“I’LL JUST TRY IT ONCE.”

Warning: Even a single dose of heroin can start a person on the road to addiction.

Many people experiment with heroin thinking, “I’ll try it once or twice. I can always stop.” But those who start down that road find it nearly impossible to turn back. Consider the words of Sam, a 15-year-old addict: “When you first shoot up, you will most likely puke and feel repelled, but soon you’ll try it again. It will cling to you like an obsessed lover. The rush of the hit and the way you’ll want more, as if you were being deprived of air—that’s how it will trap you.”

The threat of addiction is not the worst consequence of experimenting with heroin. Jim was 21 years old and usually spent his evenings drinking beer with friends. He had already experimented with heroin so when friends offered him a line to sniff, he accepted. Fifteen minutes after inhaling, he passed out, then dropped into a deep coma which lasted more than two months. Today, he is confined to a wheelchair, unable to write, barely able to read. Whatever dreams and aspirations he once had are gone.

It is grimly ironic that Davidé Sorrenti (above)—the fashion photographer whose work was synonymous with “heroin chic”—reportedly died at the age of twenty from heroin overdose.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Francesca Sorrenti

The HEROIN “Look”

Once heroin frightened people. More recently, some people have tried to make heroin use “fashionable.”

In the past decade, the “heroin addict look”—blank expression, waxy complexion, dark circles under the eyes, sunken cheeks, excessive thinness, greasy hair—was promoted in popular magazines and fashion circles as “chic.”

Just as rock stars helped popularize LSD during the 1960s, so have some fashion designers, photographers and advertising people of today influenced an entire generation of youth, by portraying heroin use in magazines and music videos as fashionable and even desirable.