Experts who argue that addiction is a chronic, relapsing, incurable disease should try speaking to some veterans from the Vietnam War. If the disease model really worked, America should be full of ageing smackheads who haven’t been able to stop taking heroin since ‘Nam. But it isn’t. From The Fix:
In 1970 there was a shockingly sudden burst of heroin addiction among GIs in Vietnam. As Alfred McCoy describes in his book The Politics of Heroin, until 1969 the ‘Golden Triangle’ of south-east Asia was harvesting nearly a thousand tons of raw opium annually – but there were no laboratories capable of turning it into high-grade heroin. That changed when Chinese master chemists from Hong Kong arrived in the region. Suddenly South Vietnam was full of fine-grained No. 4 heroin instead of the impure, chunky No. 3 grade.
‘Heroin addiction spread like the plague,’ writes McCoy. ‘Fourteen- year old girls were selling heroin at roadside stands on the main high- way from Saigon to the US army base at Long Binh; Saigon street peddlers stuffed plastic vials of 95 percent pure heroin into the pockets of GIs as they strolled through downtown Saigon; and ‘mama-sans’, or Vietnamese barracks’ maids, started carrying a few vials to work for sale to on-duty GIs.
Between 15 and 20 per cent of GIs in the Mekong Delta were snorting or smoking heroin. Panicky headlines about the ‘GI epidemic’ started appearing in American newspapers. The Nixon administration was terrified of a crime wave caused by the return of thousands of desperate junkies to American cities. But it never materialised. Instead, the addicted soldiers cleaned up their act – fast.
They didn’t all join 12-step groups. They didn’t check into rehab. They cured themselves. How?
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.