Few European cities are as synonymous with drugs as Berlin. Second only to Amsterdam, in terms of Dionysian reputation, the German capitol tends to take on a more sinister hue due to its hipster association with heroin. Think back, for instance, to such rep theatre classics as Christiane F., Uli Edel’s 1981 film about a young girl, living in Neukölln, who goes from soft to hard drug use, and eventually, prostitution, all by the age of fourteen. Later linked to ecstasy (think raves and the Love Parade) and binge drinking, Berlin finds it hard to shake off its party vibe.
This poster, placed on a municipal advert marquee in the borough of Neukölln, projects a fairly straightforward message: Alcohol. Medicine. Drugs. /Abuse is the beginning of the end./Your problem is our problem. Not much to disagree with there. The emphasis upon addiction, and its association with both legal and illegal substances, is as surprising as the starkness of the photograph. If you have an issue with any king of abuse, as cynical as you might be about anti-drug campaigning, it’s still a pretty scary image. Existential nausea, anyone?
This Christian anti-drug pamphlet, found on the street in Prenzlauerberg, is equally jarring. Prominently featuring a heroin addict shooting up, its message is similarly unambiguous – only Jesus (der Sohn) will set you free, not drugs. So is the choice of coloration, as though this is how you would see the world if your outlook was somehow diseased, or your eyes bloodshot.
In classic Christian fashion, it’s your vision that’s impaired. The use of a young man as its addict archetype is a little more troubling, though. Why persist on linking drug usage to young people? The definition of drug users is as limiting as is it’s singular emphasis upon heroin addiction.
Translation by Charlie Bertsch. Photographs courtesy of Joel Schalit (#1) and Aaron Day (#2.) Published under a Creative Commons license.