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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Heroin Is Still "The King," Mr. Brown

King Heroin

Ladies and gentlemen
Fellow Americans, lady Americans
This is James Brown
I wanna talk to you about one of our
Most deadly killers in the country today

I had a dream the other night
And I was sittin' in my living room
Dozed off to sleep, so I start to dreamin'
I dreamed I walked in a place and ...

I saw a real strange, weird object
Standin' up talkin' to the people
And I found out it was heroin
That deadly drug that go in your veins, he said

I came to this country without a passport
Ever since then I've been hunted and sought
My little white grains are nothin' but waste
Soft and deadly and bitter to taste

But I'm a world of power and all know it's true
Use me once and you'll know it, too
I can make a mere schoolboy forget his books
I can make a world famous beauty neglect her looks
I can make a good man forsake his wife
Send a greedy man to prison for the rest of his life

I can make a man forsake his country and flag
Make a girl sell her body for a five dollar bag
Some think my adventure's a joy and a thriller
But I'll put a gun in your hand and make you a killer

In cellophane bags I've found my way
To heads of state and children at play
I'm financed in China, ran in Japan
I'm respected in Turkey and I'm legal in Siam

I take my addicts and make 'em steal, borrow, beg
Then they search for a vein in their arm or their leg
So, be you Italian, Jewish, Black or Mex
I can make the most virile of men forget their sex

So now, so now, my man, you must, you know do your best
To keep up your habit until your arrest
Now the police have taken you from under my wing
Do you think they dare defy me, I who am king

Now, you must lie in that county jail
Where I can't get to you by visit or mail
So squirm with discomfort wiggle and cough
Six days of madness, hah and you might throw me off

Curse me in name, defy me in speech
But you'd pick me up right now if I were in your reach
All through your sentence you've become resolved to your fate
Hear now, young man and woman, I'll be waitin' at the gate
And don't be afraid, don't run, I'm not chased
Sure my name is Heroin, you'll be back for a taste

Behold, you're hooked ... your foot is in the stirrup
And make haste, mount the steed
And ride him well
For the white horse of heroin will ride you to hell ... to hell
Will ride you to hell until you are dead

Dead, brother dead
This is a revolution of the mind
Get your mind together
And get away from drugs
That's the man
Back! Back!

Watch "King Heroin" by James Brown on YouTube. Click here:

James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, recorded the poem set-to-music, "King Heroin," in January 1972 and released it as a single in March.

It was Brown's fifth single for Polydor Records and reached number six on the U.S. Hot Soul Singles chart and number forty on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1972. Many consider his narrative style on the song to be a forerunner of rap music.

"King Heroin" was written from the point of view of the drug, and explained in graphic detail by first-person narrative the effects heroin addiction has on people who use it -- from fashion models  neglecting their looks, to "the most virile of men losing their sex," to criminals committing murder, to addicts going through cold turkey withdrawal.

Manny Rosen's poem was then set to music by Brown, his arranger David Matthews, and Brown's manager Charles Bobbit. Brown added an intro to start off the piece, referring to heroin as "one of our most deadly killers in the country today."

History is supposed to teach us about past mistakes and make us strive to better ourselves and others. In the case of heroin addiction and overdose, a recent resurgence of the deadly substance has proven that Brown's warnings of over 40 years ago have gone unheeded. We are an addicted nation, and opiates remain at the top of the most dangerous drugs known to mankind.

"Heroin never went away," says Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. "Today it's more cheap, more pure, more available than it's ever been."

"Nobody ever thinks they're going to end up using a needle," Pasierb said. "There's no safe way to even dabble in heroin. It's one of the riskiest drugs out there, because of its addictive properties."

(Dennis Thompson. "Heroin Overdose Deaths Quadrupled Since 2000."
Mayo Clinic. March 04, 2015)

The serious nature of the heroin problem is now stated in a March 2015 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control showing most victims tend to be young, white people who live in the Midwest. That is a shift from 15 years ago when the death rate was highest among older blacks, and the West and the Northeast had the biggest heroin problems.

The heroin death rate rose 11-fold between 2000 and 2013 in the Midwest. The death rate quadrupled in the Northeast, tripled in the South, and doubled in the West, the CDC report said.

The report goes on to say there were 8,257 heroin deaths in 2013 compared to 5,925 the previous year. The rates have increased significantly since 2010, when deaths numbered around 3,000. The results show the rate of death from heroin overdose nearly quadrupled, from 0.7 deaths per 100,000 people in the year 2000, to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 people in 2013. 

Heroin-related deaths increased in both men and women, in all age groups, and in whites, blacks and Hispanics.

Overdosing is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, ahead of traffic fatalities and gun homicides. And health officials warn that the new heroin epidemic will "only get worse before it gets better."

In 2013, whites ages 18 to 44 had the highest death rates. Whites in that age group accounted for more than half of the heroin-related deaths that year.

In a study at Washington University in St. Louis, researchers found heroin users today tend to be white men and women in their 20s, who live in suburban and rural areas. Five decades ago, in the 1960s, opioid use was more common among young men living in urban areas. Additionally, they found today's heroin users frequently turn to heroin after getting addicted to prescription painkillers.

In fact, 75 percent of heroin users were found to live outside of urban areas and were introduced to heroin through prescription opioids.

Authors of the study explain ...

"We found that heroin use is not simply an inner-city problem among minority populations but now extends to white, middle-class people living outside of large urban areas, and these recent users exhibit the same drug use patterns as those abusing prescription opioids. In this connection, our data indicate that many heroin users transitioned from prescription opioids."

(Jessica Ferger. "The new face of heroin: Today's users different than decades ago."
CBS News. May 28, 2014)

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1 in 15 people who take a prescription pain killer for non-medical reasons will try heroin within the next 10 years.

("Heroin deaths take aim at new type of victims." CBS News. March 04, 2015)

This problem is not going to just "go away." Despite efforts at education, use of Narcan, tougher enforcement and everything else, heroin continues to kill young people in their prime.

Sad Reality

The most common reason for overdose is relapse use. Studies show that people who die of heroin overdose actually have on average lower levels of heroin in their bodies than living users. This suggests that it is the people trying hardest to quit who are at the greatest risk of dying.

Regular heroin users sense how much of the drug their bodies can take. They increase their habit slowly, building up a high opiate tolerance. But when they quit, their bodies rapidly lose this tolerance. If they stay clean for a few weeks and then inject their usual dose, the dose may be fatal.

Others die from taking heroin with cocaine and alcohol, or from "bad batches" that the dealer mixed poorly or blended with toxic substances.

(Amos Irwin. "Why Heroin Overdoses Are Rising and How We Can Prevent Them."
The Huffington Post. The Blog. March 10, 2015) 

Statistics say most users today have been through treatment multiple times, and only five to fifteen percent stay off for good. Amos Irwin of The Huffington Post reports ...

"When movie star Philip Seymour Hoffman relapsed after staying clean for 23 years, it surprised everyone except recovered heroin addicts, many of whom report that the cravings never end. People relapse after losing a job, ending a relationship, or the opposite--after a successful year they reward themselves with 'just one fix.'"

Many addicts are jailed. And, after jail, heroin users who fight off the intense cravings still suffer the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. According to Irwin, few companies will hire someone with a criminal record, especially for heroin. Just when users need help rebuilding a stable life, their criminal records cripple their job applications and bar them from college loans, assistance programs and professional licenses.

What can be done to prevent overdose deaths? Irwin answers this question ...

"In 92 locations across Europe, Canada, and Australia, drug users bring their own drugs into safe injection facilities (SIFs) and inject in the presence of medical staff. SIF staff provide sterile injection equipment, medical advice and treatment referrals and intervene in case of overdose.

"All 92 SIFs have demonstrated a track record of success--millions of injections and tens of thousands of overdoses have not killed a single person. The difference is stark. A year ago in Pittsburgh, a batch of heroin mixed with fentanyl killed 22 people. A similar batch caused 32 people to overdose nine months later in Vancouver. Thirty-one of them overdosed at Insite, the city's SIF, where the medical staff saved their lives. The 32nd, a woman in her 20s, was found dead in a downtown hostel."

(Amos Irwin. "Why Heroin Overdoses Are Rising and How We Can Prevent Them."
The Huffington Post. The Blog. March 10, 2015) 

A new mindset about heroin addiction and a more determined, aggressive approach to saving lives are needed. The question is if citizens with old stigmas can open their minds in order to initiate and support such change. It seems when it comes to death and destruction, heroin is still the royal master. We were fairly warned about his terrible majesty by "the hardest working man in show business" long, long ago. It's time to dethrone King Heroin.

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