The Birth of Heroin and the Demonization of the Dope Fiend

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The Birth of Heroin and the Demonization of the Dope Fiend
Th Metzger
Type: eBook
Released: 1998
Publisher: Loompanics Unlimited
Page Count: 232
Format: pdf
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1559501774
ISBN-13: 9781559501774
From Much of the vilification of drugs and drug users, including hostility toward heroin and the specter of the "dope fiend," started out as lurid media fodder, Metzger says, created to excite ordinary fears and respond to ordinary resentments.The Birth of Heroin ... Textbook Metzger traces the development of heroin--" God's Own Medicine," the first chapter title calls it--from its earliest precursor on North American shores, the opium component of the Pilgrims' drug of choice, laudanum. He details its odyssey from legal miracle drug to national scourge, touching, as he proceeds, on the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Prohibition phenomenon, and the rise to national prominence of an "American Cult of Purity." Metzger's purpose is not to advocate heroin use but to examine the drug's history and the attendant misconceptions about it. Informative reading for collections open to more than a paranoid perspective on narcotics. Mike Tribby From the Back Cover Ah, heroin! The scourge of American civilization! The enslaver and despoiler of all that is good and pure! And heroin's ambassador, the drug addict: a craven, diseased, desperate minion of Morpheus who wallows in a cesspool of decadence and habitual debasement! Yes, fearsomely addictive heroin and the deranged dope fiends who inject it have somehow been merged in the American public's mind to form a two-pronged skewer that diabolically rips away at society's most vital organs, leaving a trail of despair and death in its obscene wake. At least, that's the way it's portrayed today. But, as author Th. Metzger posits in The Birth of Heroin and the Demonization of the Dope Fiend, it wasn't always so. Like everything else, heroin has a history, and so does the societal archetype of the heroin addict. Metzger traces heroin back to its inceptual roots as opium, and explains the uses to which the latex of papaver somniferum has been put throughout Western history. He explains the evolution of opium into morphine, and that drug's medical applications and inclusion in many patent medicines at the turn of the century. Metzger also provides an account of the discovery of heroin by British chemist C.R.A. Wright in 1874, and the subsequent shepherding of this astounding substance into worldwide usage, a process initially overseen by Carl Duisberg of Germany's Bayer Company, and later by the I.G. Farben chemical cartel. At first, heroin was widely used and hailed as a "triumph over pain." But as the American cult of purity began to emerge, heroin was rapidly demonized. Through unprincipled and sensationalized media exhortations, it was tied to alien immigration from Asia, or "the Yellow Peril," which was perceived by isolationists (such as newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst) as a threat to social order, and the stereotype of the diabolical Oriental drug fiend was soon fabricated and installed firmly within the American collective psyche. In time, heroin came to be associated with defilement, sin and disease, and the hypodermic needle became a potent symbol of moral and physical transgressions. The American temperance crusade and the eugenics movement were other contributing factors in the process of heroin's fall from grace and the dope fiend's ultimate scapegoating as the lowest of the low. Seminal American antidrug czar Harry J. Anslinger furthered this cultural pogrom, adding to it an antipathy towards African and Hispanic Americans, and disingenuously linking those ethnic groups with heroin usage. Metzger also traces the activities of many other influential individuals who contributed to the public's skewed perception of the drug and its devotees over the years. Today, heroin and its users have become synonymous with devolution and degeneracy. How this came to be makes for a fascinating tale, and Th. Metzger tells it well in The Birth of Heroin and the Demonization of the Dope Fiend.

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