Hooked on Heroin: Drugs and Drifters in a Globalized World

Hooked on Heroin: Drugs and Drifters in a Globalized World

Hooked on Heroin: Drugs and Drifters in a Globalized World

Hooked on Heroin: Drugs and Drifters in a Globalized World


Alarmingly, heroin is growing in popularity amongst young people. This is despite the fact that it is - more than any other drug - associated with failure, death, misery and poverty. This book explores why people are tempted by heroin and how globalization has played a key role in increasing the number of abusers. Rather than offer lofty and abstract theories on addiction, the author grounds his study firmly in the day-to-day lives of heroin users themselves. Norrkping in Sweden is a mid-sized former industrial city like countless others throughout the world. It has suffered high unemployment as a result of its rapid decline as a hub of commerce. Once well known for housing the giant telecommunications company Ericsson, it sadly gains more notoriety today through its associations with heroin, which continues to be the drug of choice for Norrkpings young people. Through privileged access to users themselves, Lalander is able to show us the real motivations and lifestyle choices behind addiction. Personal testimonies candidly expose the underground activities of a thriving subculture and spark vexing questions as to why these young people choose to flirt with fatality. What media representations influence heroin users? Is this phenomenon the inevitable by-product of modern life? What are the root causes at play? Lalanders in-depth investigation overturns many of the stereotypes associated with heroin use. Accessible and gripping, Hooked on Heroin brings a disturbing reality closer to home and shows how global and local practices are intimately linked.


Sure, of course, no one wants to be a horser. When you're up at the Sergels Torg [a famous square in Stockholm] buying bags and see the wrecks hanging out up there, thirty to forty years of age, some of them only twenty-five, with no teeth, haven't had a shower in three weeks … It's not cool. It's no fun seeing them … And then you think, ‘No one, just no one wants to become a heroin addict’, that's just the way it is, not anything you dream of at all, so you start to think, ‘Well, maybe just a little while more, one more fix …’ (Steve, one of the ‘new’ heroin users in Norrköping)

In Norrköping (a Swedish town with a population of 122,000 inhabitants) in 1994 there were no heroin circles, and only four or five regular users of the mythsurrounded drug. By 2000, there were 248 opiate users to be found in the official statistics, and a well-established sales network. Police and social workers had a new problem requiring their attention, and parents had yet another danger to worry about. This book is based on interviews with twenty-five young heroin users and observations of close to forty, who were involved in the rapid development of a local heroin scene.

When this book was written, in late autumn 2000 and spring 2001,I was under a lot of psychological pressure. I felt I had to have it published as soon as possible in order to draw attention to the heroin problem in Norrköping so that maybe the authorities would do something. I was shaken by what I had seen, but also surprised by the warmth and engagement with which the young heroin users in Norrköping received me. I had not thought it would be as easy to make contact with them, and this turned out to be the case. I made many friends with whom I am still in touch, mostly heroin users, some now former heroin users, but also social workers. I believe my emotional engagement caused the book to be written rather quickly; I could seldom stop thinking about Norrköping's young heroin users.

However, this book is not merely a translation, but rather a reworking of the book entitled Hela världen är din – En bok om unga heroinister (The Whole World is Yours – A Book about Young Heroin Users). The first part of the title is from the cult film Scar Face from 1986 where ‘the whole world is yours’ is a theme throughout the film. Tony Montana, played by Al Pacino, tries, through crime, to create respectability and a name for himself. I saw certain Tony Montana characteristics among the young heroin users, including a wish to create a form of respectability in a capitalist society via consumer goods, and so the book got its name.

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