Feed yourself the milk of poppies

For middle-class teenagers with money to burn, what better place to burn it than on a piece of tinfoil?
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The Independent Culture
HEROIN IS a wonderful drug - a perfect antidote to the stresses and strains of modern life. If you're recovering from a bad relationship, fearing the wrath of the Inland Revenue or just overdoing it on the social front, heroin calms your nerves like nothing else. It cures boredom and quells anxiety, and is much more satisfying than a mug of Ovaltine. It is now the drug of choice for well-off middle-class teenagers with money to burn - and what better place to burn it than on a piece of tinfoil? Hectic job? Eschew the tinfoil altogether and snort some in the toilets at work. Cocaine addiction getting too costly? Easy - halve the price and double your enjoyment by combining the two and making a speedball.

Teenagers have more independence, autonomy and disposable cash than ever before, while club culture, with its use of so-called party drugs (stimulants, uppers) such as speed, E and coke, is slowly dying out. These days, people don't want to be up all night; they need something to bring them down in time for work or study the next day.

Brown (or skag, H, smack) is cheap and - for cosseted suburban teens - a way of getting a share in the hard-boy gangland image that is peddled by mass-market rappers and modish TV cop series without the muckiness of direct exposure to "dodgy neighbourhoods". And being relatively well off means you never really hit "rock bottom" with your habit. Once your savings have been exhausted, there's always your weekly parental allowance, or heaps of your records to be sold.

The reason that there is so much brown in Britain at the moment is dealers are very clever and the police are very stupid. The gear isn't all kept in one place, or directly channelled from a single large source; it is held in very small quantities by a variety of people. When you're trying to score heroin, there is always a middleman. Business is done from mobile phones, and instead of going to collect your little bundle of joy at some grotty flat, you can organise a lovely, civilised handover at your place.

Heroin can be stopped when it comes into the country but, once here, it is found only if kept in staggering quantities in one place, and dealt directly from there. The police aren't very good at tracing dealers; it is obvious when an unmarked police car (always a navy blue Escort, for some reason - perhaps Ford are giving them away free in return for something) is following you, and they are easy to lose. So we can rest easy on that score, as it were. There's plenty for everyone.

The problem, for the authorities, is that they are already doing the right thing. People are indeed benefiting from the general acceptance that rehabilitation (rather than, say, incarceration) is the ideal remedy for dependence, and from the latest drives to increase risk-awareness among recreational users. But youngsters will always go where their curiosity takes them, provided they believe that what they're doing is "cool". And now brown has gained that kudos.

When Leah Betts died after taking one ecstasy tablet on her birthday, a nation of kids was immediately on guard. The death of the teenage fitness instructor Julia Dawes this week will surely reinforce the message. It will take similar blows to get us to stop taking heroin: a spate of overdoses in top-of-the-league-table schools, or the death of someone whom users see as a contemporary.

Of course, you could say that these wannabe junkies just need a short, sharp shock. This would certainly work: stop-and-search police prowling the streets, frequent body searches at clubs, compulsory drugs-testing nationwide in colleges and universities. But it seems a shame when the youngsters are having such a nice time.

Drug dependency rests upon having an "addictive personality". Some people try every substance in existence and remain clean; others take one line and get hooked. For all you kids getting ready to try heroin, let me just point out a few things: brown can do more damage in six months than any other drug can do in 10 years. If you don't mind liver failure, impotence, acne, constipation and loss of appetite, then you're ready to take on the social aspects of the drug. Zero sense of personal responsibility will ensure that if you need money, you can steal it without a second thought. Zero human empathy will guarantee you'll lose all your friends, giving you more time to indulge your habit.

And, by the way, brown is the worst come-down drug you could choose. It is a sedative, chemically not unlike morphine, which doesn't send you to sleep but just knocks you out for a while. If you are keen to experience the come-down from heroin, why not try lying on a bed filled with broken glass? The sensation is roughly the same, only worse.