Heroin or Cocaine?

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Heroin or Cocaine?

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Mar 18, 2007, 11:01pm

I knew Holmes was a cocaine addict, but I'm not aware of a reference in the canon about heroin. My husband swears Holmes was also on heroin. Which of us is right?

Modifié : Mar 18, 2007, 11:26pm

You are. Cocaine.

The Sign of Four begins and ends with Holmes reaching for the cocaine bottle. There's also a mention of morphine, which may be where your husband got the notion of heroin, but cocaine is clearly Holmes' drug of choice.

Mar 19, 2007, 1:43am

Bayer brought Heroin (which was originally a trade name) to market in 1898 as an alternative to morphine. That's a roughly half-way through the publication of the Canon, so it's not a complete impossibility.

As lilithcat says, Holmes apparently DID dabble in morphine, as well; but I think that heroin is non-canonical.

Mar 19, 2007, 2:11pm

It's nice to know I'm right. However, trying to change my husband's mind is only a slightly less daunting task then causing the moon and sun to stop in their orbits, so I'll content myself with the knowledge.

The question arose as we were watching the very disturbing Sherlock Holmes on Masterpiece Theatre last night. Hubby and I entertained ourselves with going, "Oh, not likely!" a great deal.

Juin 5, 2007, 10:16pm

Is it possible to use cocaine and not become addicted? I got the impression from the stories in the Canon that Holmes was not an addict per se, but just a casual user during times of boredom.

At least that's what I want to believe...

riani1: It might be possible to convince your husband by having him perform a keyword search for "heroin" on a site where the stories are published.

Try this.

Modifié : Juin 6, 2007, 1:21pm

I have friends and acquaintances who have used cocaine but never formed an addiction. The various narcotics have different levels of addictive properties, I believe. There's a drug company being sued now for understating the addictive potential of one of their drugs (I forget the particulars - CNN was yelping about it the other day).

I also remember reading that some people are genetically more inclined to become addicts. Whether it's just a theory or has some scientific backing, I don't recall (memory is like a sieve these days).

Juin 6, 2007, 6:18pm

I should clarify that, by "At least that's what I want to believe", I meant I don't like the idea that Holmes was some sort of junkie.

Modifié : Juin 6, 2007, 7:20pm

"Which is it today, morphine or cocaine?"

..."why should you, for a mere passing pleasure risk the loss of those great powers with which you have been endowed?"

..."My mind...rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis...I can dispense with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence."

Modifié : Nov 30, 2007, 2:02pm

let me recommend this book to you, "one of the most remarkable ever penned"...

'Subcutaneously, My Dear Watson: Sherlock Holmes and the Cocaine Habit', by Jack Tracy.

Mar 23, 2008, 9:45pm

Tobacco, cocaine, and morphine--no heroin as far as I know; --although he did get addicted to a heroine, "the" woman, Irene Adler. :-)

Mar 23, 2008, 10:22pm

The television adaptation (with Jeremy Brett) has Holmes using heroin, I believe. Do I remember correctly?

Mar 23, 2008, 10:59pm

Nifty, ostrom. :)

Christiguc: I don't remember.

As for enodia's book.... touchstones make it just that much easier to access. Subcutaneously, My Dear Watson, by Jack Tracy, certainly has a remarkable (and arresting, if not downright arrestable) title!

Mar 24, 2008, 2:21am

"The television adaptation (with Jeremy Brett) has Holmes using heroin, I believe. Do I remember correctly?"

no, i don't think that is correct. at least i don't recall it from the many times i've watched them all.
nor would it be in keeping with the canon (which Granada was pretty good about, at least until the later episodes).

Mar 25, 2008, 5:57pm

Holmes is depicted injecting his cocaine with a hypodermic needle - thus the reference in other works to The Seven-Percent Solution, perhaps that imagery was confusing to some viewers?

Robert A. Mosher

Modifié : Mar 25, 2008, 7:02pm

on my Holmes bookcases (or should i say 'altar'? lol) i keep a nimber of relevent items... a hip flask, a calabash (i know, i know, he didn't actually smoke a calabash in the books), an ashtray from the Sherlock Holmes Museum with a box of Swan vestas in it, a small pill box with two black pills inside (from 'A Study in Scarlet'), even a violin.
but one thing i've always wanted was a nice glass Victorian hypodermic.

and maybe period Policeman's whistle.

Mar 25, 2008, 11:00pm

What, no Persian slipper with its toe end stuffed with tobacco?

Mar 26, 2008, 12:56am


i thought of that just after i posted. my wife has been looking for an appropriate slipper for me for years.
i have stopped short of transfixing my unopened correspondence to the top of my bookcase with a jackknife though!

Mar 26, 2008, 1:37am

The Toronto Reference Library has a very nice Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, complete with a mini-facsimile of Holmes's study.

They included a very cute Persian slipper, although I wouldn't vouch for the freshness of what was inside it!

Mar 28, 2008, 7:20pm

Yes, I think it's cocaine Holmes Jeremy Brett injects in the series, but it's confusing because we asscciate that with herion.

Juin 12, 2008, 2:26am

There's a nice long footnote about this in the annotated Holmes (one of my "if ever on a desert island" books...). They calculate the effects of a 7% solution of cocaine hydrochloride, compared to what is available today in powdered form. It turns out that Watson is worrying for no good reason: black market stuff typically ranges from 10-30%, and snorting (or injecting into a vein) is much stronger than Holmes' method, which takes a relatively longer time to take effect and probably doesn't offer the same jolt that causes addiction today.

At any rate, I think the reason people get it confused is, as someone else noted (Ostrom, RobertMosher), Holmes isn't doing lines on the tabletop--rather, he's injecting the stuff. There was an amazing product out around this time called Vin Mariani, which was basically coca juice (I'm not sure if it was pure cocaine or some other form) steeped in red wine. The stuff was a huge seller in Europe and was, in a nice little preview of celebrity endorsement, enthusiastically mentioned by Pope Leo X, who even awarded it the Vatican gold medal. I think it would do wonders for the Catholic church if CNN one day broadcasted the pope dipping a bejeweled pinkie into some cocaine, or even some old fashioned laudanum, and giving a thumbs up...They could call it the new Opiate for the Mass-es! (Get it??)

Another reason I think we tend to associate Holmes with morphine, opium, etc, is because when he's not on a case, he behaves just like someone in The Moonstone or some other mystery when opium is brought in...spaced out, kinda vague, that sort of thing.

And heroin was actually not a chemical, like morphine or cocaine. Heroin was a brand name, like Tylenol or Advil. It was created by Bayer (I guess aspirin wasn't strong enough) and the name comes from Heroisch, or Heroic, because that's how test subjects felt after a dose. To which I must add, Hahaha. It really boggles the mind how these drugs were just floating around back then...and kinda makes you wonder, 100 years from now, what people will be looking back on and saying "And they would use the stuff as MEDICINE...!"

Juin 12, 2008, 3:12am

"Another reason I think we tend to associate Holmes with morphine, opium, etc, is because when he's not on a case, he behaves just like someone in The Moonstone or some other mystery when opium is brought in...spaced out, kinda vague, that sort of thing."

actually both of those substances are associated with Holmes in the canon.
Watson's famous line, "Which is it today, morphine or cocaine?" (to which Holmes replies rather casually, "Cocaine, a seven-per-cent solution") is asked so off-handedly that one must assume that this conversation has occured before, and that morphine may have been a prior alternative. both were equally available in Victorian London.
and of course we can't forget Watson's surprise at actually finding Holmes in the opium den at the beginning of 'The Man With The Twisted Lip'.

"They could call it the new Opiate for the Mass-es!"

oh brother! (lol)

Juin 12, 2008, 7:26am

uncultured, you are a scream!!!!

Juin 12, 2008, 11:58pm

Enodia at #17: i have stopped short of transfixing my unopened correspondence to the top of my bookcase with a jackknife though!

I hear you. In college, my roommates and I briefly contemplated shooting a "VR" in the wall, but decided we would rather get the security deposit back instead.

Fév 6, 2009, 11:31pm

Cocaine (the famous 7 per cent solution), coffee, tea, and tobacco, as far as I know. Although he was arguably addicted to "the" woman, Irene Adler. :-) Who was his dealer? Mrs. Hudson? ;-)

Déc 7, 2012, 9:58am

Of course, according to Dr. Moriority in "Hound of the D'ubervilles" "seven percentsolution? pshaw, 37 percent at least"

The behavior, as Watson recurrently says is that of an addict.

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