Tuesday, 20 May 2008

More Evidence for Zero Tolerance Twats

How much evidence do we need to prove something? The answer is not ‘this much’ or ‘that much’ but who is interpreting the data. If someone has a mental block that won’t allow facts to influence the foundations of their argument, then no amount of evidence will suffice. They will just change their argument. 

A recent report reinforced the fact that some heroin use is started by our physical makeup rather than some random display of weakness. Will the hard line Zero Tolerance proponents finally admit they are wrong. Somehow I doubt it.

A recent research finding has driven the Zero Tolerance argument deeper into the abyss. Scientists from the Howard Florey Institute have found the actual receptor in the brain that influences the desire to take opiates like heroin. This is more damming evidence against the argument that heroin users are just weak losers with no will power and medical treatment like methadone or prescription heroin should not be used.

Researchers from the Howard Florey Institute, the Victorian College of Pharmacy and the University of Melbourne investigated if there was a receptor in the brain that was particular to opiates. They bred mice without the suspected adenosine A2A receptor in the lab and found that they didn’t self administer opiates that was readily available to them.

“This was the first study to implicate the receptor in self-motivation to take heroin and other opiates.”

"This receptor clearly plays a major role in opiate use and therefore abuse, as the mice were simply not interested in taking morphine despite it being freely available"

-Professor Andrew Lawrence

This research is another in the long line of recent findings that opiate addiction is far more complex that first thought. The main difference from older research is that drugs have always been the cause for mental health issues but recent findings show the opposite. Heavy use of mind bending drugs are still responsible for mental health problems but science is now discovering that often the mental health issue comes first and then leads to drug use. This leaves the Zero Tolerance and abstinence only campaigners with some major hurdles to overcome. Most experts agree that combining some form of therapy with medical treatment is ideal, but the focus is now on treating addiction with medicine. Those who are anti Harm Minimisation claim that addicts are weak and just need to confront their addiction, often rejecting medical treatment like Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) programs. 

"Although the drug-taking effects and behaviours of these mice were diminished, they still relapsed into drug-seeking after a period of withdrawal.

"This indicates that the adenosine A2A receptor has a role in the `getting high' aspects of addiction, but not in the adaptations that contribute to relapse after going cold turkey."

-Professor Andrew Lawrence

The adenosine A2A receptor proves that some individuals can have a greater tendency to use opiates because of their physical makeup. This completely wipes out the Zero Tolerance argument for punitive action against repeat drug offenders. It also brings into question the strategy of not using medication like methadone and instead relying solely on will power, god or threats of losing your children and going to jail.

Australia has over 50,000 heroin users. There are effective medical treatments available, such as methadone, buprenorphine and suboxone, as well as psychological interventions, but a better understanding of how heroin affects the brain could lead to improvements and broadening of these treatment options.

-Bio-Medicine Article on Professor Andrew Lawrence's research

More medical treatment options are needed and relying on methadone and buprenorphine is not enough. We have such an array of options that are not on the list of available treatments. Slow release oral morphine (SROM), prescription heroin, hydromorphone, injectable methadone are all available overseas but Australia refuses to look at them. The Zero Tolerance crowd are also totally opposed to any expansion of substitution treatment and actively campaign to reduce the few options we have. Their only aim is total abstinence which is contradictory to the illness of addiction. They treat addiction as a moral issue which eliminates the science of a medical condition and allows addicts to be judged for their drug use. Sure, some people take drugs for the thrill and some as an escape. There is no one reason to start taking drugs but the reality that it is enjoyable or it is inevitable for some is completely over looked. The sole equation is drugs = evil. Forget the history of every society that has existed, the farcical hypocrisy of the legal drug, alcohol and the millions of drug consumers who have no problem at all.

There is no clearer example of science versus abstinence only groups than the attitude towards MMT. Although opposed to MMT, the abstinence only groups want tighter restrictions on methadone dosing. They claim that methadone was intended as a stop gap for heroin addicts until they could start to decrease their dose with the goal of being drug free. That was 20 years ago and the latest research has had a 360 degrees turn around. Methadone was actually never meant to be short term at all but Australia followed the flawed US approach which is very much a Zero Tolerance strategy. The abstinence only groups now want the government to cease funding for treatment that doesn't promote the aim of being completely drug free. 

Addiction is a chronic, incurable disease. We do not tell diabetics, blood pressure patients, and epileptics to discontinue their medications because we know that if they do, the active disease will return. Why, then, do we encourage recovering, thriving MMT patients to do so, when the relapse rates for those discontinuing MMT is greater than 90%? Methadone is the most effective modality of treatment for opiate addiction available today--far more effective than traditional rehabs and 12 step groups alone. By no means is it the treatment of choice for every opiate addict--however, if abstinent methods have failed many times over, there is little point in continuing to try the same thing expecting different results "this time". 

-Director, ARM-Texas Chapter. C.M.A. (Certified Methadone Advocate) 

Relapse is seen as a weakness to the total abstinence crowd and the likes of Drug Free Australia (DFA), Ann Bressington, Chris Pyne, Family First, Miranda Devine, Bronwyn Bishop or other followers of the Swedish Zero Tolerance model want those who relapse to be forced into abstinence based rehabs or jail. They even call this ‘compassionate’ treatment by forcing addicts to face their addiction but again they fail to acknowledge medical research or facts. To them, substitution treatment is a ‘crutch’ or a ‘cop out’ and has no place in a Zero Tolerance policy. It seems scientific facts and medical research is a side issue that gets in the way of their faith based ideology.

Methadone is commonly referred to as "replacement" or "substitution" therapy, and most think that this means it is replacing the heroin, etc that the patient was abusing, when in fact, it is replacing the natural endorphins no longer being manufactured by the patient's brain, in the same way synthetic insulin substitutes for that not being made by the diabetic's own organs. Methadone treatment enables the patient to return to a normal, productive, law abiding life in a great many cases, and even when the patient continues abusing other drugs, etc, it may lower their chances of contracting a disease by reducing their drug use, and enables them to see a medical professional for assistance and referrals on a daily basis.

-Director, ARM-Texas Chapter. C.M.A. (Certified Methadone Advocate) 

So has this latest finding changed anything? Again it’s only quantifiable by who takes these new findings onboard. The Zero Tolerance supporters and total abstinence zealots are not interested in science one little bit. They have an agenda and drug addicts are just a pawn in their selfish game of power. These people are not going to go away without a struggle and fighting against facts, research, evidence and common sense is an art form for them matched only by religious extremists, which many of them are are anyway.


Addiction Treatment Watchdog

Prof. Andrew Lawrence

Research Sheds New Light on Heroin Addiction

No comments: