Aug. 31, 2022 – But what if you’re addicted to something rough, like heroin? It’s true that many performers have died of heroin overdoses. But we hear less about the ones who overcame their addiction, including Eric Clapton and Keith Richards.

The experience of American soldiers in Vietnam demonstrates that many people can drop a heroin habit. In 1971, when researchers interviewed nearly 1,000 soldiers in the U.S Army leaving Vietnam, 20 percent said that they had become addicted to heroin while on duty. Usage and addiction dropped to around 1 percent once the soldiers had returned to the US. Coming home was the cure.

What happens today when a large population of people encounters heroin for the first time? It seems to depend on their social circumstances. In hospitals, people may receive diamorphine, a cleaner form of heroin, for pain relief, sometimes for months. About a quarter should become addicted; however, very few continue to need the drug after they recover. As Johann Hari, author of Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, writes, “The same drug, used for the same length of time, turns street-users into desperate addicts and leaves medical patients unaffected.”


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