Beat Generation writer William S. Burroughs is known for his influence on writers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac as well as his long-term, intimate relationship with opiates like heroin. Chronicled in his classics Junkie and Naked Lunch, Burroughs was one of the first people to illuminate the complexity, hardship, and disease of drug addiction. He did so in the 1950’s by describing his time in lower Manhattan as a drug addict and heroin dealer.
His work was extremely important at a time where no one was talking about drug addiction, as it was largely considered a stigma of untouchable homeless people. In his first novel he described the physical dependence of heroin addiction and illuminated the nuances by showing his audience that no one wants to become a drug addict, nobody decides on that kind of life, and no one wants to go through the inevitable treatment at a drug addiction recovery center. If you or a loved one is addicted to heroin or any other substance, please call Intervention Association so that we can connect you with the best drug rehab center for the particular situation and individual’s needs.
Burroughs first work came at a time where everything was bright colors, hamburgers, drive-ins, americana. Post-war United States was trying with all of its being to avoid questions of darkness, depression, mental illness, addiction, homelessness, and unhappiness. The blatant avoidance of key issues has resulted in a debilitating stigma for drug addiction and mental health issues, which are still not receiving adequate treatment at substance abuse centers.
Not only was Burroughs brave in revealing the grimy underbelly of American society that went unseen by most people, he was incredibly accurate about his social position concerning addiction, which he called a sickness and a disease. More than fifty years later, these ideas are spread by 12-step programs across the world including Alcoholics (AA) and Narcotics (NA) Anonymous. The socially progressive standpoint was a stark contrast from the socially conservative climate of the time. This lead to Burroughs and many other Beat writers being thought of as subversives, outcasts, and thus counter-cultural icons that inspired the next generation of hippies and social awareness.
Despite all of that, drug addicts are still written off as junkies, the lower end of society, a class perspective that lasts even today. Education is still badly needed. Though William Burroughs was writing and saying the right things about his own personal experience, one person is rarely enough to change the world, but he did spark a cultural revolution that has changed how Americans think about drug addiction. As our thinking continues to evolve, we will continue to reveal how spot-on Burroughs really was and, perhaps, we can solve our current heroin epidemic.
If you or anyone you know has a drug or alcohol addiction, please call Intervention Association so we can connect you with the ideal addiction treatment facility for the needs of the situation.