Thursday, 30 December 2010

DIARY: Christmas Day and Beyond

Following on from the last article: DIARY: Christmas in Junkie Land (you might want to read this first)

Just a quick update on how Xmas day went.

First of all, I have to thank my family for giving me probably the best Xmas I have had. My Dad and his wife travelled over 500Kms to be here via bus and train. Most importantly, Dad’s wife brought along her home made Christmas pudding which was just sensational. My brother and his wife also came along which was great because I haven’t seen them for about 3 years. We had a fight many years ago so I was a bit nervous seeing my brother after such a long time. His wife (my sister in-law) was her typical friendly self and made the reunion as pleasant as possible. She is one classy lady and the best sister in-law you could ever want. In fact, both of my sister in-laws are everything you could hope for. Mrs Wright’s mother also came along but due to her age, she was confined to the dinner table for the day. I think she enjoyed herself even though she was surrounded by a packed dinner table, my family and 3 excited dogs.

Now for the most important details … presents. A generous Santa always comes to our house and this year was no exception. I got a new Apple Magic Mouse which has a touch surface for scrolling. I also got a new DVD burner, wireless phone for the office, some socks and, of course, some money for a hit. My family gave me some CK after-shave, Tea-Tree shampoo, natural moisturiser(dry skin from years on methadone) and Belgium biscuits. What a score!

Xmas lunch was everything I anticipated. An entree of prawns, oysters and salmon on a bed of lettuce. Roast turkey, ham and veggies for main course. And then the Christmas pudding with custard. My father is a seafood addict and repeated his satisfaction with the entree at least 13 times before I stopped counting. I recommended an excellent addiction treatment centre for him to kick his seafood habit. 

In the end, I didn’t take up my option to use heroin as it was after 7pm when everyone left. Instead, I had a few extra pills from my weekly prescription which calmed me down after such an intense day. I eventually took up my option a few days later which meant I didn’t have to take all my daily meds. This made up for the 2 extra pills I had taken on Xmas day.

This might be the last Xmas I will spend with Mrs Wright so it was very important to me. After 13 years together, she has decided that she needs someone who can provide the things that I can’t anymore. Being Italian means that family functions are an important part of her life and I just can’t be there like she requires. Also, my drug history has been an issue for her family ever since we first met and I will never meet with their approval. I fully understand that she needs certain things that I can’t give her so it’s best for me to eventually move out. Although we remain best friends, I can’t stay here and witness any new person in her life.

One of my brothers and his wife are moving to the NSW coast so I am seriously thinking of going with them. Their new house has a small unit attached which they wanted to rent  it out so it’s an ideal situation for me. Luckily, I get to take our beloved pooches which is excellent for me but a real downer for Mrs Wright. Without having kids, these 2 dogs have been an integral part of our lives and I can’t imagine how either of us would cope without them. On the bright side, this move will hopefully be the start of a new phase in my life that will enable me to deal with my depression and maybe even lead to the end of my reliance on opiates.

One advantage of my job is that I can work from anywhere with an internet connection. This means I can continue to service some of my clients regardless of my location. I have a few pending projects and hopefully I will be able to complete them from my new locale.  It also means that I can continue with The Australian Heroin Diaries. 

For the first time in over a decade, my future is scaring me. I love the house where I live and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I also can’t imagine not sharing my life with Mrs Wright. Am I making the right decision? Only time will tell.

BTW, thanks to all those who wished me a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Same to you!

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Friday, 24 December 2010

DIARY: Christmas in Junkie Land

Well it’s nearly Christmas and the end of another year. This means different things to different people but have you ever wondered what it means for recovering junkies?

For some, it’s a small miracle that they got this far as this time last year their future was measured one day at a time. If you had asked them what they will be doing in 12 months time, you would have got a shrug and a response of “whatever”.  Others might have told you that this year was the year to get clean. That meant no more heroin and a reduction in their methadone/buprenorphine until they were finally free. But for most recovering junkies, I dare say that they would have had no opinion either way about where they would be in the next 12 months. This is how I felt anyway.

The problem with heroin/methadone/morphine addiction is that you tend not see too far into the future because you already struggle getting through one day at a time. Even planning a week ahead is sometimes too difficult but we attempt it as best we can. Living with opiate addiction is like driving in a storm - lost, confused, disorientated with only a second of clarity when those wipers swish past. You think you know where you want to go but not being able to see the best route only adds to the feeling of being lost.  

So here we are again, faced with Xmas.

This year, Xmas day at my house will be hard to distinguish from any other average home. We will wake up early, open presents and drink lots of strong coffee. Mrs Wright and I will take turns at picking presents for each other from under the Xmas tree. We go to great lengths to make sure we have lots of smaller gifts which are all wrapped individually. It’s a great way to stretch out the morning. Later my family will arrive and this year is going to be a Xmas lunch similar to what we had when I was a kid. Oven baked turkey, roast potatoes, roast onion, peas, gravy and ham. Desert is Christmas pudding with cream. The only addition is a seafood entree. Pulling on Christmas crackers is still compulsory including the rule that everyone must wear the enclosed paper hat. Even the decades old jokes from the crackers must be read out. This is all accompanied by plenty of red wine and beer. Incidentally, our shopping cost us over $400 this year … what was I thinking hosting Xmas at my house!

But underneath this perfect vision lurks something that only us opiate addicts will experience. While most of us will smile politely and attempt to join in with the festive activities, our minds are constantly drifting off elsewhere. Desperately trying to cope with the uneasiness that we suppress, we will utilise all the tricks we have learnt from years of hiding our addiction. Smiling and appearing relaxed is compulsory behaviour. There is no bigger giveaway than sitting alone while you fidget with whatever is at easy reach. The awareness of your situation by friends and family only increases the focus on your actions. You can hear their thoughts questioning every move you make; Is he high? Will he disappear any minute to look for a fix? Why is he wearing long sleeves? Is he nodding off? Why is he fidgeting?

One major downfall of being reliant on a permanent opiate fix is that alcohol tastes atrocious. I don’t know if this is the same for everyone but for me, wine tastes like balsamic vinegar. Beer and spirits might not taste that much differently at first but after a few, I am reaching for the water bottle. Even that glorious past time of drinking too much becomes a chore. Alcohol was my favourite drug once upon a time and I gladly indulged like any other young Aussie male. I know Xmas would be much more bearable with a few drinks. From out of all the booze on offer, it’s red wine that I miss most. It has cost me many, many thousands of dollars and a good 20 years to acquire a respectable palate, only to have it ripped away and replaced with the taste buds of a 13 year old. Remember how disgusting red wine was when you first tried it? The real crunch is that being a diabetic, I can’t drink soft drink either. Try going to a pub and drinking water! 

When you’re on substitution treatment like methadone/buprenorphine etc., you spend a lot of effort trying to keep mentally balanced. Once you have your dose, you must make the most of the initial effect and this is vital to how your day turns out. Then you have the delicate task of managing the numbing effect that lingers afterwards. Any disruption to your day can send the most stable of recovering addicts straight to their local dealer. Xmas is hectic enough for a normal person but when you have to manage every minute of the day or risk slipping into a state of depression that demands a hit of heroin, you have a real task on your hands. That is of course if you intend on not using that day. 

Like a true junkie, the Xmas tradition means I do get to treat myself to a special present. But it’s not a present that most people would want. Yes, of course I’m talking about heroin. But is it really a tradition or is that just my excuse to use? I like to think it’s a reward for surviving another year. Go on - frown if you’re not a user or addict. I can see the looks of disgust now - weak junkie making excuses for himself.

I would love to know what other addicts do for Xmas. Do you spend the whole day with family or do you visit for just a few hours? Do you reward yourself with heroin or is it just another day? What about those who don’t use? Does this anger you? Is it just a piss weak excuse to use drugs?

What it all boils down to is that addicts, whether they are in recovery or not, act differently. Each year that passes by can be an achievement or just another year closer to death. Many will have reduced their maintenance dose of methadone and be closer to that day where they are totally clean. Others will be in the same position as last year or the year before. There are no hard rules in place except in the fantasy world of policy makers and a critical media. They subscribe to the simple theory that one solution fits all and if you can’t act within the guidelines then you deserve what you get.

I hope to enjoy this Xmas. It’s the first time in many years that I will have most of my family at my house. They may not understand my situation but they mostly accept it and Xmas should play out like many other celebrations around the country. Whether I use or not or the fact I need a daily dose of morphine to feel normal will not make any difference to them - just as long as I smile a lot and don’t fidget.

Finally, I want to wish everyone a safe and merry Christmas. Also, a big thanks to those who have emailed me and to everyone who visits this website.

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DIARY: Christmas 2009 - The Verbose Thank You List

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Drug Prohibition Under Fire by UK Politicians

Last week, ex UK Home Office Minister, Bob Ainsworth, proposed that illicit drugs either be prescribed by doctors or sold under licence in the UK. Bob Ainsworth is one the highest profile UK politicians to publicly announce his support for drug legalisation. 

After 50 years of global drug prohibition it is time for governments throughout the world to repeat this shift with currently illegal drugs.

We spend billions of pounds without preventing the wide availability of drugs.

Politicians and the media need to engage in a genuine and grown up debate about alternatives to prohibition, so that we can build a consensus based on delivering the best outcomes for our children and communities.

Prohibition has failed to protect us. Leaving the drugs market in the hands of criminals causes huge and unnecessary harms to individuals, communities and entire countries, with the poor the hardest hit.

Crime Prevention Minister, James Brokenshire was quick to reject Bob Ainsworth’s comments. He rattled on about drugs being harmful and that they ruin lives etc. but it was all just the usual dribble you would expect. He even went as far as saying that decriminalisation is a simplistic solution and “Legalisation fails to address the reasons people misuse drugs in the first place or the misery, cost and lost opportunities that dependence causes individuals, their families and the wider community”. You have to wonder why he thinks that sending addicts to prison is going to address these problems especially considering we have been doing this vigorously for half a century.

Ironically, current UK PM, David Cameron once supported the principles as Ainsworth including a study into prescribed heroin, downgrading ecstasy from Class A to Class B, as well as moveing towards a policy of Harm Reduction.

We recommend that the Government initiates a discussion within the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of alternative ways-including the possibility of legalization and regulation-to tackle the global drugs dilemma.

David Cameron is infamous for not denying he used cocaine and cannabis in his youth and was even caught using drugs at school. But like most politicians, the need to further his career meant renouncing previous ideals and towing the party line.

When you look back 40 years, 40 years ago there were a few hundred heroin addicts who had their heroin prescribed by a doctor. There are now 50,000-60,000 registered addicts creating an enormous amount of crime. It would be very disturbing if some radical options were not at least looked at. We are now getting into that and it would be interesting to see what you come back with.

Bob Ainsworth’s comments have stirred up much debate in the UK especially since the announcement of a new drug strategy from the UK government. These new proposals have been slammed as regressive and a move in the wrong direction. Under one of the new proposals, ministers will not be required to seek the advice of scientists when making drug related decisions or policy. Another planned proposal is to remove social security benefits from drug users who do not seek treatment. And there is to be an increased focus on stopping supply. Again, a government fails to take on evidence and expert advice, instead opting for just more of the same old useless "War on Drugs" tactics.

The government says that this new strategy will put more responsibility on addicts to seek treatment. Those who don’t act on the government’s guidelines will lose their social security benefits or suffer other punishments. Sadly, it reeks of conservative ideology where “personal responsibility” is king,  Forget compassion and medical reasoning, junkies deserve what they get. Forget the latest research. The fact is, although many addicts will finally kick their habit, many will not. Those who don’t respond to conventional treatment are often born with a predisposition for opiate addiction e.g. an imbalance in their brain's chemistry, some of the 66 known genes that promote the need for opiates, a persistent impairment of synaptic plasticity in a key structure of the brain etc. This drives them to seek out a cure which usually ends with heroin use. It may be impossible for some people to comprehend but this small group of addicts have a physical problem and are not simply selfish losers with no will power. If the government bothered to read the advice given to them from medical experts, they would know this. I dare say they actually do but it’s easier and more popular to punish these people or exploit the “personal responsibility” tactic.

It’s probably no surprise that the government is critical of Bob Ainsworth’s comments when they are prepared to introduce such a backward strategy.

Although some politicians and anti-drug zealots have been quick to reject Bob Ainsworth’s comments, there has also been a lot of support. 

This could be a turning point in the failing UK ‘war on drugs.’ Bob Ainsworth is the persuasive, respected voice of the many whose views have been silenced by the demands of ministerial office. Every open rational debate concludes that the UK’s harsh drugs prohibition has delivered the worst outcomes in Europe – deaths, drug crime and billions of pounds wasted.
--Labour’s Paul Flynn MP, Founder Council Member of the British Medicinal Cannabis Register

Prof. David Nutt, the former chief adviser to the government on drugs (AMCD), made the most sense. According to the BBC, he said that most MPs actually agree with Mr Ainsworth, but feel they cannot say so publicly because of "the pressure of politics”.

The current approach to drugs has been an expensive failure, and for the sake of everyone, and the young in particular, it is time for all politicians to stop using the issue as a political football. I have long advocated breaking the link between soft and hard drugs – by legalising cannabis while continuing to prohibit hard drugs.   But I support Bob Ainsworth’s sensible call for a proper, evidence based review, comparing the pros and cons of the current prohibitionist approach with all the alternatives, including wider decriminalisation, and legal regulation.
--Peter Lilley MP, former Conservative Party Deputy Leader

The Labour Party was also quick to distance themselves from Ainsworth’s comments and party leader, Ed Miliband, called them, “irresponsible”. This was just more of the mass stupidity on display from UK politicians as flimsy and tired old excuses were rolled out once again. It was only a handful of brave pollies who finally stood up and backed Ainsworth. Luckily, attitudes are changing and defending a failed, useless drug policy no longer automatically wins the public’s support.

Liberal Democrats have long called for a science-based approach to our drugs problem. So it is without hesitation that I support Bob Ainsworth’s appeal to end party political point-scoring, and explore sensitively all the options, through an Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act.
--Tom Brake MP, Co-Chair, Liberal Democrat Backbench Committee on Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities

The comments from Bob Ainsworth have showed us that attitudes are changing away from maintaining the current "War on Drugs" approach. There are dozens of articles every day in the global media that expose the failure of current drug policies. And like all major issues, the last to act are politicians. Ainsworth’s comments come at the beginning of a new era where politicians will gradually admit their opposition to current drug policies. Politicians like Ron Paul in the US, who were once seen as radical for opposing the drug war will soon appear as visionaries. Hardliners pushing for Zero Tolerance policies will become marginalised as governments look to blame someone for the fallout of a failed policy. 

We've got so used to 40 years of prohibition which, in my experience of over 30 years of policing, has led to massive cost, a failure to achieve the primary aims, which is the reduction of drug use, and a range of unintended harmful consequences
--Tom Lloyd: Former Chief Constable Of Cambridgeshire Police

History will not be kind to those who snubbed science and research, especially in the UK. For many years, the UK listened to it’s doctors and stood it’s ground by rejecting the UN/US attempt to ban prescribing heroin to addicts. But recent governments have swapped this tradition to participate in the drug war. The UK once utilised it’s medical expertise to form sound and appropriate health strategies but since the 1970s, we have seen the slow death of evidence and research dictating health and drug policies. Technically, licensed doctors can still prescribe heroin to addicts with about 400 people still receiving their dose each week. A recent study into expanding this practice like the pre-1970s, hi-lighted how successful prescription heroin really is. Add to this the Prof. Nutt debacle and the proposal to make drug related decisions without consultation with the AMCD and you have a political process that is in stark contrast to the UK that was once based on compassion and medical expertise. Politicians have a lot to answer for.

Bob Ainsworth and David Raynes of the National Drug Prevention Alliance discuss the link between drugs and crime.

On a lighter note, you know when David Raynes becomes involved, you have probably won the argument.  David Raynes is part of the anti-drug network consisting of nutters from all over the world. Their arguments are as flimsy and flawed as one would expect from fanaticals or fundamentalists. They are the “Drug Free” crowd who still believe that we can rid the world of drugs and anything but a Zero Tolerance policy is not acceptable. 

David Raynes himself is a disgraced former customs officer who is notorious for his anti-drug comments that defy logic and his links to Narconon. How he got to be interviewed by the BBC is beyond me. Maybe it’s part of their comedy programming?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

NSW Drug Raids - Police Need to Tell the Truth

Police capture a dangerous 60 year old in a bathrobe
When it takes six military style police officers with automatic rifles, machine guns and a tank to escort an old man in a bathrobe, you know we have a problem. But this is just lost on NSW police as Commissioner Andrew Scipione declared, "Today we haven't taken a tentacle off the beast, we've removed a very, very big beast”. Yeah, a beast in a red dressing gown.

For an operation that had been planned for 12 months, needed 500 officers and involved “alleged drugs barons” at the “top of the tree”, only $9 million worth of drugs were captured. Basically, a drop in the ocean considering how big the drug market is in Australia.

But like traffic cameras, the real prize is the income with over $14 million worth of seized assets. This might help explain why the NSW police used a tank and hundreds of paramilitary style officers.

Commissioner Scipione’s spin is just the latest in a long line of chest beating speeches where we, the public are duly informed that drug syndicates are running scared and will suffer greatly from a reinvigorated police focus. Of course, we have seen this numerous times before and most of us just forget as drug dealers return and go about their daily business.

A number of the people who were arrested today were people I started working on 30 years ago when I started working in the police force
--NSW police as Commissioner Andrew Scipione

Mixed in with the excited claims of success are some worrying discrepancies. Not that the police really notice when there’s so much to tell the awaiting media. Admitting that some of those arrested have been around for 30 years might make the commissioner feel good in front of the bright media lights but it’s also confession that the drug ring leaders have built a three decade old crime empire under the nose of the law. Not something to boast about.

Like the recent drug raids in Victoria, we are being led to believe that the police are winning a battle against drugs. The assumption that catching some drug dealers, especially drug syndicate leaders is going to have a lasting affect on the drug market is fanciful. In fact, it’s a down right lie … and the police know it. 

Ask yourself if you can remember the last multimillion dollar bust? Have we already forgotten that in 2008, WA police uncovered 22kg of methylamphetamine and 35,000 ecstasy tablets worth $77 million? What about when the Federal police seized 464kg of cocaine worth $160 million from a yacht in Brisbane. That was only two months ago. In September this year, 50kg of cocaine with a street value of $12.5 million was confiscated by NSW police in Minto. In January, police found 9000 mature cannabis plants worth $18 million in the Chaelundi National Park. Only two years ago, the AFP and Customs uncovered 3000 tomato tins that contained 15 million ecstasy tablets when they were shipped from Italy to Melbourne. It was a total haul of 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy with a street value of $440 million. They arrested 20 people for the crime. Any of this ring a bell?

The fact is, we will never make any significant dent in the drug trade. We will send many people to prison, reap hundreds of millions in assets and continue to smile for the cameras in front of an eager media. But the illicit drug market stops for no one. There is just too much money to made and there’s plenty to go around. Enough for drug mules, street dealers, corrupt authorities, crooked cops and those at the top.

History and experience from other countries clearly show that no amount of policing can stop the drug trade. The black market for drugs is valued at over $400 billion annually which is the 2nd largest industry on the planet. Larger than oil, manufacturing and food sales combined. Only military sales generate more income. With a global user base of up to 250 million people or 5.7% of the world’s population, it’s no wonder the illicit drug market is booming.

We should avoid congratulating ourselves on our efforts rather than our outcomes.
--Dr Don Weatherburn - Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

What we need to focus on is that there is a big difference between what the police claim and what the experts say. A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald has Dr Don Weatherburn, Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research doubting the success of the latest NSW raids. He points out that “research had so far been inconclusive on the long-term impact of drug law enforcement”. This view was reflected by Dr. Katie Willis, a senior research analyst at the Australian Institute of Criminology. Dr. Willis said it was also necessary to look at health-related results such as drug deaths, overdoses, and drug treatment. Our insatiable hunger for arresting people is blinding us to the human fallout as we lose sight of whether our strategies are benefitting society.

The big question is whether our attempts to wipe out the illicit drug market actually works. And like so many experts tell us, the answer is no. This presents us with a huge problem. Why do the police and governments continue with such a failed policy when there is no evidence whatsoever that it is successful? Shouldn’t this send the media and political opposition into a frenzy that the police and government are trying to fool us? Where’s the scrutiny? Where’s the demand for an enquiry into our flawed drug policy? Where’s the outrage that we are being lied to by our authorities and police?

At the end of the day while moralists pray, governments talk tough and police incarcerate people, criminals just keep getting richer and society becomes more dangerous. If the experts tell us this, why can’t the police?

Premature Cheers For Drug Busts
Geesche Jacobsen and Nick Ralston
December 10, 2010

POLICE say they plan to target anyone seeking to fill the vacuum left by the arrest of 31 alleged drug distributors this week.

But the head of the Bureau of Crime Statistics warned yesterday that the results of the arrests should be judged on their impact on the price, purity and availability of the relevant drugs.

Police said the drug raids this week had taken out those they believe to be the major players in the middle level of the three tiers of the drug supply chain. Local police are targeting street-level drug supply, and specialist officers also work on putting the third level, drug importers, behind bars.

But Dr Weatherburn warned: ''We should avoid congratulating ourselves on our efforts rather than our outcomes.''

Research had so far been inconclusive on the long-term impact of drug law enforcement, he said.

Drug seizures in the early 1990s had had no impact on price, purity or availability of the drug, but later seizures and arrests of heroin kingpins had led to an enduring heroin shortage, he said.

Some researchers said the heroin shortage was not the result of police work, but other factors.

A senior research analyst at the Australian Institute of Criminology, Katie Willis, said it was also necessary to look at health-related results such as drug deaths, overdoses, and drug treatment.

Dr Willis said it was also difficult to assess the impact of law enforcement because the size of the drug market was unknown. The police, she said, might have been tackling just ''the tip of the iceberg''.

But she said she expected the purity and availability of drugs to fall in the short term as a result of the arrests.

Yesterday, Henry Landini, 66, alleged to be one of the key players arrested on Wednesday, made a brief appearance in Bankstown Local Court. In a blue polo shirt, with his hair slicked back and wearing glasses, he did not apply for bail and it was formally refused.

He has been charged with supplying large amounts of amphetamines in Sydney's inner-west and knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime.

In court his solicitor, Paul Kenny, rejected claims made by police that there was a risk Mr Landini might flee the country.

Another man arrested on Wednesday, Adel Muustafa, 24, also did not apply for bail but he did not make an appearance before the court. He has been charged with supplying cocaine in Sylvania and with firearm offences.

Related Articles in the Sydney Morning Herald

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Thursday, 9 December 2010

Drug War Success - 14 Year Old Hitman who Beheads People

Winning the War on Drugs
"El Ponchis" or 8th-grader, Edgar Jimenez is a 14 year old hitman for a Mexican drug cartel. He was recently caught by Mexican authorities and will join the growing list of detained children who were once employed by drug cartels to murder people. Not surprisingly, one psychologist has already classed Jimenez as a “psychopath”.

I don’t recall having ambitions to join a drug cartel when I was 14 years old and I certainly never imagined I would cut off some stranger’s head. There really must be some extenuating circumstances for young kids to behave in such a barbaric manner. But let’s not procrastinate here. These kids and indeed, much of society are victims of a bloody but futile crusade known as the "War on Drugs”. 

What did we really expect to happen? What was the outcome we envisaged when we freely let fanatical anti-drug zealots, religious nutters and ruthless, agenda driven politicians have their way without any formal scrutiny? Where were the evaluations? Why didn’t we take notice of the prison population explosion or the incredible level of street violence that grew each decade?

We watched on as drugs ripped apart communities. We didn’t help those ravaged by addictive drugs but instead, sent them to prison. We broke up families and incarcerated millions without caring for one moment if what we were doing was actually productive. There were only token attempts to address the underlying problem. Drugs were public enemy number one and the only approach was to be "Tough on Drugs”. But the "War on Drugs" and "Tough on Drugs" were not what it implied - it was a war on people. 

Why is the carnage caused by the drug war so oblivious to our leaders? Amazingly, it took many, many decades of worsening problems before they took notice of scientists and experts. But they even misused this scientific data and research to spin their own reasons for continuing their assault on drug users. Still, evidence through careful research was making the news and this led to the introduction of Harm Minimisation. Our experts and medical professionals were finally allowed to propose evidenced based programs that dealt with the realities of drug use and offered a humane, medical approach. Unfortunately, we had already endured almost a century of propaganda and most of the public didn’t know any better so any new ideas that made our leaders nervous were ceremoniously dumped, all with just one shriek of being ”Soft on Drugs”. 

Even in countries like Australia, global drug policies have created a wartime environment. Military style police units smashing up homes, paramilitary dog squads placed at train stations and government sanctioned, “Stop and Search” laws are not conducive with a civil society in times of peace. Locking up family members who suffer an addiction or choose to use relatively harmless drugs will not lead to a more cohesive community. The constant drone that we need to attack drug use in a war like manner hasn’t reduce drugs in our communities. Instead, like any war, it has produced massive casualties, especially children. 

The emergence of killers like 14 year old Edgar Jimenez is the result of our fanatical efforts to stop drug use. But it doesn’t stop there. All over the world, governments create the situation where violence and societal disarray are commonplace. Driven by political greed, the public are told how necessary the drug war is but there is very little effort to address the fallout. Nearly 30,000 drug related deaths in Mexico isn’t even enough to stop the government continuing their failed strategy. In the US, daily occurrences of inner city violence and murder fuelled by drug gangs isn’t enough. Terrorists funding their activities with inflated profits driven by drug prohibition, isn’t enough. So why would hundreds of kids running around cutting off people’s heads be enough either.

Teenage Cartel Hitman Is a U.S. Citizen
By Elspeth Reeve
December 2010

The floppy-haired 14-year-old turned, like any other modern teen, to YouTube to make his confession. But unlike a typical 8th-grader, Edgar Jimenez's was confessing to beheading people for a Mexican drug cartel for the price of $2,500 each. A hunt for the boy ensued, and this week, Mexican authorities nabbed the "hit boy" known as "El Ponchis" at an airport; he was en route to Tijuana, where he and his teenage sister were planning to sneak into San Diego. Why? He's an American citizen.

Jimenez was arrested Thursday night, suspected of working for Pacific Sur, a gang that splintered off from the notorious Beltran Leyva cartel. The teen was paraded in front of news cameras, even as police guards wore masks for their own protection, yet another symptom of the persistent horrific violence that has plagued Mexico since the start of its drug war. As an American citizen, Jimenez will get "all appropriate consular assistance," CNN reports.

But shockingly, Jimenez is not unique as a child participant in this violence. Drug cartels--like their fellow fans of beheadings, Al Qaeda--are increasingly leaning on kids and women to help them maintain control over large areas of the country. Here are a couple of accounts on offer in the media as outlets attempt to contextualize.

Gangs Recruiting More Kids  
"The number of young people aged 18 and under detained for drug-related crimes has climbed steadily since President Felipe Calderón launched his assault on cartels in 2006," reports The Telegraph's Harriet Alexander. "Figures from the Attorney General's office show that there were 482 arrests of under 18s in 2006, and 810 in 2009. The tally this year is set to be even higher." A psychologist says Jimenez is a "psychopath," and that kids like him "like to kill, to steal, and they don't need to conform to society because they are mistreated and become very hostile from a young age." But The Houston Chronicle's Dudley Althaus points out that other teens have also been arrested for drug killings: 

Several Laredo teenagers were convicted in 2007 for carrying out killings on behalf of the Zetas, the violent organization entrenched in Nuevo Laredo and other towns along the South Texas border. One of those teens, Rosalio 'Bart' Reta, killed his first victim at age 13 and might have murdered more than 30 others before being captured.

Gangs Recruiting Women, Too
The Guardian's Jo Tuckman and Rory Carroll add, describing a taped confession of a women who said she worked for the Zetas "killing taxi drivers, police officers, innocent people and children." Photos of "her severed head in an icebox" were posted online a couple days later. The "number of women imprisoned for federal crimes, most of which are drug-related, has quadrupled in three years," a study found. Women are pulled into the cartels by their husbands or boyfriends.

Violence So Pervasive It's Changing the Language
Fox News' Steve Harrigan writes about his own experience in the area. "'Narcofosa' is a word I heard for the first time in Juarez. Narco means workers for the drug cartels and fosa means grave. We were standing in a mass grave where 20 narcos had been buried outside of Juarez. Because many of the bodies were decapitated, identification is unlikely. So the bodies are just put in unmarked graves in one section of the cemetery known as the narcofosa or 'the graves for the headless.'"

WikiLeaks Docs Show U.S. Frustrated with Mexico's Drug War
the Los Angeles Times' Tracy Wilkinson writes. "In contrast to their upbeat public assessments, U.S. officials expressed frustration with a 'risk averse' Mexican army and rivalries among security agencies ... The cables quoted Mexican officials expressing fear that the government was losing control of parts of its national territory and that time was 'running out' to rein in drug violence." One cable says: "Official corruption is widespread, leading to a compartmentalized siege mentality among 'clean' law enforcement leaders and their lieutenants. ... Prosecution rates for organized crime-related offenses are dismal; 2% of those detained are brought" to court.