How my organ of addiction just withered away one day

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The mystery of addiction is as deep and as dark as the human psyche. This occurred to me in the House the other day as some frontbench spokesman was talking contentedly about the need to get drug addicts out of the hands of dealers into the hands of health professionals.

The mystery of addiction is as deep and as dark as the human psyche. This occurred to me in the House the other day as some frontbench spokesman was talking contentedly about the need to get drug addicts out of the hands of dealers into the hands of health professionals.

Health professionals don't, as far as I know, have much of a record on drug addiction. Nor do they act as quite the magnet to drug addicts in the way that dealers do. Addiction finds expression, recognition even, in squalor, misery, death by vomit. Perhaps the submission to the damage, the danger, the destruction, perhaps that's the point. The addict is communicating with him or herself in a way that nothing else can reach.

But addiction varies so much it's hard to professionalise its treatment.

I started smoking cigarettes at about the age of 15 and piled it on over the next quarter century. Even had I seen the floor-to-ceiling sitting room full of cartons I was to get through I wouldn't have thought twice about starting.

In the later stages of a 60-a-day habit, I quit, several times, using nicotine gum. The 2mg tablets worked, but then I graduated to the 4mg tablets, just before taking up smoking again. What a rush that was. Smoking high-tar cigarettes and chewing 4mg gum.

Once, I took up football to help me cut down. It worked. I got down to half a pack a match. Acute bronchitis was the only effective control. With lungs like wet peat I could only choke down four or five a day. Life-threatening lung disease was healthier than my normal life.

Two interesting facts spill out of these experiences. The first is that I never enjoyed one single cigarette that I smoked, ever. The taste was horrible, the pain considerable, the nausea constant. It took two years to stop dry-heaving after every mouthful of smoke.

Why wasn't pleasure addictive? One particular application of Colombian grass, as it was called, activated my pleasure centres for half an hour.

This is a rare glimpse of heaven. When rats have a choice between a food pellet and pleasure centre stimulation they die of starvation. It's true that during the experience I would have died like a rat, as long as I was getting that climax shuddering through all main arteries every time I laughed. Yet I never tried to reproduce the experience.

Second: will-power was useless in giving up. In fact, the will concentrating ever more attentively on smoking probably deepened the addiction. But suddenly, for no discernible reason, one day I woke up and didn't have the first one. I drifted out of the habit. Inexplicable, isn't it? For 25 years cigarette smoking had been so much a part of the routine it had become part of my character. Or even part of my body. It was like an extra organ I'd developed internally that needed special treatment. It's withered away now, withered and gone. And nobody can reliably say why.

Reader's guide to the Doomsday papers

Are things always as bad as this? Or should we just stop reading the Sunday papers? Here is a digest of the headlines from yesterday.

Public sector inflation "out of control". UK savings slump with £60bn black hole fear. US fund crisis hits our pensions. Factory orders at new low. Bad news on investment hits hopes of recovery. Chancellor's socialist tirade seen as "leadership manifesto".

Seventy-six year-old spinster tortured, raped and murdered – her teenage killers who showed no remorse are to be released early. Epidemic scare as firms stop making single jabs. Cannabis is the rat and crack the plague that comes with it. Violence prompts record complaints to TV watchdog. Teens turn airguns into killer weapons.

German doctor causes hostility by halving waiting list in a week. Oxford students face £20,000 fees. You're on your own, Straw tells white farmers in Zimbabwe. Blair will sacrifice Gibraltar for deal on EU.

Three-year-olds get private tutoring to get into their first school. Council officials now earning less than in Winter of Discontent. Britain is now the crime capital of the West. Estelle Morris wants to jail parents who abuse teachers.

Iraq waits for war. Meltdown in the Middle East. Cleric urges UK Muslims to become martyrs in holy war. Town near nuclear plant is Britian's worst cancer site. Scientists concerned over effects of food additives. Deadly Asian heroin gangs carve up lucrative new trade. Homeless in drugs epidemic. Drug tsar warns of cannabis crime. Jury curb hits civil liberties. Women left in limbo by damning HRT study.

Thank heavens it's Monday.

Dope makes you stupid. More than beer

The Lambeth experiment – in effect decriminalising cannabis - has been called the "softly, softly" approach. It's an entirely misleading name. But then, you'd expect that. Softly softly is the approved way to catchee monkey. In Lambeth it means watchee monkey. Catchee monkey turns out to be too difficult, too time consuming, and leads to too much unpleasantness. The Home Secretary has pushed the initiative through against a lot of opposition – not to protect children from drugs, but to devote more resources to harder drugs (including ecstasy, which, on a death-per-million hits, is rather safer than porridge).

It's true, though, that mankind has a deep, perhaps fundamental need to get hog-whimperingly wasted. This may be what differentiates us from apes.

And as it requires defensive structures to protect us from attack while we're lying around drooling, intoxication may be the base on which our entire civilisation rests.

But cannabis, I don't like cannabis. As the father of boys, I don't like boys taking cannabis. I wouldn't want dealers outside their schools as convenient street-vendors. And I don't think the Government wants it either, though I'm only basing that on what it has told us. Ministers' much publicised target is to "create a drug-free society". It's a daring way of going about it, we can agree on that at least.

Cannabis makes people stupider than beer, chardonnay or even whisky does. It carries more carcinogens than tobacco. It has an appalling effect on adolescents, making them much more adolescent. And it makes them far too much money far too easily.

One of my sons had a competitive relationship with a boy in his class. They were both vying for first place. The boy once opened his wallet and showed off £500. I wondered when was the last time I had £500 of cash in my wallet? Never since sending my son to a fee-paying school, I've had no money since then.

At any rate, my son took my advice (perhaps he was a late developer). I told him cannabis causes brain damage.

A little extreme, you feel? Perhaps it would undermine the credibility of my advice on the subject of more serious drugs? Actually, cannabis does cause brain damage in adolescents, its PR has been so brilliant that this downside has been wiped from the record. As far as I've been able to gather, the intellectual development of young people relies on synaptic connections being formed in the brain. Cannabis coats the nerve endings with its special residue and hinders these connections being made. Cannabis really does make you stupid. More than beer. More than gin.

Probably worse than heroin, in that regard.

And look – three years later, that keen competitor had dropped out of contention. Whole grades had opened up between him and my son, where for a year there had just been one or two marks.

We should keep an eye on school results among 13 to 17-year-olds in Lambeth. On a cross-cutting, over-arching, joined-up-government strategy, cannabis liberalisation may interact unhelpfully with literacy and numeracy targets. More likely, those results will be announced softlee softlee.

Britain on the New Zealand path to disaster

Public-sector inflation in Britain is running at 6.5 per cent, more than three times the economy's overall inflation rate of 1.8 per cent. That, incidentally, was one of the key waystations of the New Zealand experience.

Their increase in public spending, amounting to 6.3 per cent of GDP, started the long, slow-motion crash of that economy. The figures in Gordon Brown's Britain are eerily similar, and so far, so is the slow-motion scenario.

*THERE IS a funny advertisement on television. Man wants snack food called Pot Noodle. He visits sex shops and prostitute-types asking for it.

He is rebuffed, until one garish woman takes him upstairs where they slobber over the pot and gobble the noodles together.

The end-line is something like: Pot Noodle. It's dirty and you love it.

The Tories are looking for a director of communications from the world of brand management. They should find out who did these Pot Noodle ads.

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