“Heroin is coming back in a big fucking way,” says Eric Stoltz’s open-robed Lance in Pulp Fiction. Like everything ’90s, heroin is in again. Is it just a matter of time before we start seeing its glamourized return in fashion and film? Pulp Fiction wowed me (and disturbed my mom) when I saw it 20 years ago. Kate Moss summed up ‘heroin chic.’ Molly, in her furry boots and neon lingerie, is tired. Maybe it’s time for the opiate of all opiates to reclaim the spotlight.
It already has — cut to the sadness of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose in February. Found with a needle in his arm and 50 glassine bags of heroin in his room, I thought, “A heroin overdose? I haven’t heard of that in years.” Wait, except for the unexpected news about Glee actor Cory Monteith last July, whose overdose was attributed to heroin and alcohol, the highly toxic combo.
This is the drug I would never touch — and I’ve touched, smoked, swallowed, and snorted many. But it’s official: Heroin is back in a big fucking way. And, it’s dirt cheap and purer. And Stepford Wives, along with their opiate prescribing doctors, are the new junkies.
The high. Again, I’ve never had the poisonous pleasure, but there’s trusty ‘ol Hollywood to get an idea. Cool as a cucumber and cruising with the top down in the streets of LA, Vincent Vega makes it look pretty sweet in his snappy suit and slicked hair. Trainspotting’s pale, sweaty, silly portrayals are less sexy, but the edgy cinematography and killer soundtrack blew me away. And then there’s Leo in The Basketball Diaries, whose eyes roll back into his head, troubles melting away, conveying the instant euphoric high the drug supposedly supplies, while also making 15-year-old girls swoon.
The fantasy. Heroin chic emerged in response to the last heroin boom in the mid-’90s. Kate Moss was the poster girl, with her frail silhouette and pale skin, not to mention those sunken cheekbones that keep on keepin’ on. Smiling wasn’t allowed, it was all about attitude and looking detached, as if you’d been up all night doing, you know…Chloe Sevigny was plucked from KIDS fame and placed in a Miu Miu ad, bringing androgyny into the mix. Jil Sander chimed in with a clammy Guinevere van Seenus with her left sleeve rolled up, an obvious nod. “It’s the used-up worn-out look I’m a little tired of, people embarrassed to be happy or optimistic,” said a jaded Tom Ford, then creative director of Gucci. The U.S. News and World Report called the movement a “cynical” trend and the fantasy faded after photographer Davide Sorrenti, who dated addict model James King, died from complications related to his heroin use and an existing blood condition.
Today’s reality: No longer Tarantino prices of $300-$500 a gram – and you know that was some good shit — now you can find a 7 to 10 percent purity bag for $10. A standard bag of 2 to 3 percent pure heroin would have cost $150 a decade ago. Supply is booming in America suburbia and street heroin is more pure than ever. In non-druggie layman’s terms, this means now you get more bang for your buck and don’t necessarily have to use a needle, the diseased method long associated with heroin. You can snort it, smoke it, ingest it, have a Tupperware party with it, the options are endless.
Here’s what’s happening in Chicago, New York, and the ‘burbs of the Midwest and New England. A soccer mom becomes addicted to OxyContin, Vicodin (my personal favorite), or Percocet, prescribed to her because of a pain in the neck from a fender bender. Her prescription runs out, she’s jonesing for happiness, and has to pick her ADHD kids up from school in two hours. When a glassine of heroin costs a sixth of the price of her beloved Doll, she makes a conscious decision, for the financial health of her family, and drives to that shady street corner Lauren told her about in Pilates.
Problem is, and there’s always a catch when you buy something on a street corner, even if its also highly addictive Girl Scout Cookies, that unlike your trusty prescription, heroin risks being cut with something to heavy the load. The most common spiker is fentanyl, a synthetic opiate that is the culprit in most lethal overdoses; it’s fifty times stronger than heroin and you can’t detect it. Best to opt for the Thin Mints.
Columbia University psychology professor Carl Hart, my go-to drug abuse intellectual, keeps us — and the Attorney General — in check, offering sane reasoning behind this “urgent public health crisis.” Hart points out that only between 20 and 25 percent of heroin users become addicted and that the majority of heroin-related deaths are due to combining the drug with other sedatives, usually booze.
Rewind. Doesn’t 20-25% seem kind of low? Hollywood always told me that after one prick of the needle, I’m a goner, an addict, a junkie who develops crusties in the corners of my mouth, who turns tricks to get just one more, who eventually loses an arm because of a gnarly infection — I’m trying not to look at your jacked up heroin arm, Jared Leto.
So are they really “suburban junkies?” They keep their jobs, pay their taxes, raise families, and throw BBQs. What is putting a little White on the everyday exercise, PTA meeting, wine club, sex, game night, menu? Is it all fun until somebody gets hurt? And if someone does, there’s naloxone, the single drug that can completely reverse the effects of an overdose, if injected while the heart is still beating. Just add some of that to your first aid kit and you’re good to go.
On second thought, maybe just stick to the Girl Scout Cookies.