, but you can’t be that batshit and not pay a price, thus the comedowns were infernal. Still, I visited no doctors, so took no pills. I don’t even like aspirins.

Once in Oakland, though, I bought a homeless woman a beer and a cup of coffee, so she reciprocated with a green pill. As she popped one, I did the same. It’s impolite to not eat or drink what’s offered.

Twenty-seven-years old, Loudmouth Mike was addicted to just about every drug for eight years. In rehab for the last two, he takes Methadone. “It’s also a drug, man, so when I’m walking down the street, it’s like I’m watching TV. Nothing is real.” A maintenance guy for an apartment building, Loudmouth is getting married soon. He’s straightening his life out.

After working eight years for a doctor, 32-year-old June became so depressed over always giving opioids to patients, she had to quit. She now toils in a kitchen.

Twelve years ago, Linda got sick so the doctor gave her pain killers, which increased in quantity and intensity until she was prescribed time-release morphine. Sedated, she became ever more reclusive, to the point of being confined, nearly all day, inside her dark room. She won’t even sit on the porch, much less leave the house.

Five years ago, her husband, Ted, got an inheritance of $120,000, so he suggested, five months later, that they and their two boys take a much needed vacation. Nothing fancy, just a trip to the Jersey Shore for a few days. Working a dirty, physical job, Ted was exhausted. Calmly, Linda said that the money was all gone. Worse, she hadn’t paid their rent for seven months.

Most foolishly, Ted not only let it go, but continued to allow Linda to handle the family finance. When Ted got into a minor car accident recently, it turned out Linda had also ignored his car insurance payments, so he may lose his driver’s license, something he needs for work.

Ted’s life insurance had also been nixed due to non payment. The cable television bill, though, was always promptly paid, for Linda had to watch Criminal Mind, Law and Order, Blue Blood and 48 Hours, etc. Television and drugs define happiness for too many Americans. Those, and spewing venom online pseudonymously.

When Ted insisted they had a serious conversation, Linda went berserk and called 911, twice. He’s now living in a group home run by a blind nun.

“She’s acting like a typical junkie, Ted,” I said to him over the phone.

“I’m afraid you’re right, Linh. My wife is a different person. We’ve been married 28 years, and for most of that time, I was the happiest husband alive. Even after that inheritance disappeared, I’d not have traded Linda for any wife in the world. She settled me down, cooked, had my friends over for parties. They all envied me, Linh. My wife would rather plant tomatoes in the garden than go shopping. When my dad got sick, Linda took care of him for a couple of years. I’ll always remember that. My wife was perfect, Linh, and always very frugal.”

“Now, she’s lying to you, kicking you out of the house and suing you for support!”

“At 65, I’ve become the AARP poster boy for the opioid epidemic!”

Linda’s nephew has been on heroin for 25 years, so perhaps he’s getting her drugs, with hefty commissions for himself. With infinite sadness, Ted is filing for divorce.

Yesterday, I found out at Friendly that Lisa had been fired. On her last shift, she was so doped up, Lisa looked all groggy, spoke very slowly, rung up many orders incorrectly and neglected to charge several customers. A week earlier, she was in the same condition, and at church on Sunday, dazed Lisa was also seen dropping the Host during Holy Communion.

Dom, Friendly’s owner, related, “The contractors that come in here tell me they can’t even get help these days. All the kids are on drugs!”

Strictly speaking, only Linda and Lisa are in physical pains, but even psychological or spiritual torments, if severe enough, are felt physically, and the American solution to any discomfort is chemical in increasing dosage, so even our toddlers are drugged.

What we have, then, are two problems 1) a society that subjects so many people to extreme psychological pains 2) a culture that solves everything with addictive distortions.



Rudy said...

Well, Linh, that was a heavy read.

Linh Dinh said...

Hi Rudy,

It is grim. I texted Lisa yesterday to say how sorry I was she was fired.


Anonymous said...

Linh, do you think that there is a deliberate attempt to eliminate members of the lower class by opiate overdoses?

Linh Dinh said...

Hi Anonymous,

It's one objective, along with making the pharmaceuticals, CIA and Wall Street a lot of money. Drugs also make make people stupid and helpless, which helps the state.

China was destroyed by drugs, which allowed it to be raped by all these Western countries, plus Japan. Americans are being drugged mostly by their own government, however.


Ian Keenan said...

The CIA admits to selling crack in South Central LA during the 80s.. I overheard two women who both agreed passionately that their childhood in Camden was modest but fun, a good community, but crack not poverty ruined everything. Alfred McCoy wrote about the CIA and heroin during the Vietnam War and since the Afghan war started opium production and export has skyrocketed. The function of the DEA is to eliminate the competition to the ruling mob. The media chimes in to say that it's all Venezuala's fault, even though the coke's coming through Mexico from Colombia and Peru. During the 80s it was blamed on the Sandinistas by the same news outlets.

When you realize how much the Feds fought the civil rights movement over voting, how close the elections are, and the recent turning back the clock on voting rights, it is very convenient to be able to have a felony crack rap on so many black men.

About hiring contractors, the Federal Reserve is concerned that too many people have jobs and are talking rate hike. As Engdahl notes that's not as bad as the Volcker era that helped get Reagan elected.

"Television and drugs define happiness for too many Americans. Those, and spewing venom online pseudonymously." I thought this was Unz Commenters Appreciation Week.

everyone and everything adores you Linh!

James LaFond said...

In sections of Baltimore police officers--current and retired--have and do run segments of the heroin trade.
I have spoken to returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who told me that they were made offers to haul kilos home, since they will not be searched coming through customs like a civilian.

Is it a function of the state, of state functionaries getting in on the action or both?

Great article.

Rudy said...

One of my friends who fought in Viet Nam during the 60s told me that he was ordered to fill steel containers with heroin and then weld them up. The containers were originally intended to transport bodies. He was told that the orders came down from Westmoreland.

Ian Keenan said...

(General Maurice) Belleux explained in detail how his agency had controlled Indochina’s illicit drug trade.. The general added “your CIA” had inherited the network.. when the French quit Vietnam in 1954.. Other French veterans .. confirmed both the general’s information and his suggestions. (x)

I met the beat poet Allen Ginsberg, who insisted that the CIA was deeply involved in the Southeast Asian opium trade. To back his claims and aid my research, he mailed me a carton containing years’ worth of unpublished lo from Time-Life correspondents that documented the involvement of America’s Asian allies in the opium traffic. (x)

Shortly after (Politics of Heroin, 1972 edition) was published, New York congressman Ogden Reid, a ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, telephoned me to say that he was sending investigators to look into the opium situation. By the time they arrived, the CIA had silenced my sources, and the investigators returned to Congress with the agency’s sanitized story.. Senator Frank Church’s committee accepted the results of the agency’s own internal investigation, which had found, not surprisingly, that none of its operatives had ever been in any way involved in the drug trade. (xviii)

From 1934 to 1970, the slow pressure of.. diplomacy had forced a gradual reduction in global opium production from 7,600 tons to only 1,000. In the following twenty years, however, the failure of the DEA’s suppression efforts combined with CIA complicity in global traffic allowed world opium production to multiply fourfold to 4,200 tons by 1989. Significantly, some 3,000 tons, or 73 percent of the 1989 total, came from Southeast Asia, where the CIA had worked with the region’s drug lords for twenty-four years. Most of the balance comes from southern Asian opium hills and heroin laboratories controlled by the CIA’s Afghan guerrilla clients. (19)

When President Carter reacted to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 by shipping arms to the mujaheddin guerrillas, (Dr. David) Musto’s disquiet grew. “I told the council,” he recalled, “that we were going into Afghanistan to support the opium growers in their rebellion against the Soviets. Shouldn’t we try to avoid what we had done in Laos? Shouldn’t we try to pay the growers if they will eradicate their opium production? There was silence.” As heroin from Afghanistan and Pakistan poured in to America throughout 1979, Musto noted that the number of drug-related deaths in New York City rose by 77 percent. (436-7)

McCoy’s Politics of Heroin 1991 edition

Ian Keenan said...

Paragraph 2 "unpublished DISPATCHES from Time-Life"

Linh Dinh said...

Regarding Rudy's account, I must add that my stepfather, whom I was never close to, was the head of drug enforcement for South Vietnam. Now, his job was a joke because high ranking members of the South Vietnamese government, as well as the American military and the CIA, were all involved with drug trafficking.

Rudy said...


McCoy’s Politics of Heroin:

I read that in the 90s. It’s probably still around here somewhere, but it would take more time than I’ve got left to find it. In any case…

Reading it completely gob-smacked me, but still didn’t bring me to my senses. It seemed like a malignant aberration – something local in both time and space – a secret that had been exposed but would be remedied now that it had been revealed. 9/11, especially bringing down the WTC, was what finally removed those barriers.

Ian Keenan said...

Rudy I could use the Dewey Decimal System here too. Blessings of joy and longevity!


About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), six of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007), Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009) and A Mere Rica (2017), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.