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Heroin and Antisocial Behavior:

As psychological addiction progresses, heroin users find themselves less and less interested in friends and family members who do not share their obsession, and they begin to seek the company of those who do. The relationships between hard-core addicts cannot accurately be described as friendships, however, since they lack the trust and the empathy that characterizes friendship, and are instead more akin to impersonal alliances formed in pursuit of a shared, daily goal.

Recovering heroin addict Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, notes the antisocial aspect of heroin addiction: "Without you realizing what's happening, heroin sucks the love out of you. . . . It's very deceiving because it'll numb a pain, but it'll numb your love as well."Heroin can emotionally desensitize its addicts to the point where many addicts will commit crimes to obtain money necessary for the drug. For the desperate addict, offenses that would have seemed unconscionable before addiction occurred—crimes such as burglary, armed robbery, assault, in some cases even murder—no longer seem abhorrent. As the downward spiral of addiction continues, it becomes increasingly difficult for addicts to face themselves or their actions, and thus, to imagine themselves ever reentering mainstream society.

Particularly grim evidence of the extent to which heroin addicts can be in denial of the consequences of their actions lies in the many addicted mothers who continue to use the drug during pregnancy.

The pregnancies of many heroin-addicted women end in spontaneous abortions triggered by withdrawal symptoms. Full-term babies who are born to these women are as physically addicted to the drug as their mothers, and will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms shortly after birth. Because these infants have no psychological dependence, they are particularly receptive to addictioncuring medical treatment if their addiction is diagnosed. Left untreated, however, the addiction can result in the infant's death. Further, even successfully treated heroin-addicted babies are at greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and many of them have contracted the HIV virus from their mothers.

Despite a heroin addict's best efforts to maintain emotional oblivion through heroin intoxication, however, feelings of guilt and loss of dignity, as well as an acute awareness of the self-imposed alienation from family, friends, and society, cannot be entirely avoided. "I remember sitting at a table," recalls one recovering addict of the sense of helplessness he felt from his addiction, "in front of me an open packet of heroin, containing, I reckoned, enough to kill myself. I tried to think of a single reason not to do so. I couldn't."A well-publicized example of someone whose heroin addiction did ultimately lead to suicide is the rock star Kurt Cobain of the band Nirvana.

Cobain, an intravenous heroin addict, killed himself with a shotgun on April 5, 1994. (Coroners also determined, however, that his body contained three times the lethal level of heroin at the time of his death, and that he would soon have died of overdose if he hadn't shot himself.) Cobain had threatened to commit suicide repeatedly in the weeks before his death, and had also overdosed several times during this period but had been revived with emergency medical treatment.

In the suicide note that he left his wife, rock star Courtney Love, Cobain stated that their two-year-old daughter, Francis Bean Cobain, would lead a much happier life without him. As with Kurt Cobain, many addicts succumb to their desperation and commit suicide.

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