Wednesday, 3 August 2011


The only thing I had in common with Amy Winehouse was the fact of our addiction.  She was terribly young and I am old, she was talented beyond description, I am not. She is dead and I am alive. Being part of the so-called 27 club trivialises and glamorises her death. As if it is some kind of an achievement to die so young. It is not it is sad beyond belief.
Amy was pursued by the media relentlessly, every mishap was recorded with glee and reproduced on Facebook and peered at on Smart phones, relished by Joe public. We all played a part by watching in fascination the downfall of this vibrant highly talented young woman and it was compulsive. How low could she go? Yet we loved her didn’t we? Or did we? Or was it just a vicarious pleasure in her outrageous behaviour? Who knows? But if the media would have  let up just a little, have had  some compassion and not gone for the jugular with pictures of her humiliations she might be alive now. The Red tops pilloried her and we all watched knowing the end of her story.
She was also hounded by dealers who fed off her in the same way as the media. Everybody consumed her with relish and left her empty except for talent. I am not sure how we can scupper the media lust for sensation – except by refusing to buy the papers that frenzy feed off such sadness, and I am not sure how likely that is. About dealers? We can lock them up but they proliferate at an alarming rate.
I took drugs in the early sixties for fifteen or more years I was a registered addict and got my drugs legally via prescription. The advantages of this method were manifold: clean drugs of a consistent quality, clean syringes and needles, a kind of stability in my life and best of all no big time dealers. There were of course bent doctors who would virtually sell prescriptions and ones that were on a power trip and expected deference as part of the deal. There were also some remarkably dedicated doctors who cared about their addicts and devoted a massive amount of time and energy to a thankless lot of people. There were small time dealers among us who sold on anything they didn’t need, almost always to fellow addicts.
Nobody led me astray I was a willing participant and it should be made clear that addiction to heroin is very pleasant to begin with for the participants. It is and always has been hell for friends and family. There was little incentive to recruit new addicts and I was not rich enough to indulge in the way that Amy did, I didn’t have access or I might have died forty years ago.
There were some famous addicts then too but the newspapers were not so avid then. We did not have to associate with dealers so we didn’t up the ante. I also knew a lot of addicts who led useful lives while maintaining a habit. The fact that these people paid taxes and did not fill our A&E departments with noisome smells and strident voices should be a factor next time we consider making drugs legal.
The idea of registering addicts raises itself to the top of the ideas box every now and again and ritually gets rejected mainly because it is seen to be deeply unpopular with the moral majority, exactly the same people who enjoy being appalled by the Amy Winehouse dramas.I believe even some of the more liberal sections of the police are in favour of a system of legalisation so when will it begin? Portugal began to treat addicts as sick human beings rather than as criminals ten years ago and it has been a success so why not Britain?
When I worked as a volunteer on a local working women project the fragility of the average addict was dreadful and bore no comparison to the condition of the registered addicts I knew. Also they were subject to appalling violence and abuse from dealers.
I believe that the death of Amy Winehouse was tragic and while it is by no means certain that if drugs had been supplied legally she would be alive now. I am positive that legalisation would not only cut down on young deaths but also cut down radically on crime
I stopped taking drugs not in rehab but in my own home because I wanted to. I had become thoroughly bored with the entire process. I had support from my partner and a doctor. I had already cut off all connections with other addicts. A deciding factor in my case was the fact that the local clinic had said I was a hopeless case. I am still an addict and like Amy will be one until the day I die. The fact that I have not touched any hard drugs for nearly forty years notwithstanding.
 I was lucky Amy was not.

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