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Boy George Party
Richard E Grant
Boy George Party
Richard E Grant

Junk for Joy

The Idler July - August 1994

CAUTION: THIS IS NOT IRONIC

Though it is wise to be wary, there is too much scare-mongering by the skull-and-crossbones brigade, too much admonishing finger-waving by Nanny phase when ploughing benefits of abuse, about the joys of being a junkie. It is time to redress the balance. You probably think I'm writing this just because gear is trendy again, what with "The Smack Room" at Johnny Depp's club and Will Self forever promoting himself as the professional ex junkie. The truth is, I promised this story to The Idler ages ago but was simply too stoned to get round to it most of the time, and too depressed from coming down the rest. Don't let this put you off. It isn't always the case with horse lovers. For an excellent example of how it needn't impair your performance, take a look at M- C-, the dancer. You'd never think he could manage all those plies and entrechats if he indulged in the old brown powder before slipping on his ballet shoes, but you'd be wrong. It was Michael and his then-boyfriend who gave me my first taste, and judging from the noises that used to emanate from my front room, it did' little to impair his libido either. That is one of the first myths that I feel duty-bound to dismiss: that heroin destroys your sex-drive and leaves men with permanent soft-ons. It takes a fair while to reach that stage, anywhere between six months and 18 months, and even then only if your intake is pretty high and on a daily basis. I have had an on/off love affair with smack for the last ten years, sometimes going at it like a demon for months at a time, but I never lost my desire for fucking. Especially good is the fact that men last forever. J- C- C told me recently: "I had a hard-on for three years". I bet his girlfriend blessed the day the trade ships sailed west.


Well, I say I never became impotent or whatever equivalent is, but I did go through an unusual a lot of smack for eight months . During this time when stoned, I became incredibly randy but it ended up getting sublimated (maybe because I had no outlet for my lust at the time) and I discovered that I had a talent for writing erotic fiction, which, believe me, is very difficult to do well. So I would have a few smokes, then sit down to squirm damply in front of my typewriter and write reams of hot porn which was a pretty good substitute, being the purest form of cerebral fornication I have ever enjoyed. What's more, I sold my short stories when I'd finished which paid for the gear. If you should lose your libido completely though, take heart, because when it comes swinging back it returns with a vengeance. Blokes might have to put up with a couple of days of spontaneous ejaculation which can be heavy on the sheets but after that, sex is fantastic, partly because one is utterly sensitised so the merest touch can be an almost unbearable thrill. Another benefit is the instant results you get on w heroin diet - watch the fat melt away! And forget the propaganda that heroin gives you skin like a 13 year old masturbating boy: mine stayed as porcelain and spot-free as always. The only time I turned into a pimple-zone was when I stopped taking it, which is reasonable enough because the body has to clear the shit out somehow. In fact, an old friend of mine, who was a top model in the Eighties, was positively encouraged to indulge her habit because of the strangely ethereal transparency the skin takes on. Vogue loved that - she gave great editorial.

But perhaps one of the most remarkable fringe benefits of junk is the way the user always looks much younger than their years. If you ever wondered how D_ H_ (who didn't form B_ until she was 32) or I_P managed to defy the ravages of time for so long, then consider their well-documented smack habits. It is an established medical fact that the physiology of the body alters when flooded with opiates. The cells forever shrink and grow due to the constant intake and expulsion of heroin, keeping them cells in continual state of renewal. It's what I call the Billy Idol syndrome. That's the good news. The down side is that there is often a price to pay. It's like Ayesha stepping out of the eternal flame: when someone who has been too greedy for too long finally decides to kick the habit, those years comes rush ing up to declare themselves in an obscenely short amount of time, making the reformed addict look like Dorian Gray's portrait on legs. Which is why D_ and I look such wrecks these days. But then everyone has to suffer the consequences of over-indulgence at some stage, and smack has a much longer shelf-life than alcohol or cocaine. Another factor to be taken into account is just how you imbibe it. I have done it every which way but I never learnt to inject, because I'm the sort of person who would commit suicide on a whim (mind you, it's probably the nicest way to go). That doesn't mean you can't get some prescribing themselves. Befriend one. You never know when access to a stash of Pethedine or Dyconal might come in handy. Take a leaf out of Byron's and Shelley's book: their friend and travelling companion Dr. Polidori kept them in copious amounts of laudanum. Something that has always irritated me is the price of heroin. It is too expensive and doesn't have to be. However, there are ways round this. Try befriending a dealer but don't move in with them, or become one yourself, unless you are sure that you want to live with the constant worry of being nicked by Peelie's party-poopers.

The best option is simply to get organised. I know of several users who handle important jobs - in fact, you've probably heard of some of them and wouldn't believe me if I told you their names. One short cut might be if you happen to be an attractive female freelance journalist and know a newspaper exec who is determined to have his desires met. Why not capitulate to his advances and be paid in kind, with heroin instead of the usual commission?

Because heroin has had a bad press since the Twenties and is still pretty much non-PC, you may want to keep your little peccadillo quiet. Providing you are not fixing, smack can be used responsibly and recreationally - one doesn't always have to succumb to the old cliché that "it ends up using you". As with all drugs, there are stupid users and sensible users. However to be "out" as a junk taker requires strength of character and a refusal to put up with the heavy weight of hypocritical moral disapproval. So, due to- the double standards which seem be operated by almost everybody, it might be best to best to confuse the issue by using the vocabulary spoken by Americans who use the same words to describe two different substances. Hence if you go for a "smoke", it will be assumed you mean a spliff. A "line" could mean coke; if you're off to buy some "shit" or some "dope" it will be misinterpreted as hash. Or else you can use euphemisms. Mine is "doohdah" don't ask me why.

Even within the medical profession, there are many who are privately of the opinion that if a drug must be abused then heroin is probably the best because it is the only one with a substitute. Methadone, invented by the Nazis along with the VW and the Autobahn, can be quite nice in large doses. There is nothing available for ailing crack and coke users and the only "help" developed for the alcoholic is the drug Antabuse which causes the person to vomit as soon as any booze passes his lips. For the symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal, there's Chlormethiazole, which has side-effects of sneezing, eye irritation, headache, gastro-intestinal disturbances and, if administered, intra-venously, cardio-vascular and respiratory problems. Ergo, by default, "H" is the most civilised substance around. I also think that, contrary to popular misperception, it is the most sociable drug to take. This is in contrast to cokeheads, who flatter themselves that cocaine is a status symbol and thus wear it like a brooch - well, it seems such a good idea at the time. They turn into impotent sex maniacs, putting their considerable energies into picking up some pussy for the night, and when they get the girl home, do her the extreme discourtesy of not being able to perform. What a great drug. And no heroin lover is ever going to suffer from Hollywood Mini-series Syndrome, particularly prevalent in the Seventies, when every studio exec, producer and director was fuelled by a coke frenzy (the absolute dreck put out by the networks proved it). So you have: the all-talk-and-no-action-merchants, who think that the last turd they laid is a work of pure genius; ecstasy freaks who love everybody and would shag the hind leg off a donkey, or alkies who cry at the mention of mother or wants to punch your lights out for looking at them funny. Name a famous coke-head who produced anything half-decent (Sigmund Freud doesn't count). By contrast, look at the long list of brilliant men through history who have enjoyed the therapeutic and creative qualities of opium and its derivatives: De Quincey, Poe, Wilkie Collins, Dickens, Baudelaire, Gautier, Chatterton, De Nerval, Berlioz, Crowley, Burroughs, Cocteau and Lennon are just a few who spring to mind.

And there's not enough space to catalogue all the great songs which have been produced by musical opiate-eaters. Heroin has more anthems (which are really love paeans to it) than any other illegal substance and they are the best. I know I'd rather have almost everything by Lou Reed, or The Stranglers' clever hosanna Golden Brown for my rallying cry rather than The Shamen's subtle-as-a-brick Ebeneezer Good. Unless, of course, that's E humour, just as there is heroin humour. Heroin humour is very difficult to explain; suffice to say that it is black, nihilistic and often very camp. For example: a few years ago, we used a couple of dealers (now long defunct) who lived on Shootup Hill. After scoring we would hire a car from a firm called O.D. cabs. This was on Dyne Road, which sounds suspiciously like dying. I couldn't even begin to give an idea of how hilarious we found this. Even now, for some reason, I seem to find it extremely funny that I can't give you the closing paragraph of this celebratory tract on the merits of heroin because I'm off to score again. So sorry, but junk waits for no-one.