Mortality 030709

mortality posting. perhaps prompted by Chris Knox' stroke last month.

now here's a funny thing. i find myself returning to the thought of "how long does a junkie live", again and again.

Even before Michael Jackson died at 50 in late June 2009, I had roughly come up with the figure of 50 years.

No scientific method was used to arrive at that figure, rather, I distilled 20 years of being absorbed in a media in which I focused on opiate stories.

Now, working in finance, I know the dangers of relying on averages. Just because the average life (age at which a junkie dies) is 50 doesn't mean I will die at 50.

So many friends dies in the first five years of heavy usage. As they say, a swathe was cut through their ranks, like the machine guns at Flanders my friends fell one after another. Am I just romanticising the issue when I tell myself that the good ones all went first? That what was left was the dross, the stayers?. Those that had little flair and less individuality, but could stick around another decade or two to infect the next generation.

De-romanticise, de-ritualise, de-mystify used to be my mantra.

Whatever the reason, those that kicked off early in the match gave a lot of junkie deaths in early 20s.

Then you get the old-timers like Burroughs, who dies at 83. Adding these two ages at death you get an average of about 50.

And then Michael Jackson dies at 50, on the nose. And if he wasn't a junkie, he wasn't black. (Failed attempt at humour, please feel free to try to improve on this one).

So does this mean I have 12 years left? No, not really, that's indeterminable. But it's also true that I would be unlikely to live as long as my parents. Perhaps one of the first generations in history where the mean age of death starts to decline - not through a failing of medical science but due to the individuals desire to choose a lifestyle that lowers their health.

Now I know there were drunks in the 15th century who lived much harder lives that would have kept the mean average lifespan down. But they had no access to systems that could assist in alcohol abstinence. Once addicted to alcohol there was no support mechanism to say "okay we see your problem, here's what you can do about it".

Now I'm not saying that 'modern' opiate treatment is in any stage of its life other than extreme infancy. That frustrating stage full of false starts, fumbles and blunders. Where fortunes can be made by peddlers of scam cures.

But there are proven mechanisms that may not 'cure' usage (and I quote the words quite deliberately, never sure of the heroin addiction as a disease model). Methadone and Naltrexone, there are a couple that I have seen with my own eyes that decrease exposure to harm. That's about as good as they get.

Anyway, I'm sticking with the 50 years average. It gives me a focus point, and a timespan to help me focus on what I think needs to be done. I guess Chris Knox having a stroke last month had more affect on me than MJ's death. Not surprising, but I do not recall it making local press at all.