Monday, 29 June 2009

Mass Executions - How China Celebrates Anti-Drug Day

There’s nothing like a celebration. And what’s a better way to get into the swing of things than executing drug dealers? Executions in China are by firing squad or by a gunshot to the back of the head. The Chinese government has declared it will introduce lethal injections next year.

China Executes 20 For Anti-Drug Day
June 2009

At least 20 people were executed, an equal number condemned and hundreds put on trial as China marked a global anti-drug day with stark warnings of rising illicit drug use, state press said Friday.
The executions and trials took place throughout the nation in recent days, Xinhua news agency reported, with six convicted traffickers executed in Beijing alone on Thursday.
June 26 marks the UN's International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, a date when China has traditionally executed and sentenced convicted drug traffickers to illustrate its resolve in fighting the scourge.
Among those sentenced to death was a Nigerian man identified by Xinhua as Osonwa Okey Noberts, who was convicted by a court in southern China's Guangdong province of trafficking nearly six kilograms (13.2 pounds) of heroin.
Other cases of international smuggling included a Chinese man convicted and sentenced to death in Beijing for trafficking 197 grams (7 ounces) of methamphetamine from North Korea, the China Daily reported.
Two ethnic Koreans were also being tried for smuggling the drug into China from the isolated nation, it added. Their exact citizenship was not given.
Meanwhile, police in China's westernmost region of Xinjiang this week destroyed six tonnes of heroin, opium and hemp smuggled in from Afghanistan and Pakistan and valued at 300 million yuan (44 million dollars), Xinhua said.
Courts across China handled more than 14,000 drug-related cases between January and May, up 12 percent from the same period last year, the report said, citing judicial authorities.
Nearly 6,400 people have been convicted of drug crimes and received sentences ranging from five years in jail to death over that period, it said.
"There is a growing trend toward making (illegal drugs) on the mainland instead of smuggling... from abroad," the China Daily quoted Zhang Jun, vice head of the Supreme People's Court as saying.
"There are more cases of smuggling and trading of chemical raw materials for drug production."
State media reports cited authorities saying "designer" drugs such as methamphetamine, ecstasy and ketamine were emerging as a new and dangerous segment of the drug market.
The drugs were gaining popularity among newly affluent young Chinese who viewed the use of such substances as a status symbol.

These pictures came from Below are some of the readers responses.
-hahahahahahahahhaha bitches gone wild 
-good riddence 
-death sentence for drugs is a beautiful idea 
-All nations should execute drug dealers 
-haha loook at thoes asians why did they ruin that beautiful sweater? 
-all those who consume drugs should all be executed too, I don't have a problem with that idea
And we wonder why the world is going to shit.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Jamie Briggs - The MP Who Drank the Kool Aid with Lolly Water

Jamie Briggs MP holds the federal seat of Mayo in SA and is a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committees on Health and Ageing. He is also an anti-drug warrior who recently became a contributor to the news/opinion web based forum, The Punch. His latest article at The Punch raises the issue of drug policy priorities where he criticises the Labor government for over looking illicit drugs in favour of binge drinking especially in regards to the alcopops tax. Briggs has previously voiced his concerns about the government’s focus away from illicit drugs with an article in the CourierMail. And this time, he goes even further. The problem is the further he goes, the more he delves into myths, propaganda and lies. It’s hard to tell if he is being sincere in his beliefs or whether he is just spinning a political yarn to shore up ignorant voters. If he does indeed know the facts, then he is deceitful and a liar but if he actually believes his own bullshit, then he is thick as a brick. Either way, it is a worry that an adult, in a position of trust can write such silly articles. Not surprisingly, his article was ridiculed by readers who pointed out the many holes in his argument. The use of urban myths and the usual anti-drug rhetoric made for some dull reading and was not worthy of any serious consideration. The logic was flawed and the assumptions were farcical. He even highlighted the failings of his own solution without knowing it, citing the side effects of prohibition as a factor that needed ... more prohibition. This is standard stuff for anti-drug warriors who fill articles with sound-bite like statements, fear mongering and visions of approaching doom. Since most evidence and research slices their views at the knees they are forced to use emotional hooks, play on the ignorance of the audience and use cherry picked data. The Libs know very well that appearing “tough on drugs” is a vote winner. Being tough on alcohol is not. The Rudd government deserves some praise for focusing on the most serious drug problem we have (alcohol) and wanting a long term strategy. The aim of changing our drinking culture is a brave move considering Australia’s love affair with alcohol and whether it’s working or not is debatable. It might just be too early to tell and will need many more years of smart but controversial policies and a changing attitude from the public. The alcopops strategy is only one small part of an overall plan to implement real and lasting change. It’s also fully endorsed by the leading experts on alcohol and drug abuse and not surprisingly abhorred by The Australian Hotels Association. Most importantly, it’s targeting one of the most dangerous and socially damaging drugs in the world. No amount of hollow rhetoric from the Libs can ever change this fact and to claim that illicit drugs cause more problems is simply disingenuous. I love exposing those like Briggs who go to so much trouble to deceive us. They really deserve it. It’s not just the embarrassment of them looking foolish that drives me, it’s the massive carnage they cause in real life. The insatiable quest of prohibitionist and zealots to push Zero Tolerance laws on the world has cost millions of lives and untold suffering. There are so many families that have been devastated because of a loved one who died from unregulated street drugs or was jailed trying to finance their addiction. There are also the addicts who don’t respond to the available treatments and end up being patients of the prison system. The innocent bystanders of street violence between drug gangs and those affected by corrupt police, lured to the easy money paid by drug dealers. And the ordinary, everyday citizen who is arrested for recreational drug use and cop a conviction beside their name forever. The thousands who have HIV/AIDS or Hep C because some countries do not have needle exchanges. The countless dead from countries like Mexico or Columbia, caught up in the military efforts to stop feeding the incredible hunger of US drug consumers. Every where you turn there are casualties from the "War on Drugs". People like Briggs fuel this carnage and care little about the victims, if at all. Their selfish agenda is always under the guise of fighting the drug scourge and doing what’s best for us. But anyone with an average intelligence who felt so strongly about the issue would have to do at least some research ... and in the process discover the truth. You would think so, wouldn’t you? Now to the fun stuff. Briggs asks if binge drinking is the number one health challenge? His answer is an arrogant, “I think not”. He claims that illicit drugs is the “most significant and dangerous health issue facing young Australians”. This is simply wrong. Alcohol causes 5-10 times the problems of all illicit drugs combined including death. 
Is this an indication of what to expect from Briggs' article? Yep, but there's more ... plenty more.
Using an example of where the “tough on drugs” strategy failed as a reason to be tough on drugs is priceless. Saying, “drugs are cheaper and more accessible than at any time in our history” must surely ring a bell in Brigg’s head. After many decades of prohibition and nearly 40 years of the "War on Drugs", illicit drugs should be priced out of reach for most people and extremely difficult to get. Ironically Briggs points out this failure although the Libs drug policy, which he strongly supports is to dish out even more of the same.
In times past the cost of serious drug consumption was largely prohibitive and underground, but those days are no long gone -Jamie Briggs MP. source: his arse
So hippies in the 60s and 70s didn’t smoke pot? Clubs in the 1980s and 1990s weren’t full of people taking speed and later ecstasy? Parties from the 1970s to 2000 didn’t have the mandatory smell of ganja in the air? LSD or magic mushrooms weren’t tried by young men before now. Having a few pipes before you went out wasn’t standard fare for millions of people over the last 30 years? Where the hell did Briggs get this from? I assume he pulled it out from his arse.
The same survey into ecstasy use showed that 69% of people used ecstasy at nightclubs. Next time you see the queues forming outside nightclubs, remember that statistically more than two out of three patrons who are using ecstasy take it in nightclubs. -Jamie Briggs MP
The media is giving Jamie Briggs some valuable tips to add to his bag of political trickery. A typical reader might breeze through this article and come out thinking that 69% of ravers and nightclubbers are under the influence of ecstasy. The sneaky use of statistics in an ambiguous, misleading statement is a classic example of the media and politics working together giving the article some shock value whilst pushing the agenda of the politician.
The availability of such dangerous substances at cheap prices not only risks the health of young Australians but causes violence, assault (in many cases sexual), increased mental illness and dangerous behaviour such as driving under the influence. -Jamie Briggs MP
You are forgiven if you thought the above comment was about alcohol. About 3,100 people die each year from excessive alcohol consumption and about 72,000 people are hospitalised. 80% of night time assaults and half of all reported domestic(including sexual) violence is because of alcohol. Every year, serious assaults resulting from alcohol contributes more than 8,600 hospital admissions and police receive another 62,500 reports of alcohol related assaults. And a third of all road deaths are due to alcohol. Just to top it off, alcohol is responsible for more deaths of young people under 35 than any illicit drug. Is Briggs really being honest by claiming alcohol abuse is less important than illicit drugs? Risky drinking increased from 8.2% in 1995 to 10.3% in 2007 but drug use has actually declined over the last few years.
Alcohol misuse is a significant problem, both socially and economically, to the Australian community. The community generally perceives illicit drugs to be a greater problem because there is always more media attention on drug use, especially heroin, cannabis and ecstasy. In reality, alcohol is ranked second to tobacco as the most preventable cause of health-related harms and death. -Victorian Government Website
You’re getting the picture here. Almost everything Briggs says is exaggerated, a myth or simply wrong. The rhetoric is thick and the standard predictions of doom are everywhere.
Long term abuse of these drugs has significant mental health impacts creating a potential ‘lost generation’ of young Australians due to drug use -Jamie Briggs MP
Every future generation is going to be the “lost generation” according to anti-drug warriors. Funny enough, my generation was doomed once and so was the generation before mine ... and after mine. Of course, there is no actual evidence to prove this except the fear generated by people like Briggs. And there lies the problem ... evidence versus fear mongering. Spreading fear and lies requires no proof and emotional clich├ęs need no explanation.
Talk to any cop on the beat that has to deal with the outcomes of illicit drug use and they will tell you straight just how much trouble this scourge is causing. -Jamie Briggs MP
I bet many cops would say alcohol is the scourge more so than drugs.
We're at the point where we're saying thank God 80 per cent of them are using an illegal drug rather than alcohol, even though in 10 years they'll be suffering manic depressive disorders [...] But we just couldn't deal with that many people affected by alcohol -Queensland Police Officer. - Ecstasy helps us deal with drunks, say cops
The police are qualified to give their opinion on the effects of alcohol versus ecstasy on the streets because that’s their job. However, they are not qualified to make medical assessments about the potential harms of MDMA without scientific data. Either is Jamie Briggs as he has obviously not researched the issue properly if at all.
The effects on the health of the consumer are substantial in the short term. While designed to give a ‘buzz’ for a number of hours what they can do to the body is horrific. An overdose can result in psychosis, vomiting, convulsions, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and in many cases death. -Jamie Briggs MP
If Briggs had done his research, he might never had made the above statement. Then again, facts have not stopped him before. Most small doses of any drug causes very little impact on the body. For example, the sinister drug, heroin is basically non toxic and apart from mild constipation and a slow down of the respiratory system, does very little or no damage to the body. Even toxic drugs like amphetamines will not usually cause major problems in small quantities. Abusing a substance is different though and long term use of any drug will normally cause medical issues. Briggs’ vision of demon like substances is simply drug hysteria and using worse case scenarios like an overdose can be applied to nearly all ingestible substances including Aspirin, paracetamol, alcohol, vitamins or coffee.
Add to that the vicious bashings, sexual assaults and break-ins that occur due to illicit drug use and you start to see the community wide impact of these substances. [...] This is not to underplay the dangers of binge drinking. It is a real problem for young Australians and should be addressed. But it should be addressed seriously and not under the guise of a tax grab. Binge drinking should be addressed but not at the expense of the more challenging issue of illicit drug taking by young Australians [...] It is not good enough for us to say ‘oh well young people will always experiment’. We can and should do more to crack down on this great challenge facing young Australians. A tax on lolly water doesn’t do that. -Jamie Briggs MP
And there it is ... one of the major contributions to teenage binge drinking is nothing more than “lolly water”. Again, the Libs give a free pass to alcohol while trying to drive up the public fear of illicit drugs. The drug issue is very important and needs a solid, evidence based strategy not the half-arsed, “feels good” approach of Jamie Briggs and the Libs. And definitely not by lying and deceit. Is this really acceptable from a member of parliament? But what is this article really about? As you can see, there is no scientific basis or factual foundations. It contains mostly biased opinions, personal views and thick political rhetoric at the core. And it glosses over the damage from the main culprit in substance abuse, alcohol. It feels more like political posturing over the proposed alcopops tax rather than a genuine concern about misguided drug policy. Judging from the comments when the article was first published, most readers seem to agree. Unfortunately for Jamie Briggs, his article has probably had the opposite effect to what he intended. Instead of making himself look “tough on drugs” and showing up the alcopops tax as a revenue grab, he has just shown once again, how out of touch the Liberal Party really is. The real worry for Jamie Briggs should be in 10-20 years time when he has to explain to his children and grandchildren how he got it so wrong when there was so much evidence and research contradicting his position.
Too Giggly On Alcopops To Tackle Hard Drugs by Jamie Briggs The Punch June 2009 Australia has the highest rate of ecstasy use in the world. Frightening isn’t it? So what’s being done about it? Like many other policy issues, the PM declared war on drugs but it is more a phoney war than a real one. Hey guys, wanna buy some alcopops? Since being elected the Government has failed to take any significant action on this major health and criminal problem. Instead General Rudd and his loyal lieutenants have sent the troops into the goldmine by introducing a new tax on pre-mixed lolly water rather than sending them to the front line and fighting the real war on illicit drugs. With my best Kevin Rudd impersonation, I will ask myself a question, ‘is addressing the problem of binge drinking in our young people important? Absolutely. But is it the number one health challenge? I think not’. The Rudd Government has taken its eyes of the most significant and dangerous health issue facing young Australians, illicit drugs. Instead it has taken the easy route and pursued a tax grab dressed up as a health policy. There is little doubt our young people face challenges with illicit drugs like never before. This is not only a health issue; it has devastating effects on Australians, families and communities. Drugs are cheaper and more accessible than at any time in our history. Ecstasy tablets can be bought for as little as $15, five years ago the going price was $55. This isn’t based on third-hand rumour, official government reports released last year confirm this. The Courier Mail found nightclub patrons can buy potentially lethal tablets for little more than a couple of beers. In times past the cost of serious drug consumption was largely prohibitive and underground, but those days are no long gone. Drugs are now mainstream in nightclubs and pubs, not just at rave parties and festivals. The same survey into ecstasy use showed that 69% of people used ecstasy at nightclubs. Next time you see the queues forming outside nightclubs, remember that statistically more than two out of three patrons who are using ecstasy take it in nightclubs. So not only are young people faced with peer group pressure, they are also faced with economic pressures, making the decision to dabble so much more attractive. The availability of such dangerous substances at cheap prices not only risks the health of young Australians but causes violence, assault (in many cases sexual), increased mental illness and dangerous behaviour such as driving under the influence. During the recent Easter road blitz the South Australian police found 1.49% of drivers checked, tested positive to illicit drugs. The fledgling testing system only identifies cannabis, methylamphetamine (speed, ice or crystal meth) and ecstasy. There is no safe level of taking these drugs and their effects are frightening. You do not know what is in them, nor where they are made. There is no standard for production. They are often produced in the back sheds of suburbia for criminal syndicates with little care for the outcome to the end user. There is no post sale service for this product. The effects on the health of the consumer are substantial in the short term. While designed to give a ‘buzz’ for a number of hours what they can do to the body is horrific. An overdose can result in psychosis, vomiting, convulsions, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and in many cases death. Long term abuse of these drugs has significant mental health impacts creating a potential ‘lost generation’ of young Australians due to drug use. Add to that the vicious bashings, sexual assaults and break-ins that occur due to illicit drug use and you start to see the community wide impact of these substances. Talk to any cop on the beat that has to deal with the outcomes of illicit drug use and they will tell you straight just how much trouble this scourge is causing. The total long term damage to Australian families is unknown and unmeasurable. This is not to underplay the dangers of binge drinking. It is a real problem for young Australians and should be addressed. But it should be addressed seriously and not under the guise of a tax grab. Binge drinking should be addressed but not at the expense of the more challenging issue of illicit drug taking by young Australians. Addressing this problem takes a serious commitment and resources with a mixture of education, law enforcement activities and health responses. We need more police on the beat to target the criminals infiltrating our bars and clubs peddling their human misery. We need an increased emphasis to find those responsible for producing and distributing these drugs onto the streets. We need programmes and interventions to help rebuild the lives of those who are caught up by addiction and finally we need better education programmes for our youngsters. It is not good enough for us to say ‘oh well young people will always experiment’. We can and should do more to crack down on this great challenge facing young Australians. A tax on lolly water doesn’t do that.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Cocaine - Australia’s Next Drug Epidemic?

Cocaine abuse is all the rage in the media these days. From socialites to celebrities, from growing imports to night clubs, the media has found it’s new drug sensation. And it makes sense - we are told by the government and the media that cocaine is a hard drug like heroin and will turn any mortal into a manic, aggressive, single minded snow shovelling machine. But what if the World Health Organisation (WHO) told us differently? Would governments listen or take the advice of a group like the World Health Organisation? Ben Goldacre from The Guardian (UK) exposes how in 1995, the US buried a WHO report about the largest study ever made into cocaine use. The report contradicted US/UN drug policies and may have had some effect on how we approach the cocaine problem. At minimum, the report would have exposed how the UN and some countries act in complete defiance to the facts and evidence.
Most programmes do not prevent myths, but perpetuate stereotypes and misinform the general public. Such programmes rely on sensationalised, exaggerated statements about cocaine which misinform about patterns of use, stigmatise users, and destroy the educator's credibility. -WHO Report (1995)
As cocaine use grows in Australia, Europe and Africa, some governments are reacting but are their policies going to be anything different to previous drug trends? It just seems futile to keep researching and producing scientific reports that are simply ignored by governments if it doesn’t suit their political agenda. So what about Australia? What if the WHO report came out now? Would it be ignored by the Australian government?
Australia's Country Profile (CP) and the Sydney Key Informant Study (KIS) reveal limited cocaine use and few use-related problems. Most are recreational cocaine hydrochloride users. Very few are intensive injecting users. Use tends to accompany a polydrug experience. -WHO Report (1995)
The latest reports show that cocaine use is rising in Australia and the media predict there’s a cocaine shit storm coming. But the situation today is very similar to what the WHO reported back in 1995. The bulk of cocaine use is recreational and very few are hard core injecting users. According to the 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, only 5.2% of all injecting drug users chose cocaine. More importantly, only 2.4% or 2000 users chose cocaine as the first drug they injected which might indicate the level of cocaine addiction. Since the current situation reflects the WHO report from 1995, it might suggest that cocaine use is hardly a serious problem in Australia. But I can hear some minds ticking over ... what about the increase in cocaine imports?
Cocaine detections at the Australian border in 2007–08 increased slightly in weight and significantly in number compared with 2006–07. In total, 649.3 kilograms of cocaine was detected in 627 detections. This represents a six per cent increase in weight and a 71 per cent increase by number. The weight of cocaine detections in 2007–08 remained largely consistent with 2006–07. This is due to continued large detections in sea cargo, including two detections over 100 kilograms. -The Illicit Drug Data Report 2007/2008 - Australian Crime Commission (ACC)
There has been quite a bit of excitement about the recent Illicit Drug Data Report (2007/2008) produced by the Australian Crime Commission. The media highlights the news of a 71% increase in cocaine detections but dig a bit deeper and it only totals a 6% increase in weight. Surprise, surprise, this figure doesn’t make the headlines. Over 3 quarters of cocaine imports are now small packages via the post so the number of detections has increased dramatically. The important figure, weight, which has only increased slightly doesn’t make reading as interesting it seems.
AUSTRALIA is in the middle of a cocaine binge not experienced since the turn of the millennium [...] and since 2006 Australia has recorded a leap in cocaine detections of almost 400 per cent -Boom Times For Dealers As Australia Binges On Cocaine - Sydney Morning Herald
The real situation though makes these statistics almost useless. Australia only stops about 10-15% of drugs entering through our borders so the actual total amount of illicit drugs imported is never known. A small shift in unknown imports can distort the compiled statistics greatly. Even known imports can also muddy the figures. For example, 80 per cent of the total weight was from Sea cargo detections which included a single catch that accounted for nearly 40 per cent of the total weight. In other words, one big haul can make up thousands of smaller parcels sent by mail.
Cocaine use in Australia is soaring, while heroin-related arrests have dropped dramatically over the past decade, new figures show. The Australian Crime Commission's Illicit Drug Data report for 2007-08 reveals figures on arrests and seizures, along with methods of importation. There were 1,271 cocaine seizures, the highest figure on record, over the 12-month period and cocaine detections at the Australian border increased 71 per cent. "Cocaine use among the general population has increased since 2004 and is currently the highest on record," the report said. "Increases in cocaine border detections and seizures within Australia indicate a potential expansion of the domestic cocaine market." -Cocaine Use Rising In Australia: Report - Brisbane Times
From the recent media coverage, it would appear that cocaine is becoming a massive problem. But is it? 5.9% (1 million) of Australians aged 14 years or older have used cocaine at least once in their life but only 1.6% (275,000) used cocaine in the previous 12 months. Interestingly enough, of those Australians aged 14 years or older who had ever used cocaine, about 70% had not used cocaine in the last 12 months. Less than 1 in 50 teenagers have ever used cocaine. The main age group of cocaine users is 20-39 years old which might explain why very few become addicts and is largely used responsibly. I am yet to see the term “cocaine epidemic” but I guess it’s not too far away. The cocaine hysteria in the media is increasing though with stories about celebrities like Jodi Gordon and even a soft drink called Cocaine that has outraged anti-drug warriors, who claim it sends the wrong message. There’s even a dire warning about the “New Killer Cocaine On Streets” that isn’t even cocaine. As ecstasy hysteria and the cannabis/psychosis links have been done to death in the media, cocaine is ripe to take over as the media’s new scourge on society. This should play nicely into the hands of the government who love to roll out the “tough on drugs” image during a potential drug epidemic. So the big question remains - what will happen if research shows us once again that not only are current drug policies failing but they are causing more harm than good? What if research dismisses cocaine use as a major problem? I’m sure there will be many junk science reports commissioned by anti-drug warriors or biased US federal agencies to support Zero Tolerance policies . I’m sure the government will pick and choose only reports that suit their political agenda. And I’m positive the media will never print a headline like “Cocaine ... It’s Not THAT Bad”. The attitude towards the "War on Drugs" is changing rapidly and some real information is finally getting out to the public. More and more established media outlets like The Guardian are disclosing the dirty tricks that have kept the public ignorant about drugs for decades. In the end, the truth always wins out but I still get the feeling that the we have a long way to go.
Cocaine study that got up the nose of the US By Ben Goldacre The Guardian June 2009 In areas of moral and political conflict people will always behave badly with evidence, so the war on drugs is a consistent source of entertainment. We have already seen how cannabis being "25 times stronger" was a fantasy, how drugs- related deaths were quietly dropped from the measures for drugs policy, and how a trivial pile of poppies was presented by the government as a serious dent in the Taliban's heroin revenue. The Commons home affairs select committee is looking at the best way to deal with cocaine. You may wonder why they're bothering. When the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs looked at the evidence on the reclassification of cannabis it was ignored. When Professor David Nutt, the new head of the advisory council, wrote a scientific paper on the relatively modest risks of MDMA (the active ingredient in the club drug ecstasy) he was attacked by the home secretary, Jacqui Smith . In the case of cocaine there is an even more striking precedent for evidence being ignored: the World Health Organisation (WHO) conducted what is probably the largest ever study of global use. In March 1995 they released a briefing kit which summarised their conclusions, with some tantalising bullet points. "Health problems from the use of legal substances, particularly alcohol and tobacco, are greater than health problems from cocaine use," they said. "Cocaine-related problems are widely perceived to be more common and more severe for intensive, high-dosage users and very rare and much less severe for occasional, low-dosage users." The full report – which has never been published – was extremely critical of most US policies. It suggested that supply reduction and law enforcement strategies have failed, and that options such as decriminalisation might be explored, flagging up such programmes in Australia, Bolivia, Canada and Colombia. "Approaches which over-emphasise punitive drug control measures may actually contribute to the development of heath-related problems," it said, before committing heresy by recommending research into the adverse consequences of prohibition, and discussing "harm reduction" strategies. "An increase in the adoption of responses such as education, treatment and rehabilitation programmes," it said, "is a desirable counterbalance to the over-reliance on law enforcement." It singled out anti-drug adverts based on fear. "Most programmes do not prevent myths, but perpetuate stereotypes and misinform the general public. "Such programmes rely on sensationalised, exaggerated statements about cocaine which misinform about patterns of use, stigmatise users, and destroy the educator's credibility." It also dared to challenge the prevailing policy view that all drug use is harmful misuse. "An enormous variety was found in the types of people who use cocaine, the amount of drug used, the frequency of use, the duration and intensity of use, the reasons for using and any associated problems." Experimental and occasional use were by far the most common types of use, it said, and compulsive or dysfunctional use, though worthy of close attention, were much less common. It then descended into outright heresy. "Occasional cocaine use does not typically lead to severe or even minor physical or social problems … a minority of people … use casually for a short or long period, and suffer little or no negative consequences." And finally: "Use of coca leaves appears to have no negative health effects and has positive, therapeutic, sacred and social functions for indigenous Andean populations." At the point where mild cocaine use was described in positive tones the Americans presumably blew some kind of outrage fuse. This report was never published because the US representative to the WHO threatened to withdraw US funding for all its research projects and interventions unless the organisation "dissociated itself from the study" and cancelled publication. According to the WHO this document does not exist, (although you can read a leaked copy at Drugs show the classic problem for evidence-based social policy. It may well be that prohibition, and distribution of drugs by criminals, gives worse results for the outcomes we think are important, such as harm to the user and to communities through crime. But equally, we may tolerate these outcomes, because we decide it is more important that we declare ourselves to disapprove of drug use. It's okay to do that. You can have policies that go against your stated outcomes, for moral or political reasons: but that doesn't mean you can hide the evidence.
Related Articles: Suppressed report raises questions about drug policy

Monday, 15 June 2009

DIARY: Sick Comments, Dalrymple and Faith

DIARY: I haven’t posted for a while so I have decided to include quite a few items in this one diary entry. It should tie me over until the next post. Don’t forget to leave a comment!
Sick Comments
I’ve been following the readers comments in the trashy Murdoch media recently. It never ceases to amaze me how naive, arrogant and vicious some of these readers can be. I always read that Australians have this “fair go” mentality and we are laid back and friendly. These Australians don’t seem to visit too often to the comments section of The Daily Telegraph, The HeraldSun, The CourierMail, The Adelaide Advertiser, The Western Australian or the website. Instead, there tends to be the sort of reader who posts this:
Let them die and overdose. They took this sh*t willingly. Sounds cruel but hey, why shold good resources such as the medics be sent out to save these tools? Someone more deserving needs to come first eg: heart attacks patients, stroke victims etc. Let the junkies die.
Posted by: 123
I think I might create a new section called Comment of the Week to highlight the ignorance of Australians towards drugs and the sick, delusional comments that fill the reader’s forums. Stay tuned if it goes ahead. 
This is great example of what I have been encountering. It started with an article about a rave where 26 people overdosed.
26 Overdose, But No Police
POLICE today admitted failing to search patrons at a dance party where 26 ravers overdosed, with four critical.
Then the comments came pouring in.
These idiots and all other drug users like them are just a waste of ambulance and hospital resourses. Let them all stew in thier own juice .
Posted by: Drug Free Aussie of Bendigo 
These druggies will get what's coming to them. Send them to the footy, I'll give them a spray what for then we'll see if they take drugs again. The law abiding public should give these druggies what for.
Posted by: Mark of Malvern East 
Let them lie where they fall.....who cares !! its about time society wakes to the fact that They want the drugs, they love the legalize them, build a wall around the club scene and he who enters never comes out.....
Posted by: Casper of Earth 
Why should the police waste their time searching these losers? If they die so what? Don't revive them - their selfish stupidity is clogging up our emergency wards. Less idiots in the gene pool and a job or uni place is then available for a worthwhile member of society - you reap what you sow.
Posted by: dugga of on my bike 
Comment of the day: 
"Ectacy is safe". Just a little bit degenerative on ones intelligence it seems. Let's get one thing straight: Ecstasy is not "safe". No drug is "safe" and the sooner people realise this the better off we'll be.
Posted by: Matt of Melbourne
So I chipped in with this:
Casper of Earth(11) - "Let them lie where they fall.....who cares !!" and Dugga of On My Bike(13) - "Don't revive them - their selfish stupidity is clogging up our emergency wards". What a bunch of sick twats. When you or your friends/family are boozed out of their minds and pass out, remember what you said. There are thousands more people smashed senseless from alcohol that "clog" up our emergency services and hospitals than drug users. If ecstasy was regulated, taxed and sold like alcohol, no one would need to take GBH and most of these overdoes wouldn't happen. It's bizarre that the law allows alcohol (which kills more than all illicit drugs combined) to be legal but not ecstasy (MDMA). It's always those who know nothing that make sick comments about drug users who overdose. Then they go out every weekend and overdose on alcohol themselves, spewing in gutters or passing out in public. Oh, did I mention drunks are the cause of most violence on the streets. The next time someone needs medical help from overdosing on drugs, the chances are that drug is alcohol. Maybe they should take your advice and leave them there to "stew in thier own juice" - Drug Free Aussie of Bendigo(6).
Posted by: Terry Wright
This is what followed.
To bad the whole 26 didnt die.
Posted by: Rex 
Seems to me that Police are damned if they do and damned if they don't. These idiots taking the drugs do so fully aware of the risks of poorly made drugs. Please don't insult the intelligence of the general public by claiming they are victims. Drug use needs to be criminalized and users jailed, as they are in other countries. No users left on the streets eventually means dealers will go broke. I do not feel sorry for these idiots. They should be billed for their emergency and medical expenses as well instead of us, the tax-paying public, being forced to foot the bill.
Posted by: Gary of Brisbane 
If I was a relative of an elderly person, child or other person needing emergency treatment or for that matter an ambulance I would be absolutely outranged that services had been diverted to attend to these grubs. They are grubs - they are committing criminal offences. Let them die en masse because no education programs are working, they still go out of their way to get their drugs knowing the possible outcomes. Maybe this is the way others will learn.
Posted by: Joy of Ipswich 
There is absolutely no way that a drug such as acstacy with its comletely unpredictable effect on the bodies phisiolody could be legalised. Not even in amsterdamme to they do this. Alcohol whlist yes I agree is a bane in itself none the less as with marijuana is a natural product not some laboratory concoction of posions. You might as well east ratsack. And the other thing is that due to the high potency of MDMA (you don't need much of it to kill yourself) it would be wayyyy to easy for people to OD on say 2-3 tabs as opposed to 2-3 beers or bongs.
Posted by: Justin of Melbourne 
I know that we have a problem with these kids that find the only way to have fun is to get high on these drugs. Sorry and I know a lot of you won't agree with what I have to say, but if they want to blow their minds of on these drugs then don't waste out medical officers trying to save them. Just let them go. Theyn know when they take this drug there are risks. If the rinks are not anhered to then what more can you say. DO THE CRIME DO THE TIME. Sorry but have had enough of hearing about drug abuse in this countr. I came up in the 60s and wastn't lured by drugs in those days, so why are we worrying about what is happing today???? If you want to blow your brains out on drugs then go ahead as far as I am concerned. We are wasting too much money and effort dealing with kinds that have had no dissapline in their youth and it is starting to show in their aduthoot. Get a life and start looking forward to a future where you now are in control and not your parents.
Posted by: Cathy of Gayndah 
Media, police and MP's please stop calling abuse of illegal drugs that result in a hospital visit or death an"overdose" as there is no correct "dose" for illegal drugs. All these stupid drug abusers do is place themselves and others in danger and tie up our over stretched ambulance and hospital resource's by they immature and selfish behaviour. The promoters and the venue should be put out of business permanently by the government.
Posted by: Adrian Jackson of Middle Park Vic 
I'd be pretty pissed off if I had needed to call an ambulance for a REAL emergency and had to wait with potentially fatal consequences due to these fwits who used up all the resources for their own stupid, self-inflicted problems. I say let them lay there in their own vomit and start banning ambulances picking up drug OD cases. I'm quite sure the wonderful people who work in EDs in our major hospitals would agree with me.
Posted by: Susanne of Coburg 
Pity they weren't all fatal.
Posted by: Mister Master of Australia 
It's about time ambulances stopped going out to drug OD calls or at the very least put them at the bottom of the priority list and just let the d**kheads lay in their own vomit. One day it could be you or a family member who has to wait for an ambulance because of the stupidity of one of the bottom dwellers and the consequences could be fatal. From now on no more tax payer funded support or medical intervention for drug users. I've had people close die from drug related issues and the rubbish they cause just isn't worth keeping them around. Let them dig their own graves.
Posted by: Fed Up of the real world 
Why is the slant on this story that the cops failed to do something. What about the morons that took the tablets. Who many more people have to die, suffer brain damage or end up in hospital before our poor bored youth learn a bloody lesson. DRUGS ARE BAD!
Posted by: Simon of Wyongah
And a few responses to my comment.
Terry Wright and others similar, the ambulance isn't there so you can go out and selfishly get wasted whether it is grog or some drug made with dunny water in the back shed of a criminal. Anyone who does is a sponge on society and a waste of tax dollars. There is nothing safe about regulating mind altering drugs like MDMA and GHB. they kill from the actions after they are taken because behaviour under their influence cannot be controlled. Every drug taker "thinks" they know what they are doing when in reality they prove time and time again, that they have no idea whatsoever. Time to grwo up if you want to party.
Posted by: Brent of Melbourne 
Terry Wright 3:20pm's posts like yours that makes a parents job 'that much harder' say 'if ectasy was regulated, taxed and sold like alcohol, no one would take BGH and overdoses wouldn't happen'...that's just irresponsible and stupid! NO DRUG should be 'regulated, taxed and sold'...(even dope will not get legalised, as who wants a bonged out bogan driving on our roads??)...anything that is chemically made is NOT SAFE!!!. NO DRUG!! But young people reading your ill informed post will only 'justify' that taking ectasy is 'really ok'...well its NOT!! And us as parents have our work cut out even further, to try to explain these stupid comments are NOT ACCEPTABLE!!! But l agree with what you said about alcohol...Alcohol is legal and thousands are affected by it...dometic abuse, addiction, drink driving, violent bashings??? You need to 'balance' your statement, and not be so hypocrital..
Posted by: Cheryl 
What can I say? Wishing drug addicts dead is abysmal. Who would make comments like “lay in their own vomit” and "Let them lie where they fall.....who cares !!" and "If they die so what"? Most annoying is the arrogance and self righteous attitude, especially since they are mostly misinformed and full of shit. They seem so convinced that their opinions are facts and are willing to comment on a public forum, spewing out hate and animosity towards people that don’t even know. This display of ignorance is dumbfounding and something that anti-drug zealots must surely be proud of. After years of propaganda and drug hysteria, the quest to demonise drug users is obviously working.
I have been without heroin for several months now and the craving is slowly receding. I really have to say it again ... thank you Slow Release Oral Morphine (SROM). I still get the tingles when I see footage of someone shooting up but it passes quickly. Is this finally it for me and heroin? Probably not but I feel it’s getting closer.
Simple Dalrymple
A recent article, Trivial Dribble Trivialises Dribbling Trivial Dribbler has caught the attention of a blog called, The Skeptical Doctor. Being Theodore Dalrymple groupies, they responded with Dalrymple and Drugs: The Value of Broad-Mindedness and attempted to counter some claims in my article.
But all should agree that Dalrymple is anything but myopic. Unfortunately, one such critic, a heroin addict named Terry Wright, responds with just this kind of invective. Angered by Dalrymple's argument that drug addicts are not helpless victims, but willing participants in their addiction, he responds with bald assertions and childish insults.
As usual though, they miss the point and instead write mostly about my claim that Dalrymple is myopic. Several paragraphs or over half of the article from The Skeptical Doctor describes how Dalrymple has many real life experiences and therefore cannot be narrow-minded in his views. Student of life or not, Dalrymple makes some assertions that are absolutely ridiculous and I simply point them out. 
withdrawal is medically trivial, unlike that from alcohol and barbiturates
The evidence is pretty conclusive that the great majority, though not quite all, of the suffering caused by withdrawal from opiates, insofar as it is real and not feigned, is psychological in origin and caused by the mythology surrounding it
Addiction should be treated as an aggravating circumstance, and an automatic additional five or ten years ought to be added to addicts’ sentences
(heroin withdrawal) can be easily controlled by reassurance, personal attention and general nursing care without any need for pharmacotherapy
-Theodore Dalrymple
Unlike what the The Skeptical Doctor suggests, I did not use my personal experience to debunk Dalrymple but just common, well known facts e.g. millions of heroin addicts who experienced hellish withdrawal symptoms. To suggest that heroin withdrawal is trivial is clearly wrong ... and myopic. For every example Dalrymple uses there are 100 opposing his views. And now, I am going to include a personal experience here and tell it as plainly as I can. Heroin/opiate withdrawal is the nastiest experience I have ever encountered. Nothing comes close to it.
Unlike Wright’s view of heroin addiction, which is based on his own experience of drugs, Dalrymple's views are based on both his experience treating thousands of addicts and an understanding of the scientific literature. "Romancing Opiates" (aka "Junk Medicine" in the UK) makes reference to these medical studies: [insert long list]
As on so many other topics, one may disagree with Dalrymple's conclusions on the matter of drug addiction, but to say that they are based on myopia, lies, simple-mindedness, insanity or fringe science is extraordinarily inaccurate. Exactly who is being subjective here?
Citing Dalrymple’s experience only makes matters worse. To be exposed to so many addicts and having so many medical papers to draw conclusions from means that Dalrymple is indeed myopic ... and that’s being objective.
The fact is that 99% of the medical world accept opiates as highly addictive and causing massive withdrawals. All the books, articles and ranting in the world will not change this. Only evidence and facts will. Dalrymple had previously written a book titled, Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy which attempts to dispel these facts as well as making other radical claims. The book was hailed by conservatives as a revelation but the medical world was not as enthusiastic or as impressed.
The book is eloquently written, weaving elements of history, literature, pharmacology, and personal philosophy into a plausible-sounding argument that may convince the reader with no prior knowledge of addiction. However, other than having "very briefly run a drug addiction clinic in a famous university town" and supervising the opiate withdrawal of a number of patients under his care, the author does not otherwise claim any hands-on experience in the ongoing management of patients with addiction disorders. Dalrymple appears to take his narrow experience with a severely affected segment of the opiate-addicted population and generalize it to everyone suffering from opiate addiction.
-Roman D. Jovey, MD - Medscape
If you’re somewhat confused about the timeline for the above, here it is simplified:
2006: Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy (Book) 2009 - Jan: Withdrawal From Heroin Is A Trivial Matter  (Theodore Dalrymple - The Spectator) 2009 - Apr: Trivial Dribble Trivialises Dribbling Trivial Dribbler (The Australian Heroin Diaries 2009 - Jun: Dalrymple and Drugs: The Value of Broad-Mindedness (The Skeptical Doctor)
You decide for yourself.
A Faith I Can Relate To
The current trend for bands to reform and artists to come out of retirement has irked sceptical music fans. Faith No More(1981–1998) has jumped on the bandwagon and announced a European tour and surprisingly has excluded their own country, America. Incredibly, one of the members did admit during an interview that Australia might be included at a later date. Although this old, fragile body is not fit to relive the glory days of rock concerts, it is currently in negations with my brain to attend a Faith No More reunion concert if it happens in Australia. My body has many objections to standing for 2 hours in a crowd of sweaty punters, banging their heads to the likes of Faith No More but my brain can be very persuasive at times. The internal struggle within should see some fiery times if and when they announce an Australian Faith No More concert.
Sad News
My best friend’s son committed suicide the other day. A normal, 15 year old student with no known problems just went into his room and hanged himself. No one knows why and there were no warnings. He didn’t take drugs, drink alcohol or even smoke. He had a good relationship with his parents and extended family which only makes it harder for everyone. My friend committed his whole life to raising his son by himself and was totally focussed on being a dad. A sad loss which will effect many people for a long, long time.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Slowly, The Wheels are Turning

Finally, some common sense is appearing in US drug policy ... albeit slowly. It’s not like the US are jumping ahead and breaking new ground but at least they are catching up with most westernised countries. The US has a stranglehold on UN drug agencies like the INCB and the UNODC which has always been a reason for concern to countries wanting to implement their own progressive drug policies. The heavily influenced UN will often overlook evidence based strategies and Harm Minimisation for US style Zero Tolerance policies. One of the major sticking points is needle exchanges which help stop the spread of blood borne diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hep C. The Obama administration recently reneged on their support for providing clean injection equipment to drug users and removed it from their web site. So what has the newly appointed “Drug Czar” or as he is officially known, the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy got to say? What are his views on needle exchanges? What is his vision for the "War on Drugs"?
If you remember correctly, the previous Drug Czar, John Walters had a very dark, draconian approach to US drug policy where he heavily promoted Zero Tolerance whilst making regular attacks on Harm Minimisation. This has long been the standard procedure for the role of Drug Czar. With a change in the public’s acceptance of the "War on Drugs", Walters’ rhetoric grew along with his lies and propaganda. By the end of the Bush administration, John Walters’ messages and warnings were sounding stale especially with his intense focus on cannabis. He lied, mislead the public and argued with scientific research that contradicted his message, right up until the end. For example, Walters claimed that today’s cannabis was 10 to 20 times stronger than it was in the 1970s-1980s. The fact is cannabis potency in the US has risen from about 4% to 9% since 1983. Or this ripper, “you are also mistaken in thinking that there can be no “overdose” with marijuana”. Of course no one has ever overdosed or died solely from cannabis.
He was a true believer in the "War on Drugs" and nothing was going to change his mind - medical research, science or facts, it didn’t matter. Even today he continues to push his narrow-minded views, writing an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal and appearing in several TV debates where he blatantly gave false statistics and fallacious information. John Walters is a disgrace and a liar, the epitome of an anti-drug propagandist. He was the perfect Drug Czar for the US but that it seems is changing. What will new Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske bring to the table? Hopefully some common sense and a lot less lying.
Interview-Us Drug Czar Calls For End To 'War On Drugs' By Andy Sullivan Reuters June 2009 *No plans to legalize marijuana *Substance abuse treatment to get more funds *May lift federal ban on needle exchange programs WASHINGTON, June 5 (Reuters) - The Obama administration's top drug cop plans to spend more money on treating addiction and scale down the "war on drugs" rhetoric as part of an overhaul of U.S. counternarcotics strategy. But don't expect the White House to consider legalizing marijuana, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said on Friday. "The discussion about legalization is not a part of the president's vocabulary under any circumstances and it's not a part of mine," Kerlikowske said in a telephone interview. As head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Kerlikowske coordinates the efforts of 32 government agencies to limit illicit drug use. He has been in office less than a month, but the Obama administration has already taken a less confrontational approach to the nation's 35 million illegal drug users. The FBI is no longer raiding state-approved facilities that distribute marijuana for medical purposes, and the White House has told Congress to eliminate the sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine. Kerlikowske said he hopes to ditch the chest-thumping military rhetoric at the center of U.S. policy since President Nixon first declared a "war on drugs" 40 years ago. "We should stop using the metaphor about the war on drugs," said Kerlikowske, a career police officer who headed the Justice Department's community-policing initiative under President Clinton. "People look at it as a war on them, and frankly we're not at war with the people of this country." Nevertheless, Kerlikowske also plans to disrupt trafficking across the Mexican border through a new focus on the guns and cash that travel south, as well as the drugs coming north. U.S. drug policy has been criticized for focusing too much on fighting supplies from Colombia and other countries in South America and not enough on curbing demand at home, the world's largest drug market. BALANCING THE APPROACH Kerlikowske said a more balanced approach was needed, with greater emphasis on treatment programs, especially in prisons. "It's clear that if they go to prison and they have a drug problem and you don't treat it and they return ... to the same neighborhood from whence they came that you are going to have the same problem," he said. "Quite frankly people in neighborhoods, police officers, et cetera, are tired of recycling the problem. Let's try and fix it." Obama, who described youthful marijuana and cocaine use in his autobiography, has proposed a budget for the fiscal year starting in October that boosts funding for substance abuse programs by 4 percent to $3.6 billion. Needle exchanges for intravenous drug users, now banned at the federal level, will be considered a healthcare issue, he said. As Seattle police chief, Kerlikowske worked in a city that ran a needle-exchange program, celebrates an annual "Hempfest" that draws tens of thousands of marijuana smokers, and passed a referendum that made enforcing marijuana laws the department's lowest priority. Other state and local governments have loosened their marijuana laws as well. Medical marijuana is now legal in 13 states, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month welcomed a public debate about proposals to legalize and tax the drug. While that's not going to happen on the federal level, Kerlikowske suggested the government should devote less effort to prosecuting nonviolent drug users. "We have finite resources," he said. "We need to devote those finite resources toward those people who are the most dangerous to the community."