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monkey on one's back

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1

Drug addiction, as in He'd had a monkey on his back for at least two years. [Slang; first half of 1900s]

2

A vexing problem or burden, as in This project has proved to be a monkey on my back—there seems to be no end to it. Both usages allude to being unable to shake off the animal from one's back.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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