Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.

The following article is reproduced here at by permission of Liberty. Copyright 2004, Liberty.

Cite as: Schaler, J.A. (2004). Brother Ray's hard candy. Liberty, August, Volume 18, No. 8, p5.

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Brother Ray's hard candy

By Jeffrey A. Schaler

Ray Charles Robinson had Georgia on his mind beginning Sept. 23, 1930 and he hit the road, Jack, in California on June 10, 2004. He led a long and interesting life. According to National Public Radio, in 1965 Charles "was arrested for heroin possession and left music for a year to kick his habit. . . . He came back strong, beginning a touring regimen that had him on the road for much of the year." Charles had been "addicted" to heroin for nearly 20 years. Sherril Fulghum, writing for Soulshine, had this to say about how Charles quit using heroin: "Charles said that he did it himself--it was not society." And Elizabeth Chorney-Booth, writing for the Canadian Chartattack, maintains that Charles "managed to live the last four decades of his life drug-free. . . . After being convicted and handed a suspended sentence if he remained clean, he quit cold turkey."

Once again we see that using and quitting heroin is a choice. When it was important enough for the "soul man" to quit heroin, he did. Treatment, harm reduction, public health, medicine, and disease had nothing to do with it.--Jeffrey A. Schaler


Reflections, Liberty, September 2004, p. 15:

Not a simple choice -- I was suprised to find that Jeffrey Schaler's "Brother Ray's hard candy" in the August Reflections was so narrow-minded. The one statement that made me laugh the most was "Once again we see that using and quitting heroin is a choice." Following shortly after was this little gem: "Treatment, harm reduction, public health, medicine, and disease had nothing to do with it."

Ray Charles suffered through almost 20 years of heroin use, so it would be safe to say that he had an addiction. In 1964 he was arrested on drug charges, and "quit" using drugs to receive a suspended sentence. Isn't it interesting though that he died from liver disease, a common byproduct of alcoholism. It seems that he traded one drug for another, a far cry from going cold turkey. Addiction is a horrible disease that can affect a famous musician, a regular Joe, or a homeless bum. As an addict who has struggled to control my addiction along with many others, I haven't encountered a single person who could overcome it without help.