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June 26, 1972

From Dope Fiend to Drug Addict

JAMA. 1972;220(13):1739. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200130067018

Time was when a drug addict was a dope fiend—an old Chinese man smoking in a San Francisco opium den, a Doctor Jekyll, or a dilettante sniffing cocaine. Why, even a famous cola drink was stigmatized by some people because it was called "Coke" for short.

Time now when a drug addict is a ghetto youth or a child of respectable suburbanites or a famous professional football player. And, with the change, a whole new argot has developed. A few examples for heroin addiction: can, lid, bindle, bag (measure); horse, H, skag, smack (heroin); fix, cooker, gimmick, gun, machinery (equipment); junkie, mainliner, skin-popper (addict or method); and hooked.

As amusing as some of these terms may seem, heroin addiction is no joke. In fact, the addicts now constitute a vast subculture nourished by their own frailty, highly profitable organized crime, and society's impotence. That impotence is the despair of a