I shall never forget the first time I heard two men talking about heroin and their consequences. It happened so long ago but the memory is still very clear and it caused a big impact in me because the two men were navy officers and they were discussing the story of another fellow officer’s son who had become a heroin user during his compulsory military service and was funding his habit abusing his father’s position. This story might sound a little bit unusual nowadays but I can assure that it was totally true and very well noticed in the place where I come from. Rumour had it that the only thing the guy needed to do was mentioning his surname to a third party in exchange for imaginary favours that his father would do on his behalf. The trick apparently worked for a while but when people actually realised that the outcomes of the guy’s interventions were nothing more than fantasy instead of denouncing him they just preferred to continue giving him the money because they did not want to offend his father’s good name and reputation
At some point people arranged collections and gave him the money in order to avoid problems. I never knew what happened to the guy or his father afterwards but I kept listening to lots of stories about drugs or people going mad during their military service which did not surprise me a lot as I used to see officers and sergeants having gin for breakfast. When I grew up and my generation began to be called on duty those who went sent to Africa always spoke about the hash they had smoked and even some of them brought large quantities when they came back.
I did not do my military service and I do not know how people could enjoy taking drugs in such an oppressive environment but what I do know is that drugs play a special part in the life of total institutions such as prisons, schools, mental hospitals or the armed forces. The reasons are not very difficult to understand as drugs become a relief for the discipline and control to which, prisoners, students, patients and soldiers are constricted. In the wards of mental hospitals is quite common to see patients smoking joints and because there is not any security the drug simply flies. This has changed a bit since the smoking ban but yet where smoking is allowed people continue puffing to carry on with their lives. My experience in the wards has taught me that. It usually happened during evenings when there were less nurses and people could pretty much do as they pleased.
Visitors came and gave the hash or weed to their friend and due the smoky atmosphere the smell of cannabis was totally unnoticed. Seeing people with mental health problems smoking dope in a ward is not a very pleasant experience. It brings the worst out of them, if the circumstances why they were sent there were bad the drugs only made those worst. I have witnessed fights and even patients peeing over other patients who being totally passed out in the floor could do nothing to defend or protect themselves. I have also seen patients who in their first day out, a first step towards discharge, went straight to the pub, got drunk and when the nurses found out were punished and their days out drastically cut off again.
Smoking pot was like a special ritual very different from the normal sharing experience that people enjoy in liberty. If you wanted to smoke inside the hospital you needed to be friend with the guys who had the gear, if you were not his friend then you could not touch the stuff. I remember seeing the guys selling the stuff to his friends or only to people they trusted. I remember seeing other people begging for the stuff and being constantly rejected and humiliated, excluded from the rest of the people who were having, as they thought a good time. Dealers did not have any respect for the human condition surrounding them. With the money they made they could afford to order pizzas for dinner and organise their little parties with their friends. Tobacco was another way of making easy money in the hospitals and patients would do anything to get something to smoke. I shall never forget the time when I saw a patient giving a brand new radio-cd player to another patient for just and almost empty packet of Golden Virginia. All these abuses happened because more experienced patients took advantage of the poor state of mind of the recently admitted.
There was nothing like “One flew over the cuckoo's nest” when it came to solidarity to share, people did not socialise playing poker games betting cigarettes. The reality was totally different and discipline was established by the medication and meals times. Nobody shared anything and in the smoking room you could easily see people picking up the butts from the floor or the ashtrays. Then when the dope smokers came their authority impregnated the room and the chosen ones could escape to their own misery world. Dealers could have their women, not sexually of course, but they knew very well how to approach women in pain, telling them lies and get them stoned. Once a bastard’s promise went too far and that night the police was called after a young woman attempted suicide by cutting her veins although nothing happened to the dealer while the poor woman almost lost her life and had to spend more time sectioned.
This perhaps could be used as another example of another anonymous drug victim and the inability to track the problem from inside but nothing really is going to change as long as those with the dope can interfere with the recovery of patients inducing them to a world which is not only possible but it is also locked behind doors. By saying this I do not want to criticise mental patients who take drugs, far from that I just want to emphasise that their destiny while in hospital should not be left to opportunists whose only aim in life is to survive on other’s people suffering and pain just like the character from “One flew over the cuckoo's nest” did