Junky by William S. Burroughs Ace Books "I awoke from The Sickness at the age of forty-five, calm and sane, and in reasonably good health except for a weakened liver and the look of borrowed flesh common to all who survive The Sickness." So wrote William S. Burroughs, introducing his visionary account of drug addiction, The Naked Lunch . This was not his first attempt at describing drug addiction as illness. His first novel, Junkie , (later changed to Junky ) details his very first hit of morphine. This begins as "relaxation", meanders through "fear", nausea and, finally, collapse. Graphic, forensic, matter-of-fact, and sardonic, Junky reads like a diary, the plot undoubtedly inspired by Burroughs' experiences taking and selling heroin around Greenwich Village in New York during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Then again, Burroughs played fast and loose with fact and fiction, in life as well as art: Junky was published under the nom de plume of William Lee. Junky is both true and a mask: we have our faces pushed into the realities of life as a heroin addict without really coming close to why "Bill Lee" became one. Perhaps this is why images of sickness and medicine abound: compulsive drug use is something people catch and, one presumes, from which they can be weaned. Medical language provides a powerful frame of reference (alongside Burroughs' hipster slang) to describe the to and fro of addiction, need, satisfaction and withdrawal. On the most literal level, injecting heroin causes physical distress: "His veins were most gone, retreated back to the bone to escape the probing needle." Addiction is also framed as a disease for which heroin is the only cure: "Bill isn't feeling very well today … Maybe a little shot of heroin would help." The plot has our hero pushing heroin and related narcotics, injecting them himself or suffering aftershocks. Probably the most unsettling scenes concern Burroughs enduring withdrawal. There are droughts, periods in hospital or jail, or the self-imposed 12-day "reduction schedule" in which Burroughs dilutes the drug with water: "I have never known one of these … cures to work," he notes. Finally, there are brutal periods where Burroughs goes cold turkey - the five to eight days necessary to rid the body of drug dependence. Burroughs spent the next half century engaged in this battle, dying in 1997 still dependent on methadone. It seems there are some illnesses that simply have no cure.