Chasing the Dragon

Chasing the Dragon - Kate Sherwood When a book makes me feel stupid from the start, it's not a good sign.


There is a very important experiment from the 50s in which the investigators were looking for certain demonstrations but chance wanted them to find other facts that would change the perspective of psychology and certain diseases. They put an electrode on the nuccleus accumbens on a rat, and every time the rat pushed a lever, it was stimulated with electrical shocks. The rat liked pushing the lever. The rat loved it. It preferred pushing that lever even more than drinking, eating or sleeping. The more time passed, the most frequently those shocks were produced. They had found the pleasure centers.


Abusers have it easier to be sick. It's not because it gives them some kind of immunodeficiency, but because they break their skin multiple times, and that's the most effective barrier against infections. Coma due to intoxication is nothing innocuous. Passing out after drinking liters of alcohol could end up in aspiration pneumonia or pancreatitis or cigar burns. Endocarditis is something to consider if you have persistent fever. Maybe the pure drug is harmless but additives can give problems. Et cetera.

They visit the hospital due to lots of reasons, and sometimes it's because their veins are so eroded they don't find a place to inject the dosis. You know there are no abstinence syndromes in hospitals. They give you drugs to keep them at bay. Nurses put the i.v. into the jugular or the femoral vein and the next day the bed is empty because they are happy to have found a new road for their addiction.


I'm disappointed in the drug part. I don't want to sound smug but I don't feel this is close to the real thing. To begin with, pleasure centers are NEVER recuperated in their totality. They get better but not 100% as those a healthy person has. Drug damage is forever, which doesn't mean quitting is useless. Quitting is always good. But never completely reversible. The author makes you believe it's totally reversible, but it's not. Abusing and then curing is a lie. Better to prevent than to cure AND easier to destroy than to create (except cancer). Those two statements are true in almost everything.


You know about the brain reward circuit? It's the same circuit we exercise when we do things that make you feel pleasure. Like sex, game, food and success. It's essential for our survival, as we "seek" to breed and eat and outdo ourselves to get better in life. It makes you chase that feeling so you repeat and repeat the acts you have done to achieve that feeling. You study, you have good marks, you are successful, you study more. Then there is the pain circuit, the one that punishes you. Social exclusion, physical pain, grief. You run away from them. You stop studying, you fail, you feel like crap, you stop being lazy.


It's related to memory, motivation and pleasure. And when you abuse it with drugs you want more and more, because you are less and less sensitive to the neurotransmitters that activate said circuit, mostly dopamine and serotonin. So you take more and more and more. When you quit, you don't feel the same pleasure you used to feel when you read a book or watched a movie or had sex. You lose the ability to feel pleasure at simple things and you lose motivation and concentration. Your only love is the drug. And your brain complains at the withdrawal.


You know what is the best way to erase a headache after a drunkenness? Drinking alcohol. It's infallible. But you'd end up alcoholic. Your brain complains at the sudden absence of that substance it has gotten used to. Morbid obesity is related to this pathway, too. That last disease is treated with stomach bypass, but the real cure would be burning the hypothalamus.


Drug abuse is the same. You use heroin, you feel amazing, you take more. You stop using heroin, you feel like crap and even hurts, you take more. Of course, there is a certain border you have to cross to stop feeling the pleasure effect and start feeling the punishment effects. In the beginning you seek the drug for its reward effects. After some time you seek it to avoid the punishment effects. Fun is temporal. There are differences, of course. With some drugs you only develop psychological dependence and never physical. With some the punishment effects come very late and the opposite for another ones. There are lots of variations based on the kind of drug and the way of taking it. In any case, rich people have no problem, they pay the heroin or any other drug of choice and have it available every time. No abstinence. But normal people... normal people have it difficult. It's an expensive hobby, and often not compatible with a normal living or job. Abstinence and hell.


With Christian It seemed that quitting heroin after several years using it is a piece of cake. And he deciding to do so out of the blue with no reason at all? After everything else he let to happen in order to remain with his "true love"? Really? I don't buy it. And when he quits, after 3 YEARS (capital letters because it's not a small thing) he is as fast as ever, body and mind. Like if the constant mindfuck had never really happened. This is sci-fi.

Addiction part no realistic at all.


Book One made me feel stupid. Seriously, Hunter is supposed to be 35, give or take. But he behaves like a teen. He doesn't know what he wants. He has zero personality. He lets Christian do what he wishes because he has no willpower so he can't do anything to stop him. If Christian was surreal, Hunter is empty as a kicked Coke can. I don't feel there is some kind of intelligence or past in any of them, they are so flat and superficial as they seem. They have been together for weeks and there is no bond, small or big, as if time has not really passed. Have they really interacted during that time? There are only two people in a cabin out in the woods so at least some contact is expected, not necessarily in the physical or romantic sphere, but still. They don't feel like real people for me.

Book Two is better. We meet Christian's POV and even though his past was dubious and dark or maybe precisely because of that, he's by far more interesting. But he's most of the time completely alone and I was desperate for the moment of the meeting again to come.

Book Three is more fun. But it has eye-rolling moments, too. For instance, when Christian and Hunter are in the hospital. Christian wakes up and Hunter offers morphine, but Christian refuses it because "it takes him away and he doesn't want to go away. He wants to stay with Hunter". Can something get sappier than that? I dare you to find something sappier. You better find a good one.

To summarize the book as a whole: The problem I see here is I don't understand their connection, if there is any. This is the best definition of insta-love and insta-lust. When that happens in a book you wonder "What's going on?" because I can't shake that feeling some pages just went missing. Saying "I love you" in page 69 was a royal anticlimax, a eye-rolling moment if there was one. I found it pretentious and empty. Yes, I know some months supposedly passed, but that's why you need to fill the gaps with more interaction and brushes. Falling for each other that fast with no basis doesn't give you any authentic feeling they are made for each other. This book needed to be longer in those parts, and shorter in others.

Also, they are not the real MC of the book, they just get in the middle of an armed conflict in Hunter's company. They are not even the real pawns, just some people who happened to be there and are used by the players to do what they wish. This is not necessarily bad, but didn't help to make their story feel important. I didn't even understand Wendy's or Bantick's psychology in taking advantage of them. When the explanation came I was like "Is that all?". I don't understand why Hunter's mates hold that much power, they never appeared as true adversaries for me. I found the general plot a little like background noise, not important, but annoying enough to upset you.

The pair was quite inconsistent. One moment it's sex and everything is fun. The next moment they are cold with each other. Then they want to be together. Then they can't be together. Then they'd die for each other. Then they have doubts. Hunter is responsible for most of this. He has the personal development of a rock. He is the one who really cares but his acts say otherwise because he is cool with everything, too controlled. Christian was the smart-ass and I ended up liking him much more, but it wasn't enough to make up for the book.

All in all, I liked Christian more than Hunter, because, seriously, sometimes I thought Hunter only has one brain cell.

"Hello? Where is everybody?"