Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Oops! Adelaide Advertiser Gets It Right

That would be right, wouldn’t it. Just as I criticise Murdoch’s trashy newspapers for never being rational about drug policy and treating drug use as a moral issue, I find this beauty. I have to say that agreeing with an article in the Adelaide Advertiser about drugs is a unique experience and something to be shared with my grandchildren. Even more surprising are the reader’s comments. I could be wrong but I didn’t read one comment that disagreed with Tory Shepherd’s piece. It may be a few months old now but the article was in the first wave of the current trend to question why morality in the basis of drug policy and the failure of prohibition. How did the Adelaide Advertiser let this one through?

Great stuff, Tory!

Drugs Aren't Evil, So Stop The Moralising
By Tory Shepherd
Adelaide Advertiser
June 2009

People have been getting high for thousands of years, and there's nothing that will stop them.

They seek out different states of mind for different reasons - they want to experiment or escape or feel pleasure or avoid pain.

Poor old Wacko Jacko chose legal drugs - lots of them - and he wasn't alone.

People are endlessly inventive. They will always find a different sort of poison to self-medicate with. If they can't get alcopops, they'll get cheap wine.

If they can't get cheap wine, they'll make moonshine rum.

If they can't make moonshine rum, they'll drink something else.

If people can't get speed on the streets, they'll run a car through a chemist's window and steal cold and flu tablets and make their own.

They'll smoke plants they find in their back yard or help themselves to a parent's medicine cabinet.

Or if they have the time and the money they'll doctor-shop - like Michael Jackson reportedly did - and get myriad bottles of colourful pills made to bring you up or pull you down, and they will concoct their own special way to get out of touch with reality.

They always have.

People have been getting high for as long as they've been making music and it's about time we stopped thinking of drug taking as a dirty disgrace and start treating it as a public health issue.

Opium, cannabis and hallucinogens have been important parts of trade, of history, of religious and spiritual enlightenment.

Some of our best musicians were addicted to drugs or used them for inspirational flights of fancy. Poets, writers and philosophers - from Keats to Shelley - took opium.

Society is full of functioning drug users who look at gritty black-and-white ads telling them that speed will make them dig up the skin on their arms and feel nothing, because that is not them.

Drugs are not some pure evil.

They are chemicals used for various ends by a wide range of people.

Sometimes, those people are in dire mental straits and need all the help they can get to deal with their inner demons. Sometimes, people mess around and try a few things, then move on and have a productive and useful life.

The effect of drug addiction on a person's life can be devastating.

So can binging. Anyone who has had a serious hangover with all its shaking anxiety and pervasive toxicity, knows alcohol is a drug - and a depressive one at that.

Emergency specialists will tell of the toll the serious amphetamines take - the violence, the wild and unwieldy aggression.

But most of them also say alcohol is worse, that it is the bigger evil.

Drugs have a long and rich social history, but they have become a moral battleground.

While we condemn these drugs on the one hand, declare war on them, compete to be the very toughest on drugs that we can be, we allow other drugs to become a normal part of life. We normalise the pills and potions made by those other drug lords, Big Pharma.

Governments have to be seen to be doing something.

So they do something. They act tough on illicit drugs. But it's not proving to be the right thing.

Prohibition of alcohol did not work, and neither did zero tolerance. It's pointless and expensive to try banning drugs.

The only realistic approach is to work out the point at which it starts destroying lives and impacting communities and tackle that.

We need to listen to the people who are studying why people are ruining their own lives with drugs - whether they are drugs bought from a stinking back alley or a man in a white coat.

What is it in people's lives that drive them to self-destruct on alcohol or on Demerol or on ice?

Society has categorised drugs, but the categories they have chosen are moral, not medical, and that needs to change.

Related Articles:
Fairfax Media Fights the Good Fight
Journalist Should Be Ashamed
Journalist's Shame
Piers Akerman, His Readers, Oxycodone and The Truth
Did They Really Say That? Part 1 - The Media
The Australian Newspaper At It's Worst
Drug Hysteria - Headlines from News Ltd

Monday, 28 September 2009

Fairfax Media Fights the Good Fight

I have noticed a few articles recently in the Fairfax Media that would absolutely never appear in the Murdoch trash newspapers. That’s aside from Miranda Devine’s usual assortment of far right rants. These articles are a welcomed relief from the often anti-drug mish-mash that the media tries to pass off as news. It’s not just that I agree with them, it’s because they are accurate and evidence based. Something that know nothing about. At least once a day there is some article in The Daily Telegraph, The HeraldSun, CourierMail etc. that simply ignores the facts about drugs and instead, plays on the public’s fear to attract readers. This is known as drug hysteria.

Prevention, Not Detention, In Drug Fight
By Julie Robothan - Medical Editor
Brisbane Times
September 2009

AUSTRALIA'S emphasis on law enforcement as the principal element of its illicit drug strategy is out of kilter with community attitudes, a survey reveals.

Most people believe the biggest investment should be in education programs to prevent people beginning to use drugs, with the remainder split equally among treatment programs, harm-reduction schemes and law enforcement, according to results from a representative survey of more than 500 adults in June by the drug policy group Anex.

But according to separate analysis from the Melbourne-based Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, about 56 per cent of the money the nation spends on tackling drugs goes to police and courts. Health initiatives such as overdose prevention and needle exchanges receive only 2 per cent of total funding.

More than half think the justice system will never solve drug problems, according to the Anex survey, which comes as the the National Drug Strategy's four-year cycle is about to expire at the end of this year. One-third of people believe those who use illegal drugs should not go to jail, although 45 per cent believe they should be charged with a crime.

Just 39 per cent believe drug use would never affect their family, and three-quarters agree that drug use is connected to other problems in people's lives.

The economic crisis and its effect on personal finances put more people at risk, said John Ryan, chief executive of Anex, which is funded by federal and state governments and philanthropic grants. "People are vulnerable, and that vulnerability often leads to problematic drug use," he said.

National statistics from 2008 show more than 2 million people had used an illicit drug in the previous year, with cannabis top of the list, followed by the misuse of prescription pharmaceuticals, ecstasy and methamphetamine.

Those who used drugs had much higher levels of mental illness, with 20 per cent of those who had taken drugs in the past month reporting high levels of psychological distress, compared with 9 per cent of people who had not.

The results - to be presented this week at the Australian Drugs Conference - showed public concern about the issue was as high as ever. "It is not receding," Mr Ryan said.

About 300 people died from a drug overdose in 2007.

The director of the Alcohol and Drug Service at St Vincent's Hospital, Alex Wodak, said there had been a gradual shift in community attitudes to illicit drug use over the years. ''People are increasingly recognising that health and social interventions are a much more effective, less expensive approach,'' Dr Wodak said.

''Law enforcement used to be a brilliant political strategy to get people re-elected, but times are changing and the fear-based approach no longer works.''

Related Articles:
The Warrnambool Standard - Professionals Call For Heroin Legalisation
The Age - Legalise Addicts' Heroin: Experts
The Age - Jury In On Heroin Ban

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Drug Blitz Devastate Regional Cartels

A massive police blitz in SE South Australia, dubbed 'Operation Dial' has snared some major players from local drug cartels. 250 police officers including Customs officials, Mount Gambier CIB and detectives took part in the operation which has sent shock waves throughout the criminal world in regional South Australia. As organised crime is still realing from the drug blitz, spirits are high for the 250 officers who are celebrating their one arrest. In a targeted effort, Mount Gambier CIB swooped in and arrested a local woman for allegedly selling methyl amphetamine. A great effort by anyone’s standards.
South East operations manager Sergeant Andy Stott said he was pleased with the results
-ABC News

Amoung the other devastating blows to local organised crime was the cleaning up of the well known drug haven, Naracoorte (pop. 4888). In what police are calling, the biggest collection of drug related busts ever seen in Naracoorte, officiers racked up a record 3 fines. But the biggest news that has police celebrating involves the investigation into a major cannabis growing operation in the insidious, drug infested town of Keith (pop. 1203). Local police woke up early and without even having breakfast, stormed a house, catching red handed a local man cultivating 2 cannabis plants.

Sgt Stott has encouraged anyone with information regarding drug related crime, including sale, production or possession of illicit drugs, to contact Bank SA Crimestoppers on 1800333000 or Mount Gambier police on 8735 1020.

Police Reveal Drug Blitz Results
ABC News
September 2009

Police in south-east South Australia have released the results of last week's state-wide anti-drugs campaign 'Operation Dial'.

Officers from Mount Gambier CIB and Customs arrested a female for allegedly taking part in the sale of methyl amphetamines and two reports were made in Naracoorte regarding the sale and possession of prescription drugs.

Three cannabis expiation notices were also issued relating to the possession of cannabis and equipment, while a drug diversion notice was issued to someone relating to amphetamines.

A Keith man was reported for allegedly cultivating two cannabis plants.

More than 250 officers were involved in the state-wide operation.

Friday, 18 September 2009

UK Heroin Trials - Another Win For Prescription Heroin

A recent scientific trial of heroin assisted treatment (HAT) in the UK has again shown to be highly effective for treating long term addicts. This is just getting boring. Another heroin trial, another great result. How many trials are we going to have before governments accept the benefits of prescribing heroin to long term addicts?

It’s interesting to note (as far as I can tell), not one Australian major media outlet reported on the UK announcement. I understand that the Murdoch trash machine might ignore these results but what about the rest of the media? Why hasn’t Nicola Roxon or Uncle Kev been questioned on this as the rumour mill tells us a government drugs policy is due before Christmas? And just for fun, I thought at least one reporter would track down John Howard to see if his head has imploded yet.

Heroin Supply Clinic 'Cuts Crime'
By Danny Shaw - BBC Home Affairs Correspondent
BBC News

A scheme in which heroin is given to addicts in supervised clinics has led to big reductions in the use of street drugs and crime, the BBC has learned.

More than 100 users took part in the pilot - part funded by the government - in London, Brighton and Darlington.

They either injected heroin or received the drug's substitute methadone.

Those given heroin responded best and an independent panel which monitored the scheme over six months is advising ministers to set up further trials.

About three-quarters of those given heroin were said to have "substantially" reduced their use of street drugs.

Research suggests that between half and two-thirds of all crime in the UK is drug-related.

The Home Office says on its website that about three-quarters of crack and heroin users claim they commit crime to feed their habits.


•Three-quarters reduced use of street heroin
•Offences down from 1,731 in 30 days to 547 in six months
•Spending on drugs down from £300 to £50 a week Figures for group given heroin
•Professor John Strang, who led the project, said the results were "very positive" because the scheme had helped cut crime and avoid "expensive" prison sentences

Professor Strang, who is based at the National Addiction Centre, part of King's Health Partners, said the individuals on the programme were among those who had been the hardest to treat.

"It's as if each of them is an oil tanker heading for disaster and so the purpose of this trial is to see: 'Can you turn them around? Is it possible to avert disaster?'

"And the surprising finding - which is good for the individuals and good for society as well - is that you can," he said.

The Randomised Injecting Opioid Treatment Trial (RIOTT) programme - which is funded by a number of agencies, including the Department of Health - began in 2005.

It involved 127 chronic heroin addicts for whom conventional types of treatment had failed.

Many of the addicts were also using other substances, including crack cocaine.

During the trials, a third of addicts were given the heroin substitute methadone orally and another third injected methadone under supervision.

The remainder, observed by nurses, injected themselves with diamorphine - unadulterated heroin - imported from Switzerland.

National roll-out?

Those on the programme were also given psychological support and help with their housing and social needs.

The results showed that addicts in all three groups cut the amount of heroin they obtained illicitly from street dealers.

According to researchers, more than half of the heroin injecting group were said to be "largely abstinent" and one-in-five did not use street heroin at all.

Before they began the programme, the addicts in the heroin injecting group were spending more than £300 a week on street drugs. After six months, this had reduced to an average of £50 a week.

“ It used to be about chasing the buzz, but when you go on the programme you just want to feel comfortable ”
John, RIOTT participant
There was also a big drop in the number of offences addicts admitted committing to obtain money to feed their habit.

In the previous month before the scheme started, addicts in the heroin injecting group reported carrying out 1,731 crimes.

After six months, this had fallen to 547 offences - a reduction of more than two-thirds.

One of the heroin addicts on the programme, a 34-year-old man called John, had been addicted for eight years when the trials began. He fed his habit by dealing.

"My life was just a shambles... waking up, chasing money, chasing drugs," he said.

But John said the scheme had transformed his life "100 per cent" and he now had a part-time job.

"It used to be about chasing the buzz, but when you go on the programme you just want to feel comfortable," he said.

"I've started reducing my dose gradually, so that maybe in a few months time I'll be able to come off it altogether, drug free totally."

In its drug strategy, published last year, the government said it would "roll out" the prescription of injectible heroin, subject to the findings of the pilot scheme.

The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA), which administers drug treatment in England, said the results were "encouraging".

The NTA said an independent expert group, set up to advise the government, had concluded that there was enough "positive evidence of the benefits" of the programme to merit further pilots.

The NTA is understood to be keen to evaluate the financial implications of the scheme. At £15,000 per user per year, supervised heroin injecting is three times more expensive than other treatments.

Related Articles:
Leading Article: An Injection Of Common Sense
Canada Provides the Final Proof Needed for Heroin Assisted Treatment
Germany Passes Prescription Heroin into Law
Heroin Assisted Treatment Winning Approval in Europe
What Does Prescription Heroin Really Mean for Junkies?
Denmark - More Prescription Heroin Programs for Addicts
Prescription Heroin - Lifesaving Medication?
Top UK Cop Calls for Prescription Heroin
How Much Evidence Do We Need?
Israel - Another Country Considers Prescription Heroin
Who Supports a Heroin Trial?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Judge Judy and the Marijuana Debate

I should disclose up front that I hate Judge Judy. She’s a first rate twat. Everything I despise about judges is summed up in one annoying package - a bully, self righteous, condescending, narrow minded, cruel and a buckethead. I feel sorry for those who stand before her in court. If she has kids, I pity them too. And her husband must be doing time in hell for sins racked up in a previous life.

In a TV special described as a debate on marijuana legalisation, we got anything but a debate. Jaunty Judge Judy doesn’t even try to be bipartisan and makes her conclusions known before the debate is even half way through. But the real joke is who the Judge picked to represent the affirmative side. A tattooed, convicted drug dealer and a “reverend” of a religious cult who talk to god through smoking marijuana. His name is Reverend Bud Green. Apart from not knowing much about the facts, they hardly get a chance to speak without being rudely interrupted by the jaunty Judge. Her disdain for them is obvious and she even yells at them at one stage, protesting her opposition to legalising drugs. The against legalisation team is what you would expect from a mainstream TV show in the US. Short on facts but big on scary scenarios involving chaos and damaged children. One argument even went as far as claiming there are growing cases of “marijuana babies” being born addicted to pot. Yep, you read that right ... babies born addicted to cannabis. There are some real crackers here and the against team come up with some refreshingly new reasons to fear cannabis.

My advice is to get over the anger quickly then sit back and enjoy some of the funniest TV you will see. Just bear in mind that these people are real and there are tens of millions who will find this video informative. Bizarre as it might be, it still makes for some great comedy entertainment.

The Marijuana Debate On Judge Judy Part 1 Of 2

The Marijuana Debate On Judge Judy Part 2 Of 2

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Like Lambs to the Slaughter

One of the major problems with most drug policies worldwide is the branding of users as criminals. This has led to many incidents where normal, everyday people have been locked up with hardened crims and left to defend for themselves in the vicious prison system. Ironically as Mexico decriminalised small amounts of drugs, one young man was detained for possession of cannabis only a few months shy of the new laws. Whilst in lockup, he was raped.

Youngster Was Detained For Marijuana Possession And Raped At Police Station
August 2009

A young man was raped in the cells of Boulogne police station. He’d been detained for marijuana possession. The youngster’s lawyer, Jose Vera, announced that his client will file a millionaire suit against the state.

The fact came into light today, a day after the Supreme Court decriminalized the possession of drugs for personal use, but it had taken place in February 2007, .

The Court sentenced the rapist to 23 years in prison and ordered further proceedings against the police who didn’t watch over the boy.

“His life was ruined for a joint. It’s one of those cases that should have never happened,” said Vera.

“Many things failed. But above all we must point out the sensless criterion for detaining a boy for a whole weekend for a spliff.”

“Besides, it is also very serious that a college kid like this were locked into the same dungeon with really dangerous prisoners.”

The boy, named David, was arrested for a previous case so he didn’t possess any marijuana when he was nabbed by police.
The patrol officers decided to take him anyway and put him in jail.

The boy was placed in a cell with the prisoners’ leader Ricardo Juarez, alias “El Cabezon”, for two days. As soon as Juarez saw David threatened to impale him with a stick with a knife on the tip. Then he stole his belongings. The rape took place the following night. Juarez’s cell was unlocked and while the guard nodded off the accused sneaked off his cell, took David by the throat and raped him for ten minutes.

The next day David was released. The boy went to a hospital, who testified at trial that the boy had been abused. Then he contacted his attorney to take the case to Court where two years later Juarez was sentenced to 23 years in prison for aggravated sexual abuse and use of weapon. He also requested an appeal against the guard who neglected the victim.

Related Articles:
Collateral Damage
5 Grams of Heroin Sends You to Jail

Sunday, 6 September 2009

MDMA/Ecstasy Trial for PTSS (Sandra Kanck Was Right)

South Australia had the chance but blew it and now Canada are going to take the honour. You might remember back in June 2008 when SA Democrat, Sandra Kanck recommended using MDMA (aka ecstasy) to treat Iraq war veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome(PTSS). She was heavily criticised and knocked as some sort of loopy, pro-drug activist. Sandra had previously suggested using MDMA for the victims of the Eyre Peninsula bushfires in 2006 and the response from parliament and the media was no different back then. Now it seems, those who criticised her are looking pretty damn stupid. Her very suggestions are being taken up by Canada by way of a trial of treating PTSS patients with MDMA.

Preliminary studies have shown that MDMA in conjunction with psychotherapy can help people overcome PTSD. MDMA has empathogenic effects, and it is also known as the popular drug Ecstasy (although "Ecstasy" does not always contain pure MDMA). In laboratory studies, MDMA has been proven sufficiently safe for human consumption when taken a limited number of times in moderate doses.
-Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

There were many who criticised Sandra Kanck simply for looking to our medical know-how to solve a medical problem. It was like being back at school where mob mentality took over the playground and some poor kid copped hell for being different. Sandra was mocked and made fun by many so called adults in a disgusting display of ignorance and political point scoring. From the media to Veterans' Affairs Minister, Michael Atkinson. From Veteran groups to her own party. They all joined in without researching a thing. And now they must feel like absolute morons as another country initiates her suggestions. How long will Australia suffer from ignorance and fear? How long will our policies be decided by narrow minded, ideological, self righteous fools? I fear that it will be long after the rest of the world changes.

Landmark B.C. study lets trauma sufferers find relief with ecstasy
The Globe and Mail
By Frances Bula
September 2009

Vancouver therapists get green light to use drug in trial to treat post-traumatic stress

Two Vancouver therapists have become the first Canadians to be permitted to give ecstasy to patients in a scientific trial aimed at finding new ways to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Psychologist Andrew Feldmar and psychiatrist Ingrid Pacey, with the help of the Boston-based organization Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, also known as MAPS, are recruiting 12 people to take part in the trial, which they hope might include Canadian soldiers and police officers.

Mr. Feldmar said that like Vancouver's supervised-injection site, the trial has obtained an exemption from Canada's narcotics laws, and is waiting for an import permit for the Swiss-manufactured drug.

The Vancouver experiment is part of small but growing international movement to use drugs such as LSD, MDMA or ecstasy, and psylocibin as part of therapeutic treatment, which has received significant backing from MAPS. The organization, founded in 1986, is a non-profit focused on lobbying to have psychedelic drugs and marijuana used for treatment.

“There is a new interest,” said Mr. Feldmar, who worked at Vancouver's Hollywood Hospital in the 1960s when it used LSD as a treatment for alcoholism. “These substances are extremely effective. It was just when they were used irresponsibly that it created a senseless panic.”

MDMA was first synthesized by Merck Pharmaceuticals in 1912, but was rediscovered in the 1960s. It was considered an aid to psychotherapy before it was popularized as a party drug.

Mr. Feldmar said MDMA, often defined as an entheogen or psychoactive drug used to induce a mystical experience, helps people with post-traumatic stress disorder by breaking down barriers that are blocking their recovery.

He said it allows them to experience a sense of being in the present, of feeling connected to their therapist, and of feeling supported and loved.

“You feel connected, therefore you feel able to go back and deal with the trauma.”

MAPS executive director Rick Doblin said a U.S. trial in Charleston, S.C., recently ended, and “it got tremendous results,” although they haven't been published in a science journal yet.

Small studies have already been done in Israel and Switzerland along the same lines, he said. A study in Spain had to be cancelled after running into opposition there.

An article published this year in the Journal of Psychopharmacology noted the two trials showed initial signs of promise in treating trauma.

Authors Pal-Orjan Johansen and Teri Krebs of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology looked at the three effects MDMA has on brain chemistry:

- It boosts levels of oxytocin, which is what produces the feelings of connectedness and warmth that people on ecstacy experience.

- It balances two regions of the brain, helping a person to control emotional responses better.

- It boosts levels of cortisol and norepinephrine, which control emotional learning.

Mr. Doblin said MAPS designed the Vancouver study, got it through the regulatory process, and will now start raising the $200,000 needed to run it. Eight of the 12 patients will get full-strength doses of ecstacy up to three times during their treatment, while four will get a placebo.

“We want to see if we can replicate the U.S. results in a similar cultural context,” he said. “Also, it's important to start research in Canada, because you have a tradition of being pioneering in psychedelic research.”

Mr. Doblin said Mr. Feldmar and Dr. Pacey are exceptionally qualified therapists, which made them ideal for the trial.

The two have sent out messages to other Vancouver therapists to recruit patients for the trial. Mr. Feldmar said that could include Afghan war veterans, police, firefighters, people who have been victims of crime, or immigrants who have been tortured in their home countries.

Mr. Feldmar achieved minor fame in 2007, after it was made public that he had been barred from entering the United States when a border guard searched online for his name and found that he had written an article saying he had taken LSD in the 1960s before it became illegal. His story was later featured on The Colbert Report show.

Related Articles:
Ecstasy Is The Key To Treating PTSD - The Times(UK)
Drug Hysteria Ignores Trauma Suffering
Agony or Ecstasy – Drug Trials Show Patient Benefits