Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Snippets - Various Good News Articles

Good News - Drug Use Drops

Latest figures from The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that Australians are reducing their drug intake. Tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and methamphetamine usage rates has dropped from 2004 to 2007. The worry is that the government or opposition is going to take the credit for it or that it will be used as evidence that the “tough on drugs” approach is working. We will wait and see.

Rehab At Risk

A pharmacotheraphy program for a drug rehab in Wodonga may be closing because the Federal Government has not approved more funding yet. The closing of any medical based rehab is a concern especially in a small community like Wadonga. If the government shut down those evil rehabs based on the Swedish model which use abstinence & religion instead of medicine and science, they could fund many real clinics like that at Wadonga. The Wodonga clinic is funded until June.

More Evidence That Addicts Don’t Choose to be Addicts

Reuters: Scientists in China have identified about 400 genes that appear to make some people more easily addicted to drugs, opening the way for more effective therapies and addiction control. Experts believe genetic factors account for up to 60 per cent of a person's vulnerability to drug addiction, with environmental factors accounting for the remainder. The researchers focused on four addictive substances - cocaine, opiate, alcohol and nicotine - and mapped out five main routes, or "molecular pathways'', that lead to addiction, they wrote in the journal PLoS Computational Biology. 

Ecstasy Helps War Trauma Victims

A medical team in Israel is running trials of the drug ecstasy as a treatment for post-traumatic disorders in soldiers. The doctors believe that MDMA, the active drug in ecstasy has both calming and stimulating effects that can help patients not only overcome trauma but also dominate it. The doctors are also convinced that psychotheraphy is crucial in curing patients and that ecstasy can help them to recover. Ecstasy has recently been found to be a lot less dangerous than first thought and joins the growing list of illegal drugs being used for positive outcomes.

Sweden’s Drug Policy Dealt Another Blow

Sweden’s Zero Tolerance drug policy has recently been singled out as breaching human rights and their claims of success have been refuted with continuing evidence showing their figures are deeply flawed. Former PM, John Howard was pushing for Australia to adapt the abstinence only and moral based Swedish model and cited many statistics including their low rate of marijuana smokers. According to a new police report, Swedish authorities have seriously underestimated the size of the country's cannabis market. Around 25-30 tonnes of cannabis are sold in Sweden every year, rather than the 3 tonnes previously estimated.

Dutch Police Union Chairman: Legalise Cannabis

According to NPB Hans van Duijn, the chairman of the Dutch police union, most senior police including himself support the legalisation of cannabis. The Netherlands already allow the sale of cannabis in selected “coffee shops” but technically, it is still illegal. Pressure from the UN and the US is the reason stopping full legalisation and Hans van Duijn says Dutch politicians are reluctant to look at the possibilities of legalising soft drugs. He also wants prescription heroin to become law. At the moment it has to be classed as a scientific trial and renewed every three years to bypass the UN’s antiquated drug policies.

“Drug crimes take up a great deal of the police's time and energy and other crime issues suffer from it”

-NPB Hans van Duijn, the chairman of the Dutch police union

Diary: Methadone vs. Morphine Opinion

DIARY: As you probably know, I am on SROM(slow release oral morphine) now instead of methadone and it’s amazing the difference it makes to my life. The problem is that my tolerance is growing slowly as my body adapts to the opiates. It took me years to get my methadone levels right and even then I changed it at least twice a year. So I went to the doctor and he gave me a long story about the health department and schedule 8 drugs.

Morphine cannot be prescribed to anyone for the treatment of addiction. I already know this and my prescription is primarily to manage my pain. For a heroin addict like myself who was on methadone, morphine is usually a big no-no and it took an application from a pharmacotherapist, the OK of a D & A counsellor and permission from my doctor to get a permit from the health department. Now that my tolerance is rising, I need my dosage to increase which is common for long term morphine patients. I was told flat out that I would need to see the pharmacotherapist again to get another recommendation, return to my doctor and he can then make another submission to the health department. All this will take about a month. My doctor explained that he thought it was ridiculous and was not impressed with the circumspection of the health department.

So what are my options over the next month? I already use heroin once a month and I don’t want to increase that but I can’t think of any alternatives. These are the silly illogical policies that I am faced with. If they are so paranoid about me abusing drugs, why make it so hard to obtain legal medication? They must know there is no alternative except for magically just getting through this period. Jeepers.

I am convinced SROM should be an alternative for methadone. My doctor’s first words to me the other day were, “How’s it going ... I bet you’re doing a lot better now?”. And he was right. I know some countries use SROM but why it isn’t used more often is a shame. It’s understandable though as the fear of diversion must be overwhelming for the authorities. The fear that a tiny percentage might hock their medication must terrify them. A long term addict like myself needs their meds and would not risk going through the cycle of rise-money-score-sleep again. Long term addicts are the small percentage who have tried everything to quit but have some medical issue stopping them. I realise the importance of stability and the daily ritual of stabilising with substitution treatment is the only thing keeping my life together. 3 months ago I was ready to give up, now I am getting back into the swing of life. The reason is simply a different medication - SROM.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Ice - More Drug Myths

Contrary to popular drug policy discourses that portray drug users as descending from first use into a hell of dependence and addiction, a new analysis of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) suggests that most first-time users of most drugs were not using them a year later and that for nearly all illicit drugs, more than 90% of first-time users did not become dependent.

-Drug War Chronicle, Issue #532, 4/18/08

One of the common myths put out by the the previous & current governments is that ice is highly addictive, if not instantly addictive. This new finding, again proves that governments are prepared to spend hundreds of millions of public money on misinformation with no evidence or, as in this case, research.

Mr Pyne said a special target of the new funding was use of the highly addictive and dangerous drug “ice”.

-Health Budget 2007-2008

Ex PM, John Howard & Current PM, Kevin Rudd were once falling over each other to be the “toughest on drugs” especially concerning the “scourge of ice” as Rudd once put it. The “ice” epidemic had hit Australia and there was much political point scoring to be made. They weren’t the only ones in on the act though, Chris Pyne, Bromwyn Bishop, Peter Debnam, Morris Iemma, etc. were adamant unless something was done, ice was going to bring society to it’s knees much like the crack/cocaine explosion in the the US during the late 1980s. Society survived.


"My guests today in Melbourne University Up Close are Associate Professor John Fitzgerald and Dr. Fances Bramwell.

So, John, essentially what you are saying is that, in Australia there is no epidemic of ice use.”

Associate Professor John Fitzgerald, Principal Research Fellow at the School of Population Health, University of Melbourne: 

“Yeah, and it is not to say that ice use is not problematic.”

-Melbourne University Up Close Episode 15

So much for the ice epidemic.

Although the current government is still too nervous to declare any real drug policy except to be “tough on drugs”, the previous Howard government were extremely focussed. A new government initiative called Zero Tolerance was introduced during the Howard reign and was in direct conflict with Australia’s official drug policy of Harm Minimisation. The underlying Zero Tolerance theme of stronger law enforcement and/or harsher penalties for users and dealers were media favourites and appealed to the Murdoch masses. Zero Tolerance also focussed on the constant damnation of the less dangerous recreational drugs like marijuana and ecstasy (the 2 biggest killers, alcohol and tobacco were conveniently mostly overlooked) and were also lapped up by the MSM. But the biggest initiative was a targeted campaign against ice.

The Government is investing $9.2 million over two years in new funding to expand the next stage of the NDC to include a focus on ice, because of its particularly addictive and dangerous qualities. The campaign will continue to target other amphetamines, as well as ecstasy and cannabis.

-Health Budget 2007-2008

The AFP and John Howard claimed the “heroin epidemic” ended because of their tough and successful strategies but the “ice epidemic” proved that wasn’t the case at all. The manufacturing of heroin had simply been dropped in favour for production of amphetamines which was more convenient and suited a changing market by the same crime organisations in S.E. Asia. Ice had snuck up on them and rather than look incompetent, they engaged ice as the new epidemic. There were several anti ice advertising campaigns depicting unrealistic and rare situations that were standard fare when it came to drug hysteria. The ads included an office worker unable to sleep after smoking the drug; a man flying into a psychotic rage in a hospital, fighting policemen and smashing a window; A young woman compulsively picking at her skin because she thinks there are bugs under there; and a young man fighting with his mother. There was even a full colour glossy booklet to help parents detect if their children were potential drug abusers. Add to that, the constant beefed up reports of “manic” or “violent” ice abusers in the MSM and addiction was a foregone conclusion along with the image of rabid and desperate ice addicts ripping up hospitals and family homes. The core of Zero Tolerance is misinformation and fear - and it works. The problem was, no real research into ice had previously been undertaken and ecstasy was proving to be a lot less harmful than first thought. But like all moral based strategies, evidence wasn’t such an issue and panic had already taken a hold of the public’s attention, giving plenty of room to fight this new scourge.

The graphic nature of it is to show the dangers of continued use but also to scare people about trying it in the first place because we haven't got accurate figures on how addictive it is. We know it's addictive, but because it's sort of clandestine, we think it can be up to 40 per cent addictive. In other words 40 per cent of people who take it can get addicted to it. And that's horrendous.

-John Herron, Chairman - The Australian National Council on Drugs

Terminology has always been a tool for politicians but Howard made it a weapon. Just like Rudd’s conversion of getting drunk into binge drinking, Howard turned dependancies into addictions, recreational drug use into drug abuse, zero tolerance into harm prevention (to allow confusion with harm minimisation) etc. There has always been a finite line between the addiction and dependence but drug propaganda has blurred them together as addiction. The government and many drug clinics now often class ice as a highly addictive drug to further demonise it. The fact is though, amphetamines form a dependancy, not an addiction. The same goes for marijuana. 

While the myths of ice addiction are being exposed I probably should summarise the popular beliefs the are part of government propaganda and media hysteria. 

Ice is not addictive, Ice is not a new drug, there never was an ice epidemic, ice is not usually a violent drug and ice does not cause schizophrenia.

Ice is simply methamphetamine made for smoking and methamphetamine is a stronger form of amphetamine. Smoking ice has the same effect as injecting strong speed ... a euphoric rush. It’s been around since the late sixties but Korea and Taiwan who are part our main illicit drug region have ramped up production which is why ice is now more common. 

Schizophrenia is generally permanent, incurable and require large doses of strong medications in order to keep it under minimal control. Amphetamines do not cause these diseases. They can, however, cause the user to temporarily suffer symptoms (hallucinations, paranoia) which are associated with psychosis and schizophrenia. These are generally brought on by inducing large quantities and/or taking them for several consecutive days. Hallucinations are brought on not so much by the direct action of the drug but by sleep deprivation. 

The violence associated with ice is mostly a beatup by the sensationalist MSM. The “violent episodes” are usually the result of bingeing on any amphetamine over 2 or more days and almost always, alcohol is a contributing factor. The mixture of sleep deprivation, constant alertness, gallons of alcohol and amphetamines can lead to some naturally aggressive individuals to be contrived as having an ice flipout. Most ice experiences do not show any aggression let alone violence. Amphetamines are renown for causing over friendliness and tend to make people talk too much or want to have sex rather than become violent. 

Between the alcoholics, the heroin addicts, and the ice users, we have incidents here most days. Probably twice a week, they!|d be violent. Mostly, they!|re verbal. Ice users are not the majority. The majority of problem people are alcoholics.

-Dr. Chris Towey. D & A doctor from a clinic in Broadmeadows

The MSM are notorious for declaring that society is deteriorating from various causes especially drugs. Though ice has been around for nearly 40 years and similar effects can be achieved from injecting methamphetamines, a media panic started not long after heroin became less prominent in the media. As the government cranked up the ice rhetoric so did the media’s reporting of violent incidents. The truth is, there have always been violent incidents involving drug use and the main cause is alcohol but with a slight increase of aggressive behaviour involving methamphetamines, the time was ripe for a new epidemic to catch the media’s eye. 

Because there has been such extensive media coverage of this purported relationship between violence and ice use, what we get now when we talk to service providers, is a reproduction of the messages that the media are portraying. So, when someone walks into the service and they might be agitated or violent, very quickly the service provider says, !!!OOh, they must be on ice.!!!  And so, you get this reproduction of the message that is actually communicated in the media, rather than one that is based on evidence and based on good clinical practice. We weren’t receiving news amongst the service providers of high levels of violence related to methamphetamine use five years ago, when the peak of methamphetamine use was occurring in Australia. We are seeing that now.

-Associate Professor John Fitzgerald, Principal Research Fellow at the School of Population Health, University of Melbourne

So another new study of current data is performed and it shines more light on some well known myths. Unfortunately for the current and previous governments, it contradicts their opinion based policies. This brings into question, the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on forcing misinformation onto the Australian public. An innocent mistake is fine but the depth the government and government funded NGOs went to without sufficient information or any research is inexcusable.

Such data may not fit some popular narratives about drug use -- particularly the widely-held notion that methamphetamine is "more addictive" than other substances -- but that's what the numbers say.

-Drug War Chronicle, Issue #532, 4/18/08

The Facts:

•Ice is not a new drug

•There never was an ice epidemic

•Ice is NOT addictive.

•Ice is not usually a violent drug

•Ice does not cause schizophrenia

•No drug is instantly addictive. Some drugs can cause addiction after prolonged use.

•More than 90% of first-time users of all drugs(except alcohol) do not become dependent

•5% of first time amphetamine (ice, ecstasy, speed) users became dependent after one year

•6% of first time marijuana users became dependent after one year

•13% of first time heroin users became dependent after one year

•Marijuana is NOT addictive**

•Ecstasy is NOT addictive*

•Speed is NOT addictive*

•Ice is NOT addictive*

•LSD is NOT addictive

•Inhalants are NOT addictive

•Heroin is addictive

•Cocaine is addictive

•Alcohol is addictive

•Tobacco is addictive

•Benzodiazepines are addictive


*  These drugs are can form a severe long term dependancy if abused for too long.

** For a small number of people, a dependancy can occur if abused for too long.  

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Anne Bressington: The Epitome of Stupidity

In what is seen as a victory for Independent, Ann Bressington, the South Australian government has successfully passed her bill to ban certain drug paraphernalia including bongs.

Anne Bressington is a twat. A first class twat. Once again her selfish, arrogant holier-than-thou opinions have been pushed onto the public. As a former Administrator for the Festival of Light and keen suporter of Fred Niles Christian Democrat Party, the foundations of her polices start to take shape. Completely void of evidence or scientific research, Bressington hails the strategy of Zero Tolerance as the “answer” to the drug problem. She hates Harm Minimisation and has contempt for those who support evidence based treatment that is different from her own unique brand of research. Bressington earned her fame from the infamous split with independent, Nick Xenophon.

The ridiculous new laws were passed last week and prohibits the sale of bongs, pipes, cocaine “kits” and even hookahs which are a traditional item for some cultures. Those caught, could face 2 years jail and/or a $50,000 fine. The whole idea of banning drug paraphernalia has been a issue for Bressington since 2006 when she introduced the Controlled Substances (Sale of Equipment) Amendment Bill. Like drinking, a certain culture arises around drugs especially marijuana. Shops that sell related equipment can be rather “in your face” and enough to make some self moralising conservatives a little uncomfortable. Since most people don’t visit these shops, Bressington fallaciously compared the sale of drug equipment to an issue that was more familiar to the public - the sale of alcohol and tobacco.

"It would be unthinkable for a tobacconist to be able to sell cigarettes to minors on the understanding that those minors would not open the packet and smoke the cigarettes" 

"It would be just as unthinkable to sell alcohol on the understanding that the bottle would not be opened and the alcohol not consumed."

-Ann Bressington

Of course fuckwits like Bressington have absolutely no consideration for anyone’s well being and are more interested in pushing their own personal views onto the public. Experts have been trying to explain to her for a long time now, the problems attached to banning clean and safe equipment for drug users. Her head must be so thick that this information was unable to reach the tiny pea like brain that is incased in cold, hard shit. Her “victory” might be good for the comfort of her conservative cheer squad but probably a death sentence for others. At best, she is going to be responsible for hundreds of sicknesses each year including possibly the spread of HIV-AIDS to users who might have avoided it previously. All this is unimportant to the likes of Bressington and co because it’s better to send the right message than to allow someone to buy a wooden water pipe, regardless of the damage, death and pain it causes.

Ms Bressington said the new laws would help prevent children being lured into illegal drug use.

-Sydney Morning Herald

Like needle exchanges (which she disapproves of), these shops provide clean, safe equipment for drug users so that blood-borne diseases are not transferred between them. If users share a badly made pipe and burn or cut their lips, blood might be passed on to the next user who might pickup HIV-AIDS, Hep B/C or other nasties. The same goes with home made bongs that are usually low quality and are made of materials that are not suited for the purpose of inhaling smoke. Home made equipment might also contain lethal chemicals or carcinogenic agents that react when heated up. The dangers are many and very real. 

This blatant use of her position to appease a minority group of Zero Tolerance zealots needs to be questioned by other members of parliment who are supposed to have our best interest at heart. What positive outcomes has been achieved? What are the advantages of banning such equipment in comparison to the lives it may save or the health problems that are avoided? Another factor to consider is why hasn’t the advice of experts been taken into consideration? Why has the advice of specialists who deal with these issues professionally been overlooked in favour of so called “public concerns” which have no solid data to back it up. 

In 2006 when Bressington was pushing for compulsory drug testing in schools, she stated that, "The reaction from parents has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive in SA". This was her reasoning to dedicate so much time and effort to her cause. When she later announced her proposed bill, parent groups, medical experts and school associations were not “overwhelmingly positive” like she claimed but outraged about the proposal. 

”Making the tests compulsory completely overrides the rights of parents. It’s mandatory. It removes all consent from parents. This is a Bill that could potentially take so much away from parents, school communities and community groups.”

-David Knuckey. Director of the South Australian Association of State Schools Organisation

As usual, the contemptuous Bressington showed off her rhetorical tactics and rolled out the “soft on drugs” attack to anyone who opposed her. This label is a familiar trait of the religious right and moralist who preach moral based drug policies over evidence and research. Anyone who opposes their views are labelled “soft on drugs” and it’s always lapped up by the media. For example, Howard’s favourite NGO, Drug Free Australia, cornered the major political parties with a tricked up survey before the election. They asked for a public response as to whether they were going to have tough drug policies like the Liberal Party or be “soft on drugs”. 

Although the anti-drugs campaigner’s move has outraged parent groups, she says anyone who opposes her legislation, which also would allow tests to be carried out without parental consent, is “soft on drugs”.

Critical Times - MPs want drug test for teens. 17/08/2006

Again Bressington has used so called “public support” to introduce this latest bill. She was allowed to actually bring into law, a dangerous and unworkable policy based on nothing but the view that the public wanted it. Like the drug testing in schools issue, those who opposed her were labelled “soft on drugs” and their often expert advice was dismissed. 

“Concerned parents need to watch closely who opposes the measure . . . it will be an indication of who is soft on drugs”

-Ann Bressington

With the threat of being labelled “soft on drugs”, both Liberal and Labor supported Bressington’s bill. Attorney-General Michael Atkinson has also jumped on the band wagon and is flagging the new bill as a success to the government. Taking the lead from Bressington, he has labelled Liberal Party Legal Affairs spokesman Isobel Redmond and Independent M.P. Kris Hanna as “the Cheech & Chong of the State Parliament as they try to save the bong” because they wanted the bill amended. Closer examination reveals that they only wanted to exempt culturally important & traditional water pipes like hookahs, narghiles, shishas and ghalyans, from the ban . 

Many experts opposed the new bill but facts and evidence have never influenced Bressington’s views before. One local drug expert, pharmacology associate professor Rodney Irvine, said users will seek other ways to inhale smoke and that could be more dangerous.

"When you close one loophole another one emerges, a different pattern of use emerges. They'll make them out of anything, obviously. "I would say that there's a possibility those alternative homemade ones will have some problems." 

-Associate Professor Rodney Irvine

Ann Bressington is the epitome of what’s wrong with our drug policies. A self appointed guardian of our desperate need to ruin our lives through drugs. Luckily Bressington is around or else SA would have turned into a chaotic world of crazed junkies, raping and looting whilst Adelaide burns in the distance. Thank you Allah for our saviour, our moral beacon that shows me the way when I stray ... all the way to jail. 

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Would You Give Heroin to Addicts ... Why Not?

1/    Ask yourself why you think addicts should not just be given the drug they crave. 

2/   Ask yourself why do you feel this way.

Some of you will think "I'm not subsidising their habit" or "they should be trying to get clean". Some will just laugh it off as ridiculous while thinking that "junkies are scum" and just piss weak. Lock them up, that will clean the streets up. Where do these opinions come from? Why are some people so strongly opinionated against giving heroin to addicts? Why do some see it as perfect common sense? Those who want prescription heroin are either related to the issue or have spent the time to do some real research or have the facts. On the other hand, those opinions that reject the idea of prescription heroin are derived from common sources such as the MSM, religious groups or peer groups and family. Out of these sources, the MSM effects the largest group but are more open to change. Those who have formed their opinions because of religion or being part of a conservative community will most probably never change their minds. 

Anti heroin crusaders including the MSM often leave out facts or demonise heroin to a point where fear takes over rational debate. Heroin is a 100 year old medication that has had very little problems until it was declared evil by the US. There were very few heroin users before the 1920s and were mainly white, middle class doctors. Addicts were prescribed heroin or morphine and lived normal productive lives as there was almost no street level dealing, no crime and no violence. This changed when the US made all heroin illegal. New users have increased in the western world as the laws got tougher. The UK never had a problem until they stopped supplying most addicts with heroin in the 1960s and 1970s. Even if heroin was totally legalised, there is NO evidence that new users would increase or addiction levels would rise. In fact a survey in 6 publications showed that less than 1% would use heroin or cocaine if available legally. Funny enough, addiction levels in the US have never changed and has remained constant at 1.3% from the day this information was first recorded up until today. Heroin is still used medically in countries such as England, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway  and Switzerland.   

For the average Joe, the idea of giving heroin to junkies must seem ludicrous at best. They know that junkies live in abandoned factories, have dark heavy set eyes and beg on the streets for money. They know how weak these junkies are and they made their own bed, so they have to sleep in it. If junkies were serious about getting clean they can do. Many have done it already so the junkies who continue to use drugs are doing it because they want to. No one is forcing the drugs into their bodies. Cracking down harder on the long term junky who can't even finish their detox, will send the message that the government is serious about being tough on drugs. When faced with court, give them the choice of rehab or jail. That will clean up the streets and allow those who made a mistake to redeem themselves. Simple really.

This is also the default government approach and it reflects in our drug policy. Here lies the problem. ... most experts and doctors in the field disagree with the current policies. You should really be asking yourself if  you trust your own opinion regardless of where you got it from or should you instead listen to doctors and scientists who have spent their lives studying addiction.

The case for prescription heroin has been highlighted constantly for over a decade and grows each year. If most of the experts agree that prescription heroin is working overseas why isn't it a priority in Australia instead of applying the same "tough on drugs" strategy that have been a complete failure for the last 40 years? Many countries now prescribe heroin after rigourous testing and research. 

These countries have completed a heroin trial or can prescribe legal heroin to addicts: England, Canada, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and Germany.

The success of the heroin trials have been much documented by the medical industry with many other countries now looking into it as a solution to their own problems. The negative press is always biased and easily debunked with simple facts and figures. Similar criticisms from social conservatives are always without evidence and based on personal opinions only.

'The evidence is already in that such approaches are foolish, and have wider ramifications than are usually considered in "evidence based" trials - especially trials by researchers with a predisposition to distribute heroin rather than minimise its use.' 

-Andrew Bolt

The success of heroin trials is heavily documented and the approval of several major countries to make prescription heroin part of their drug policies, should be evidence enough for at least a trial in Australia. You will find so many cases for prescription heroin on the internet but rarely will you find a case against. Reports by experts, doctors, welfare groups, scientists, politicians, law enforcement officers, judges, senators etc. singing the success of prescription heroin can leave no doubt. For  years there has been constant brainwashing from governments, moralist and the media that total abstinence is the only path and if you disagree, you are "soft on drugs". Well now there is no excuse to fall for these fear tactics and it's time to be pragmatic. Get past the terminology and let facts speak for themselves.

At the same time, the addicts were receiving their daily fix, they were also enrolled in health, social and psychological services, Ms. Gurtner said. ''Heroin was the cookie to get them inside. Then we try to work with them in a comprehensive way.''

As a result, program officials said, crime decreased 90 percent among participants, who are mostly around 30. New H.I.V. and hepatitis infections dropped markedly, the number capable of working doubled, and individual heroin doses decreased. About 80 people -- including 5 in Thun -- chose to enter abstinence programs.

-New York Times

Heroin Myths & Misconceptions

Drugscope U.K.


Instant addiction

That heroin is addictive is a fact. Heroin is not however, instantly or even nearly instantly addictive (neither is crack cocaine or any other substance). This idea is based upon a fundamental misunderstanding of addiction and the supposed power of the drug. Research consistently shows that becoming addicted to any drug takes time, usually at least 2-3 months (often much longer) where the user builds up to regular daily use. No drug has the power to instantly addict a user. This is a myth which often gets reinvented by the media (often due to authorities such as the police or politicians making such a statement) each time a `new' drug comes on the scene (witness 'crack', 'ice'). Usually the new drug is not a new drug at all.

Controlled heroin use

Heroin use in many cases leads to heroin addiction. However there are also many occasional or 'controlled' heroin (and other drug) users who are capable of using the drug with informal controls/constraints on their using behaviour e.g. using only at weekends, never on a working day, never alone, never with children around etc. In some cases such use can go on indefinitely with little physical harm accruing to the user. It is not uncommon for the drug use of such users to be unknown by those close to them.

Heroin is relatively non-toxic

Heroin itself is relatively non-toxic (it doesn't destroy skin tissue or other cells in the body as does alcohol and tobacco). Most of the health problems that stem from heroin use are life-style related or linked to the route of administration (injecting drug use for example - through sharing needles or improper use - often leads to various blood-borne diseases or viruses such as HIV or Hepatitis B/C and/or abscess or collapsed veins).

Heroin itself cannot give you spots, make you thin etc. as suggested by previous 'educational' campaigns. Those with the resources to buy their heroin without it impacting on money for food or personal welfare and who are careful about how they administer the drug, can live a generally healthy lifestyle.

Although overdose, (fatal and otherwise) can result from heroin use, it is rare that this is solely the result of heroin use alone.

Heroin is not cut with dangerous substances

Heroin is almost never purposely adulterated ('cut') with dangerous substances, despite popular belief that it is.

Addiction is not forever

Heroin addiction is not necessarily a 'life sentence'. Many heroin addicts 'mature out' of their addiction. The research literature reports extensive evidence of 'spontaneous remission' and 'maturing out' that demonstrates that even the most chronic of addicts may leave their addiction behind them when their circumstances change, (e.g. new partner/child/job/perspective on the world, fed up with lifestyle/being arrested/having no money/having no relationships with family/friends/children etc). This relates primarily to ideas around 'addiction pathways' and undermines simplistic ideas of addiction being primarily bio-chemical in nature.


Brecht, M.-L. & Anglin, M. D. (1993) Conditional factors of maturing out of narcotics addiction: Long term relationships. Proceedings of the Social Statistics Section, American Statistical Association. 209-214.

Edwards, G. and Lader, M. (eds.) (1991) The Nature of Drug Dependence, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Pearson, G. (1987) The New Heroin Users, London, Blackwell.

Waldorf, D. & Biernacki, P. (1980) 'Natural recovery from heroin addiction: A review of the incidence literature', in, Norman E. Zinberg, M.D. and Wayne Harding, Ed.M. (eds.) Control Over Intoxicant Use:Pharmacological, Psychological and Social Considerations. Cambridge, Mass.

Waldorf, D., Reinarman, C., & Murphy, S. (1991). Cocaine changes: The experience of using and quitting. Philadelphia, Temple University Press.

Kaplan, J. (1985) The Hardest Drug: Heroin and Public Policy, Chicago, University of Chicago Press

Morgan, J. and Zimmer, L. 'The Social Pharmacology of Smokable Cocaine: Not All I'ts Cracked Up to be' in Reinarman, C. & Levine, H. (eds.) Crack in America, London, University of California Press

Newcombe, R. & Matthews, L. (1994) 'Crack in Liverpool: A Preliminary Study of a Group of Cocaine Smokers', in Coomber, R. (ed.), Drugs and Drug Use in Society: A Critical Reader, Dartford., Greenwich University Press.

WHO/UNICRI (1995). Cocaine Project. Geneva: World Health Organization

Harding, W. and Zinberg, N. E. (1977) 'The Effectiveness of the Subculture in Developing Rituals and Social Sanctions for Controlled Drug Use' in Brian M. DuToit, (ed). Drugs, Rituals and Altered States of Consciousness, A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam

Zinberg, N. (1994) Drug, Set, and Setting: The Basis for Controlled Intoxicant Use, New York, Yale University Press

Blackwell, J. S. (1982). Drifting, controlling and overcoming: opiate users who avoid becoming chronically dependent. Journal of Drug Issues, 13, 219-235

WHO/UNICRI (1995). Cocaine Project. Geneva: World Health Organization

Friday, 11 April 2008

What If We Gave Her Heroin?

The recent ABC documentary,The Oasiswas a real eye openerto theproblems that youth facewhen raised in a dysfunctional family. A recurring issue was drug use and how every cent they had was spent on drugs. One girl in particular tried to go to rehab several times and was unable to kick her heroin habit. After two years she was spending $600 a day to feed this habit as we watched her deteriorate before our eyes. All this effort and pain just to take a type of medication. Yes heroin (diamorphine) is still used around the world for the treatment of pain and ... addiction. Why not here? Australia is after all, supposed to be a modern, prosperous country.What if she was given free clean heroin in a hospital or clinic? They do this in many other countries. She was doing it anyway and there were no signs of stopping. If she received government assisted heroin, she would have money and not have to live in hyde park under a bush. If she didn't have to spend every minute of every day trying to find money, she might be able to find a job instead. If there was a program for hardened addicts to receive the drug that ran their lives, she would not have to commit daily crimes to pay for her heroin. Many in her situation turn to dealing to support their own habit. Those desperate enough will cut it and if that added ingredient is dangerous enough, well we might be talking about her in the past tense. The other problem is that if she is accustom to low grade heroin and she stumbles onto a stronger batch, there is no label to advise her of the strength or ingredients. She will overdose and die. Drug dealers don't answer to a licensing board and there is no complaints department either.

Aside from the moral issues, heroin is almost non toxic. It does no harm to you physically except constipation and a subdued respiratory system. The main damage is caused by an unhealthy diet, blood borne diseases and dirty needles causing collapsed veins etc. All this would stop if heroin was a treatment for addiction like in those countries who continue to beat the trend and have a negative growth rate of new heroin users.

In reality, the girl in question is probably dead now and is just one of the thousands that were cheated by a minority group of elitists. These elitists go out of their way to stop the progress needed to introduce real strategies that work. If they left these issues to the experts in this area, the girl we talk of might now be reading this on her way to work.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Rudd Falls Into Line / Luck Of The Draw

KEVIN RUDD had a chance to continue the success of his current world trip and impress NATO with some fresh ideas on Afghanistan. He could have at least given his support to some alternative plans being suggested by several NATO members. He could have ... but he didn't.
Is Kevin Rudd just another US stooge like John Howard and taking the same familiar path?  
When Kevin Rudd took office last November, there was some optimisism from drug policy reformists. After 11 years of ignorance and Howards curtailing to the US conservative forces, there was some hope that Australia would join other countries in redefining a more pragmatic drug policy. The statement from Rudd that futures policies would be “evidence based” gave hope that finally facts would win over political, moral and religious rhetoric.
Except for some off handed comments that Labor were “tough on drugs”, there has been very little indication about which path Rudd will take. That was until his recent overseas trip. Rudd has just spent time in the US to discuss our diplomatic ties and it looks like the spin doctors had a field day with him.
At the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Bucharest, Rudd has made his priority the eradication of Afghanistan's opium fields including detailed plans on how to do it. The influence from the US was obvious and the European leaders in NATO were not impressed with the tired old agenda being thrown at them. The European leaders were expecting more from our new PM considering they had made their feelings clear about Howard’s constant mirroring of US policy. The call for more troops was also seen as another US ploy and again reminiscent of the Howard years. Australia has only 1000 troops in Afghanistan and is often criticised by the Europeans for pushing the US agenda without fully committing more troops themselves.
Crop eradication has never met expectations with Colombia being the obvious benchmark. Crop spraying has had very little success and Colombian cocaine has actually increased in production. The only visible results is a country now being run with a paramilitary style police force murdering locals on the street and thousands of innocent farmers losing their legitimate crops to US led cocaine eradication programs.
In Afghanistan, the US has already poured in $1.2 billion into a program of slashing the poppy harvest worth only $1 billion. Opium production went up 30%. The main outcome was increasing hatred of the west from farmers who had their livelihood taken away. The US is now trying to force the Afghanistan government into arial spraying and Rudd is seen as a keen US supporter much like Howard was. The US has appointed former Colombian ambassador, William Wood as it’s ambassador in Kabul. Wood is commonly known as "Chemical Bill" in Washington for his introduction of the Colombian chemical eradication program. You know, the program that didn’t work.
The US could have bought the opium from the farmers and burnt it but it would be “sending the wrong message”. Such is the stupidity of the “War on Drugs”. The other plan to turn Afghanistan’s farmers onto alternative crops has been tried and failed several times. This was Rudd’s sugestion to deal with the locals and the loss of their primary income. It was dismissed quickly by nonchalant NATO officials.
If this is an example of the alternative to Howard’s drug strategy then we are in for a long three years. Australia has spent decades building up Harm Minimisation and was considered a leader worldwide until Howard rode the wave of US conservatism and tried to replace it with a US style zero tolerance policy. Rudd has the chance to now catch up and once again show that facts, research and humane government policies will put us on the map far more than kissing US butt ever will.
The Luck Of The Draw
Mr. David Paterson, newly elevated Governor of NY, recently acknowledged that he used cocaine and marijuana in his younger years. Had he been unlucky enough back then to get busted for possession of a single joint, or a trace amount of coke, he'd probably be in jail now, or trying to overcome a "criminal record" and find a job, or perhaps dead. Instead, because he had the good fortune not to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, he is responsible for governing NY State - and however one judges his likelihood of governing well, no one has suggested for a moment that he's unqualified in the light of his acknowledgment. 
Justice should not hinge on luck. Hopefully, the new governor will reconsider our drug policies in light of his own experience. He has long advocated changing the Draconian Rockefeller Law; now he should push for an even more radical change in how we approach drug use in our state and nation. If any political leader can empathize with the real victims of the drug war, he can!
-RG Newman MD, Opiate Addiction.