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Arts & Culture

Helton's 'Drugs' doesn't demand destruction or redemption

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Drugs by J.R. Helton, Seven Stories Press, $15.95, 251 pages


There is, however, plenty of condemnation of the medical-penal industry. Helton's flat tone — not unlike the voice of the "straight man" in a comedic skit — gives way to passion when discussing the profiteering of big pharmaceutical companies, the countless payoffs to doctors, and the obscenely high amount of people in the U.S. incarcerated for illegal substance use. Drugs, as Helton ably describes, are not all the same. Some, like the opiates, are physically addictive. Others, like cannabis, are not.

Helton insists that drug use is inevitable — people always have and always will attempt to alter their consciousness.

Speaking with the Current last week, Helton, who lives in SA and teaches writing at UTSA, stated that drugs "can dumb you down, dumb you way down." But he went on to stress, "The number one thing I want people to take from this book is that you have the right to control your own consciousness as a human being, and if you don't, you're not free. We are not little children, we're adults."

Helton writes that drug use is properly a medical concern; the war on drugs is misdirected, it has only bred violence. The brutality of the cartels is chronicled daily in the press, but Helton has opened the window on another realm of drug violence. White, male, over 21, and middle class — Jake has no real fear of arrest and incarceration for his chronic law-breaking. He's a respectable man, someone the police defer to. Prison is for the poor, especially people of color. They are missing from this story, no doubt, already locked up in jail. •

J.R. Helton reads from Drugs

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