The following is personal anecdotal evidence concerning a possible etymology of the terms “Jones” and “jonesing” as related to drug addiction, particularly heroin. It may be folk etymology of my own unconscious design.
In the 1970’s I was in frequent, sometimes daily contact with musicians and other artists who were experimenting with heroin. Some of them were undeniably addicted to it. They would speak of “jonesing” meaning falling behind in the maintenance of their habit.
The meaning seemed clear to me. They needed their “fix” and were falling behind in the procurement of the minimum dose required to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay.
I was curious about the term when I first heard it. I asked about the origin of the term, and wanted to know where it had come from. Sometime in the mid-1970’s I came to believe that it probably derived from the earlier slang phrase or concept, “keeping up with the Joneses.”
I took the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” to mean, that if your neighbors (generically referred to as “The Joneses") would get a new mailbox, in order to keep up, you had to get one. If they got a new lawnmower, new car, new wardrobe, new garage door, or new anything, to keep up, you had to do the same, preferably with something slightly newer, better, or more expensive.
For heroin addiction, doses required to “maintain” the habit constantly increase, often at a rapid rate. A habit could go from a few dollars a week, to orders of magnitude more in a short period of time. Doses required to obtain a “high” were somewhat higher than maintenance doses.
I thought this requirement for higher and higher dosage was similar to the escalation evident in “keeping up with the Joneses.” It may have some merit as to the etymology of “jonesing.” But again, this is anecdotal.
I looked around to find evidence supporting this, but failed to find any. The earliest reference to “keeping up with the Joneses” I saw is Keeping up with the Joneses, by Pop Momand, first series, 1920, Cupples & Leon Company, N.Y.