(primarily about narcotic addicts)

The Real Narcotic Addict

Across the stage an emaciated figure slinks. His skin is yellow, his eyes are feverish, his hands shake.

  • He is in the stage of physical decay which verges on a complete débâcle, yet presently he will commit the most nerve-wracking crimes with a coolness, strength and endurance unknown to healthier men.
  • He is the narcotic addict, and the drug that he takes, it appears, transforms him from a weak, cowardly wreck into a swaggering desperado.
  • Does this figure, met so often in fiction, exist in reality?

  • The prisons of New York City confine each year more narcotic addicts than can be found in any other community in the United States.
  • Not less than ten percent of the men sent annually to the penitentiary on Welfare Island are drug-users.
  • This means that in the year 1930 alone, 1,166 prisoners in this one institution were users of drugs.
  • A careful study of these cases was made, and detailed information was obtained in each about the narcotic and criminal background of the prisoner.
  • First, we found that we had to eliminate as criminals, in the accepted sense, about one-third of the group. These men had been arrested exclusively for the possession of narcotics.
  • They had committed no injury to any other person or his property.
  • Now, with this third eliminated, do we come to the dramatic villains?Not yet, for from the remaining total we must omit 450 prisoners who had not even been arrested, but had appeared voluntarily before a magistrate and asked to be committed to some institution so they might take the narcotic cure.
  • About a fourth of our narcotic prisoners remain. The criminal fourth.

  • Are these the emaciated, vicious creatures of tradition, who commit crimes of such magnitude that only drug-soaked brains could conceive them?
  • Well here they are, a group of more trivial offenders you could not find anywhere; except, in other narcotic cells.
  • All the more shocking crimes are conspicuous by their absence: petty thievery, vagrancy, disorderly conduct; these fill the record.
  • Furthermore, an appreciable number had committed their small thefts to feed their inexorable appetite for drugs, and for that reason alone.
  • Only the public believes the typical drug addict to be a desperate criminal; however, those who deal directly with him: penologists, medical men, jail wardens, etc.; know him to be a nuisance rather than a menace.
  • The real criminals fear narcotic addicts because they know that every addict is a potential stool-pigeon who can be made to squeal within 48 hours by keeping drugs away from him, and then offering him a shot if he will tell what the police want to know.
  • Can anything good be said about being a drug addict?

  • So far as is known, nothing good can be said for the drug habit.
  • It makes people the slaves of a craving which is costly to support and which drives them mad if by any chance they are separated from their supply.
  • So imperious is the demand of the drug that they will lie for it without scruple and if necessary will steal to get it.
  • Since the attitude of society towards the habit, when known, includes ostracism, the addicts are likely to drift among lower and lower classes of people, and become more and more degraded.
—Compiled from the condensed version of The American Mercury;
January, 1932; an article by Joseph Fulling Fishman and Vee Terrys Perlman
and appearing in the Reader's Digest; March, 1932; pages 19-21.

Pointing to dic- unit of words. Related unit of: dic- words.

Pointing to addiction article. Related information about: Addiction.

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