By Nicky Reid aka Comrade Hermit
Exile in Happy Valley
I have a tendency to view most pharmaceuticals, be they therapeutic or recreational, as neither good nor bad, but fentanyl is one lethal concoction that has really sunken its fangs deep into the collective throat of this nation and even a live-and-let-libertine like me has little choice but to shake my weary head sorrowfully at the grim statistics. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 100 times more potent than heroin, kills an average of 200 Americans a day, beating out nearly every other drug combined along with cancer and suicide as the greatest single cause of death among Americans under 50. In 2021, the CDC counted 107,375 deaths by overdose in this country with an estimated 67% of these fatalities involving synthetic opioids and most of those casualties likely had little to no idea what the fuck they were even shooting.
To me, that is the greatest crime behind this epidemic and what truly sets it apart from many of the other hyped-up pharmaceutical fads. Unlike most pearl-clutching normies in the straight world, I fully except and even begrudgingly respect the individual right to commit mass suicide by having a good time and I despise all the crowd-exciting tricks that the government and their willing Cassandras in the mass media play to try to horrify the public into embracing totalitarianism as the only elixir worth shooting directly into your prick.
They are playing this twisted fucking game with fentanyl, telling a gasping public that you can overdose just by breathing in the fumes of a junkie’s belch on the subway train. The fact that does set fentanyl apart from many other drug hysterias however is that what America is experiencing is indeed by and large a wholesale poisoning, only the population being poisoned has been conveniently obscured by the mass media to mask the fact that most of these individuals are actually just consenting adults being poisoned by the toxic fruit of prohibition itself.
The just-say-no-crowd has only just recently stumbled over their long-anesthetized empathy for the actual addicts caught up in their holy war and the reason behind this sudden sea change is likely that the corpses washing up on their shores are now increasingly white and suburban in nature. Not that this has prevented them from presenting these victims as mere things, like creatures straight out of a George Romero picture, totally devoid of anything in the way of agency. Don’t get me wrong, there certainly are plenty of kids keeling over after popping mystery pills from the dark web for the first time, but your average fentanyl casualty is actually an absurdly misunderstood citizen of the western counterculture known as the junkie and the long-term demonization of this population is a big part of what is serving them up to fentanyl like an endangered species.
When most people think about heroin users, they generally think of some filthy derelict slumped over in an alleyway with the rest of polite society’s garbage. The reality however is that this lurid narrative bears very little resemblance to the average dope fiend. Your average heroin user is actually a relatively high-functioning adult with a job, a car, a family and all the responsibilities that come with such mundane trappings of the so-called American Dream. Most of these people have also made a conscious commitment to a lifestyle of narcotic dependency because it is preferable to an existence with chronic pain. Many are former users of prescription opioids who have been cut off and forced to seek salvation from the streets after fascistic federal crackdowns brought on by mass media hysteria. But there is also more than one form of chronic pain and more than one legitimate excuse to embrace addiction as a way of life.
For centuries, artists, philosophers, and seekers have flocked to the poppy fields to sooth their aching spirits while the more well-behaved citizens of western civilization have scratched their heads and shrugged their shoulders at this pervasive trend. Some of the greatest poets of the 19th century drew inspiration from the altered states of consciousness they conjured up under the influence of opioids. Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud championed these narcotics and the “Fantasias” they elicited for taking them to spaces where rapture was bottomless and detachment from the modern world around them actually allowed them to comprehend it more clearly. This same form of toxic meditation was later mined by the greatest jazz musicians in American history, pharmaceutical daredevils like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane, who boldly celebrated the transcendent relaxation of heroin with bebop and the sonic aesthetics of cool.
Heroin would later come to define the work of many of my own tortured musical heroes on the outskirts of rock n roll. Analog outlaws like Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Lou Reed, Tom Verlaine, Johnny Thunders, Kurt Cobain, and Courtney Love would all follow the lead of bebop and Baudelaire by using that dirty water to step outside themselves and touch our lives in ways that sobriety may or may not have afforded them otherwise. I’m not trying to sugarcoat addiction here. Many of these same brilliant artists would also ultimately destroy themselves but I think it is foolish for us to simply blame the tool they chose to do that with while totally ignoring the magnitude of the art that came out of that same experience. Alex Trochi, the resident junkie laureate of the Situationist International once referred to his own addiction as an act of “artistic self-destruction” and I believe that this observation cuts to the very heart of the so-called Opioid Epidemic.
All opioids including heroin are essentially painkillers but as I noted above, who is to say that physical pain is the only kind of pain worth killing? Why not psychological pain or even spiritual pain? How about philosophical pain? The collective pain of entire generations forced to endure the deep bottomless ache of an empty, vacuous, and materialistic civilization that seeks to render the human spirit into a veritable commodity to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. Heroin is an undeniably toxic substance, but it is also a substance that affords the individual with a level of deep introspection that allows them to divide themselves from the herd. This is what makes the junkie such a vile caste in the eyes of mainstream society. Because the junkie represents a lifestyle which is arguably the most radical rejection of mainstream society available. A kind of chemotherapy for the domesticated spirit. And now that these sullied renegades are becoming a downright endangered sect, mainstream society is suddenly all broken up about it?