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The Impact of Drugs in "Sonny's Blues"

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In “Sonny’s Blues,” Baldwin explores the impact of drugs on the users and their families. The abuse of heroin results in the destruction of artistic talent, lives, and relationships with the family members. Sonny uses drugs as a means of escaping from an environment that is depressive, stressful and full of suffering. Baldwin restrains from judging Sonny because of his addiction problems because he wants to bring out the destructive effects of drug abuse and the role that the brain plays in the abuse of drugs.

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Whereas millions of people could be facing the problem of drug addiction, sending them to prison is not a viable remedy (Eagleman 203). The issue of drug addiction lies within the brain; therefore, it is imperative to develop strategies that will focus on the operations of the brain to improve the capacity of drug addicts to exercise impulse control.

Drug addiction is difficult to shake off because once one is hooked to drugs, he or she wants to use them continuously. Sonny describes what it feels to be high on heroin when he says that “When she was singing before,” said Sonny, abruptly, “her voice reminded me for a minute of what heroin feels like sometimes – when it’s in your veins. It makes you feel sort of warm and cool at the same time” (Baldwin 17).Here, sonny means that it takes courage to resist the temptation of trying heroin once you have tasted it because it makes one feel high.

The comparison between heroin and the shooting music means that once a person has taken the heroine, he or she experiences instant gratification and feels to be in another world. Therefore, the only thing that one thinks of when using the heroine is the feeling he or she gets at that moment and not the long-term consequences of the drug on the body. Sonny plunged into the now-versus- the-future battle that is why he did not think about the long-term consequences of drug abuse. He wanted to get excitement from the drugs at that moment.

Eagleman writes that “to the brain, the future can only ever be a pale shadow of the now. The power of now explains why people make decisions that feel good at the moment but have lousy consequences in the future: people who take a drink or a drug hit even though they know they shouldn’t (191). At the moment when Sonny was abusing the heroine, he did not care whether it was going to destroy his life and the relationship with his brother. All that he wanted at that moment was to feel high. Therefore, the decision to use drugs is a perfect manifestation of now-versus-the-future battle in the brain.

Notably, impulse control is a perfect strategy for dealing with drug addiction because the brain controls the aspect of drug addiction. To elaborate, Sonny exemplifies impulse control when he says that “sometimes I think I’m going to flip and never get outside, and sometimes I think I’ll come straight back. I tell you one thing, though, I’d rather blow my brains out than go through this again” (Baldwin 16). Sonny compares the effects of heroin to a shooting music to demonstrate that drug addiction is powerful and impairs the ability of one to think clearly.

Overcoming drug addiction is not easy, but Sonny restrains himself from going back to them because of his experiences with them. Sonny asserts that he is ready to die instead of going back to prison because of drug abuse. His realization of the dangerous implications of drug abuse makes him exercise impulse control and thus does not fall into the temptation of using drugs again. Eagleman explains that “because the problem with drug addiction lies in the brain, it’s plausible that the solutions lie there too.

One approach is to tip the balance of impulse control” (202).Therefore, the people that are interested in quitting drugs for good should learn to control their impulses so that they cannot be tempted to go back to the drugs once they have stopped. Impulse control can be useful when one considers the long-term implications of the drug abuse any time he or she is tempted to go back to the drugs.

Additionally, social interactions are essential for all people because they give them a sense of belonging. To elaborate, in “Sonny’s Blues’, the narrator underscores the significance of social relationships when he says that “and he treated these other people as though they were his family and I weren’t. So I got mad, and then he got mad, and then I told him that he might just as well be dead as live the way he was living” (Baldwin 13).

Sonny’s brother does not understand him that is why he opts to find other people that understand him and his preferences for jazz music. He feels that his brother is not a part of his family because he does not appreciate him for whom he is, and he does not understand that jazz music is significant in his life. Sonny’s brother is devastated because he feels that Sonny does not consider him to be his brother. The musical family is critical is Sonny’s life because it enables him to do what he likes most. Therefore, family does not mean that people have the same blood.

A family is, ideally, composed of the people that love you and give you a sense of belonging. The socialization is controlled by the brain because Eagleman explains that “all of this social glue is generated by specific circuitry in the brain: sprawling networks that monitor other people, communicate with them, feel their pain, judge their intentions, and read their emotions” (208).

Socialization influences the emotions are feelings of people. Human beings are social creatures that is why the development of sound social relationships leads to good feelings and happiness. On the other hand, the breaking up of social relationships affects the concerned parties in a negative manner because it makes them feel inadequate.

Decision making is key to shaping the identity of a person and the manner in which that person perceives the environment around him. Decision making entails weighing various options in life. People should strive to make the right decisions at the present moment because those decisions will be vital in shaping their futures. Having a good understanding of the functioning of the brain increases the chances of making the best choices in life.

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The policy should spearhead the introduction of rehabilitation programs for the drug addicts because sending them to prison does not increase their capacity to exercise impulse control. Focusing on the functioning of the brain in the rehabilitation programs will be helpful in ending the war on drugs because the programs will enable the drug addicts to restrain themselves from using drugs voluntarily.

Works Cited

  1. Baldwin, James. Sonny’s Blues. Ernst Klett Sprachen, 2009. Eagleman, David. The Brain: The Story of You. Vintage, 2015.

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The Impact of Drugs in “Sonny’s Blues”. (2018, Jun 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 10, 2023, from
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