“Drugs are bad, mkay?” explains South Park’s Mr. Mackey. Like Nancy Reagan, Joe Friday, and other tellers of this simple truth, Mr. Mackey plays the punchline. But a teller of simple truths isn’t a simpleton but rather someone blessed with the ability to cut through sophistry.
When I was very young, a man in a dress asked me if I rejected the glamour of evil. I remained circumspectly silent. Two adult relatives, assuming my virtue from my visage, answered “yes” for me.
Drugs strike as the epitome of this peculiar phrase uttered by that peculiarly draped man. The chemicals prove so seductive that they make the hideous attractive. Snorting lines probably seemed glamourous to Robin Williams in his twenties. But what’s less glamourous than a sixtysomething-year-old man hanging from his own belt?
After the party comes the hangover. But from the drugs comes the depression? The what-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg question leaves one wondering if people resort to narcotics because of depression or if the temporary highs bring a permanent low. Drugs didn’t take Williams directly as they did John Belushi, Chris Farley, and Lenny Bruce. But there’s enough evidence to suspect their involvement if not convict them of contributing to his demise. Like suicide, drugs make a victim of the perpetrator.
A cop glimpsing Bruce’s corpse, lying in one final act of obscenity next to a toilet with a needle idling nearby, supposedly observed: “There is nothing sadder than an aging hipster.” Earlier this month, a repairman in my central New England city might have harbored similar thoughts when he stumbled upon three dead men, ages 49, 54, and 55, in an apartment. The repairman didn’t need the coroner’s report: they OD’d.
Surely God, in his mysterious ways, informed them many times, “You’re too old for this,” before getting the final word in the conversation. Headlines of that triple murder by heroin should have served as a “You’re too old for this” for a 47-year-old man found earlier this week in a neighboring town’s La Quinta Inn—a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to die there.
A dozen such deaths have occurred in my community this month. When Worcester Telegram & Gazette reporter Kim Ring suggested to an addict that the dope going around must be really bad, the junkie, momentarily clear-headed in her confusion, retorted: “I think it was really good.”
The increase in heroin use stems more from doctors than dealers. The prescription-drug boom has conditioned a taste for opiates in the medicated. This, and the welcome crackdown on OxyContin in the medical profession, has shifted junkies from oxies to H. Heroin is the new hillbilly heroin.
A dose of heroin goes for $8 to $20, which, coincidentally, stands as the prevailing rate for oral sex in drug-doomed neighborhoods. It’s also the bargain-basement price for a stolen car stereo. It’s the amount missing from some mother’s purse right now. Collecting this amount magically morphs a beggar into buyer.
The drugs appear cheap to the people. And the people appear cheaper to the drugs, which take lives on a daily basis. Some decedents took too much that day; others, too much decades ago.
The hipster’s confusion of serious advice—“Just Say No” or “Don’t Do Drugs”—for a laugh line glamorizes, or at least trivializes, evil, as does Hollywood’s reliance on narcotics as a favored leisure activity the way others play bridge or collect stamps.
Friedrich Nietzsche, boasting a more penetrating intellect than even Mr. Mackey, observed: “They muddy the waters, to make it seem deep.” People, the brain, and addiction are perplexing. Heroin, coke, meth, and their friends are a simple bunch. They’re evil and unglamorous even though they may appear the opposite.
It’s not complicated. Robin Williams, along with several middle-aged corpses in Worcester, Massachusetts, speak in unison from the grave: Drugs are bad, mkay?