Grieving the Needle -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

Grieving the Needle

Some love 'em, some hate 'em

The intense personal connection with the needle, which some addicts described as a "love affair," may be a factor in the high relapse rate among recovering addicts, according to the study's principal investigator Davina Moss of the University at Buffalo (UB) who recently earned a doctorate in counsellor education from the UB Graduate School of Education.

For the study, Moss interviewed twelve heroin addicts in a detoxification facility. Each described the intense grief experienced while away from the drug and great sorrow for personal losses resulting from the addiction.

"I was surprised to hear the addicts in the study describe their love for the needle," Moss says. "This has not been reported before. They described a feeling of 'oneness' with the needle, how they would caress the needle, and how they would never forget their first time using the needle - much like someone would describe a first love."

One user in the study even suggested that if he didn't crave the feel of the needle, he might be able to kick his habit, says Moss, who has worked with heroin addicts for 13 years.

Moss also found that recovering addicts grieve the loss of heroin as if they were mourning a loved one's death. They expressed a love for the drug much like one loves a spouse. Such intense feelings have been reported in other studies of heroin addicts, as well as in studies of other drug addicts and alcoholics, Moss says.

The study also found that recovering heroin addicts grieve losing the "heroin lifestyle," partly because they're addicted to the challenge and excitement of scoring the drug. "They mourn the loss of the heroin culture," Moss explains. "Heroin addicts develop a strong bond among themselves - much like you find within a family or cult. They have their own slang, they watch out for each other and share information on where to get the drug," she says.; Source: University at Buffalo