Many, many years ago I had a job for a few weeks at one of the Skid Row missions downtown, setting up their databases. Worked with lots of recovering addicts. That was interesting. My assistant had been an executive in an aerospace firm, with a huge house, expensive cars, a yacht, some beautiful children and a trophy wife. Speed had helped him get more work done. He’d been through every addiction program his company offered but finally wound up on the street and then in the mission. He showed me the ropes. The addicts there had a hierarchy, he explained, almost like a caste system. The cokeheads–strictly powder–were the aristocracy, the Brahmin. Even in the mission they wore bling. Then came tweekers. Very busy. Then junkies. They were the thinkers. Then the boozers and winos. Theirs was legal, they could leave anytime they wanted and get a bottle, or not. They always did though. Finally, at the bottom, were the untouchables, the crackheads. Even the sorriest Skid Row winos were above them. None of the other castes at the mission had any respect for them. They’d order them around, drive them off like stray dogs. They aren’t even human, my tweeker assistant told me, they’re just pure addiction.

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