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Heroin’s enduring association with the city has helped forge a highly racialised and individualised notion of urban decay. At the same time, it has obscured a whole history of production and distribution that reaches far beyond the urban core, encompassing large and often very rural parts of East, South-East and Southwest Asia where the opium poppy could be cultivated. This association continues to distract us from the fact that heroin users can no longer support themselves in urban centres, because our modern economy has long since forced all but the most productive subjects from the centre of cities, and out to the periphery, while at the same time still managing to support supply chains that can bring heroin, and all manner of other pain-relieving drugs to even the most far-flung places
In view of this extremely narrow conception of the drug’s impact on society, for this episode we’re going to try to connect the dots between some of the disparate spaces and places that have been touched by heroin, exploring some of the main historical shifts in where heroin is produced, who uses it, how it gets to the places where it’s used, and why it ends up in these places.
– Sonja Groot Obbink gives tours of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, she is a former sex worker in recovery from addiction to heroin and cocaine. She lives in Amsterdam.
– Sam Quinones is a freelance journalist and author who lives in Southern California. Contact him through his website.
– Prof. Andrew Hussey, Andrew Hussey OBE is Paris-based English historian of French culture. His writing is focused primarily on 20th century French history.
This episode was directed by Charlie Clemoes//The Failed Architecture Team
Vangelis, “Prologue” Blade Runner soundtrack
Trainspotting (1996) opening scene
Tam Stewart, The Heroin Users, Pandora Press, 1996
Vanda Felbab-Brown, Shooting Up: Counterinsurgency and the War on Drugs, Brookings Institution Press, 2010
Trainspotting (1996) final scene
Sam Quinones, Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, Bloomsbury, 2015
The Connection (1961) whole film
Eric C. Schneider, Smack: Heroin and the American City, Penn Press, 2013
Penn Press Podcast, S01E04 “Eric C. Schneider Smack: Heroin and the American City”
“Heroin” BBC Radio 4 documentary
Velvet Underground, “Heroin” from “Velvet Underground and Nico” LP
Velvet Underground, “Sunday Morning” from “Velvet Underground and Nico” LP
Velvet Underground, “I’m Waiting for the Man” from “Velvet Underground and Nico” LP
Burroughs: The Movie (1983) whole film
The Drug Years (2006) excerpt on heroin and the Vietnam War
Alfred McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, Lawrence Hill Books, 2003
Henrik Krüger & Jerry Meldon, The Great Heroin Coup: Drugs, Intelligence & International Fascism, Trine Day, 2015
“Wisdom Teeth Bringing Opioid Addiction Danger?” CBS New York, 2019