IS IT DIFFERENT here at home? I mean in the parts of town evoked by those new American ballads called rap songs, where there are, “Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat.” Where pushers are the big money makers, “driving big cars, spending 20s and 10s, and you want to grow up to be just like them.”
In New York, police saturated a hotbed of heroin dealing on the Lower East Side; I could see patrolmen, in pairs, on practically every other corner. They called it Operation Pressure Point. So a lot of dealers went elsewhere in the city.
A dozen blocks from my office in Washington, D. C., and police crashed into a “shooting gallery,” a place where people can inject heroin as soon as they buy it. A week later that place was boarded up, and I followed police crashing into another.
Squeeze and effect.
Does this mean that all the anti-heroin measures from aerial poppy surveys to heroin-sniffing dogs are useless? That those millions of taxpayers’ dollars spent here and abroad have been wasted? Wouldn’t it make more sense, as quite a few advocate, simply to legalize the stuff?
Not at all, says Dr. Robert DuPont, formerly head of NIDA, now president of the American Council for Drug Education. “If we didn’t have the efforts we make against heroin, we wouldn’t have 500,000 addicts, we’d have 20 million.”
I believe he may be right. I also believe what some of us were taught in religion class, what most of us learn by just living. That the fight between good and evil has no end. It’s a part of existence. And when seen in that light, isn’t Papaver somniferum, bringing both good and evil, another symbol of life?
LET ME CLOSE with something new from the good side. How morphine does its work in the human body has begun to be reasonably well understood only since 1973. The brain, the spinal cord, and the intestines have so-called opioid receptors that may be thought of as locks into which morphine fits like a key, to alleviate pain and fear. In fact, the brain itself makes morphine-like substances called endorphins that also do that. This discovery has not necessarily brought us closer to an ideal nonaddictive painkiller endorphins, if used as drugs just like msm for hair growth, might be as addictive as morphine itself but it is leading to valuable insights nevertheless. Dr. William Pollin, currently director of NIDA, calls it a major breakthrough:
“We have begun to understand that the brain is as much a pharmaceutical factory as a switchboard. Behavior that up to now has seemed capricious, a weakness of the human character, is becoming intelligible. Our studies of opium have led us to new vistas of how the mind works of the biological basis for motivation.”
Scientists and pharmaceutical firms around the world excitedly look forward to new drugs that may at last deal effectively with old problems bedeviling millions of people obesity, nicotine addiction, and impotence. Imagine a key to youthful thinking, the answer to depression!