If you want evidence of how drug-saturated the streets of Baltimore are, consider this: last year the actress who played one of The Wire’s most memorable characters pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin. Felicia Pearson – known as “Snoop” on the show and in real life – was caught on a wiretap conspiring with two others, who bought heroin in bulk from New York and distributed the drugs in Baltimore.
David Simon, who created the show, reacted to Pearson’s arrest by telling Slate:
The war on drugs has devolved into a war on the underclass, that in places like West and East Baltimore, where the drug economy is now the only factory still hiring and where the educational system is so crippled that the vast majority of children are trained only for the corners, a legal campaign to imprison our most vulnerable and damaged citizens is little more than amoral.
Let’s leave aside – for the moment – Simon’s campaign to change US drug policy. I’m interested in his statement that “the drug economy is now the only factory still hiring”. That touches on one of the major themes of The Fix – that availability of drugs is the main factor in how many people take them, NOT their susceptibility to a “disease”.
The vast majority of Baltimore kids are trained only for the corners, says Simon. And they’re not like the classic drug dealers of legend, selling junk but never touching it themselves. As The Wire’s five seasons made clear, getting high was their favourite recreation. Only having sex rivalled it – but sex while high, of course.
Drug-taking in Baltimore doesn’t spread like the plague: it spreads like other self-destructive habits. It has more in common with stuffing yourself with junk food than with a disease. More on this in the book, but if you want a historical analogy, look at the picture below.
Posted in: Disease, Drugs
The Fix: How Addiction Is Invading Our Lives And Taking Over Your World is OUT NOW, published by Collins. Click here to buy your copy in hardcover or on Kindle.