Order Your Copy of BP’s latest Issue

Issue 14

STICKY POST!  SCROLL DOWN for blog views and news….

Issue 14 is out now! Don’t miss Black Poppy’s unique hard copy magazine -available now and posted to anywhere in the world. Catch up on the latest news, views and lifestyle issues with one of the worlds best loved drug user magazines; exclusively created and produced by users for users.   If drugs influence your lifestyle – then you need BP magazine for the latest news, stories and articles on drug use. Click here for more info on the mag and whats inside.

OR Click here to go directly to order your copy

Life Goes on In Crimea, (unless your on methadone…)

Life Goes On in Russia’s Crimea

Here are the final 2 blogs in the series of 4, from Igor Kuzmenko’s personal blogs of Crimea, in particular, life for those who once lived under Ukraine law and received Opiate Substitution Treatment (OST) such as methadone only to lose their new found stability after the region’s Referendum when the majority voted to go back to Russian governance. This effectively closed the doors for good on OST leaving over 800 people in shock and despair. So what is a person withdrawing from treatment supposed to do? What would you do if your access to methadone or buprenorphine was cut off almost overnight…? Igor gives us a frighteningly honest account of what happened to the OST community in Crimea..Here is part 3 and part 4.

NOTE: Part one and two are a bit further down this blog and the whole series has been reprinted here courtesy of INPUD’s blog and you can also read them in Russian at ENPUD’s website /blog. Thanks to Igor for a fascinating insight into Crimea for the drug using community, and INPUD for reprinting.

 

RIP Crimean OST Program, 2006

small_igor (1)

Igor Kuzmenko

Part 3

Meanwhile life in the Crimea went on. As spring approached, people continued to go to work, and students proceeded to attend their studies. Very few inhabitants of the Crimea understood that 806 people of the region’s  population, were literally on the way out.

 

Death From Abstinence

As I  wrote previously, the first patient in Simferopol died around the beginning of April. He was about 50, was seriously ill and couldn’t move at all. Everything was good with him before the March events; the doctor wrote a prescription for him so he could get liquid methadone and he continued to use Opiate Substitution Therapy without leaving the apartment. But after March 16, everything changed and the prescription form of OST was suspended in Crimea. It goes without saying that any coroner wouldn’t determine a cause of death as ‘death from abstinency’. But something tells me that if he continued to have the opportunity to receive methadone, he would be still alive.

 

 But after March 16, everything changed and the prescription form of OST was suspended in Crimea.

 

Bupe Not Methadone

Actually,  there were not so many people receiving OST on a prescription basis in the Crimea. And there were a few reasons for that. First,  the prescription form is possible only for those people who receive buprenorphine in Ukraine. There are cities where all clients of the buprenorphine program constantly receive it using a prescription. But everything is much more difficult when dealing with methadone.

ukrainianmethadone

The medicine used in a Ukrainian methadone OST program – known as ‘Metadict’ and ‘Metadole’ – are both made in Germany or Canada. Both of them are in the form of tablets, not syrup. They come in blister packs of 10 tablets: 25 mg each, (total 250mg)  or in bottles of 500 mg. But it is impossible to get it using a prescription because according to the laws of Ukraine a single prescription dose of any narcotic substance mustn’t exceed 112 mg. The blister packs are not allowed to be cut up or tablets prescribed separately from the packaging. There were individual cases when patients could receive a liquid methadone on prescription, but only on a commercial basis and it is very expensive.

 

Methadone Not Bupe

In the Crimea, it is different. Slightly more than 50 people out of 806 patients received buprenorphine, the others got methadone. About 10 people out of those 50 had the opportunity to receive buprenorphine on prescription though not on a constant basis. They got it occasionally – because of a business trip, illness or going on a holiday.

ukrainian-methadone-metadol

Ukrainian methadone; Metadol

 

There is also one more reason for prescriptions being shut down in the Crimea after “the referendum”. Doctors were afraid to write out prescriptions on both of these substances because they are actually illegal in Russia and so employees of drugstores in turn, were afraid to sell the medications and fill  these prescriptions.

 

May 20th – D Day

May 20 was the last day when people could use the OST program in the Crimea, so after that each of the 806 person’s who were prescribed had to make one’s own choices of what to do. There were only four options:

  1. String oneself up to stop using drugs forever
  2. Go to Russian local rehabilitation centers praised by numerous Russian “guests”;
  3. Continue using OST by moving to Ukraine;
  4. Go back to using “street” drugs.

According to my knowledge, no more than 20-30 people went to Russia for rehab. Many of them couldn’t undergo an entire “rehabilitation course” till the end and ran away. However, some stayed in rehab for the whole term. One OST client from Simferopol died in St. Petersburg during the rehabilitation process. He died of an overdose.

Slightly less than 60 people risked going to Ukraine. This option was, undoubtedly, the most realistic of all. For example, in many cases it was necessary to buy tickets at ones’ own expense to go to Russia, but in Ukraine both tickets, accommodation and food were paid for you.

 

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Nevertheless, as you can see by the number of people who went to Ukraine, it didn’t become a mass phenomenon. Partly, this was due to mass media propaganda which colourfully described the various ‘atrocities’ of Ukrainians in relation to the inhabitants of the Crimea who risked leaving and facing the ‘mockeries’ of the Ukrainian border guards who were taking away passports on the border and other nonsense. The other reason that many of inhabitants of the Crimea never left for Ukraine, was they had neither friends, nor relatives there and simply couldn’t imagine where they were supposed to go.

Now many of the clients of OST who had gone to Ukraine, already found a job there, and all without exception found rented accommodation and received some financial support from the project MBF “Renaissance”.

 

“It turns out that more than 600 people started taking street drugs again.”

 

From those people with whom I was in contact no more than 10 people could finally stop taking drugs of any kind.    If you make simple arithmetic operation, it turns out the following:

806 (total number of clients in the Crimea OST program) minus 20 (number of those who undergone “rehabilitation” in Russia), minus 60 (left to Ukraine), minus 50 (suppose not 10, but 50 people stopped taking drugs) = 676.

About 30 already died out of that number of people. It turns out that more than 600 people started taking street drugs again. And many of them during many years of using the OST program found work, started a family and gave birth to children.  Now it’s all over.

 Igor Kuzmenko

Below is the final part of Igor Kuzmenko’s series on Crimea. Please feel free to add your thoughts and comments and let us know if you have a story to tell from your country.

 RIP Crimean OST Program, 2006

 

Igor Kuzmenko

Igor Kuzmenko

Part 4

How to reach those people who made decisions on the issues of Opiate Substitution Therapy (OST)  in the Crimea? Which words should be found to explain to them that situation where 800 drug users under constant medical and psychological control, employed and reintegrated, is much better than 800 people coming back to being criminalised in the drug trade? How could one explain what the blue sky is to the person born blind? How it is possible to explain to a mother, whose son quietly had been using OST for several years, stopped breaking the law, started a family and found a job, why he has died of an overdose during the rehabilitation? Who benefits from it?

“What we had been created for several years was destroyed in two and a half months.”

Probably, for those people who have nothing to do with OST and don’t have the slightest idea of what this therapy actually is, it is only a “change of the dealer” – earlier I bought drugs on the street and now I get them free of charge from the doctor. But actually OST is a difficult system in which the process of taking methadone or buprenorphine is only a small part of the whole process. OST is a complex of actions that allow the person to live a more or less productive life. Many elements of this scheme, such as the ART (Anti Retroviral Therapy*), anti-tubercular therapy, are strongly connected with OST. There is no point in pretending otherwise, many people started to use ART and to look after their health only after they visited the OST site.

 

Irina, a client from the OST program

Irina, a client from the OST program


Stability and the Street

What we had been created for several years was destroyed in two and a half months.

So, more than 600 former people from the OST programs have taken part in the illicit drug scene again since May. What do our people use to medicate themselves with now?

Lyrica. This beautiful and romantic word is actually the name for one of the biggest problems of the Crimean drug scene nowadays. Lyrica (active agent – Pregabalin). An antiepileptic and anticonvulsive medical product made by Pfizer Company. Many ex-OST patients are suffering from its over-use today. It has excellent medical qualities if you take it on prescription, but it causes terrible side effects and dependence for those people who try to combat withdrawal syndrome with its help. It is sold freely in any drugstore in the Crimea and costs not so much.

Only a total deficiency of any medical products in local drugstores is saving others from the serious consequences of pharmaceutical drug dependence in the Crimea.

“Now I hear from people who were full of vim and vigor, who had plans for the future just two months ago, that they want to die.”

Checks. “Checks” is how people name portions of raw opium from which it is possible to extract heroin, if you add acetic anhydride to it.

“Checks” existed in the Crimea as far back as I can remember. It is a good reliable way to quickly recover from withdrawal syndrome. You could get “checks” quite easily at any time. But after the OST programs were closed, hundreds of drug users suddenly entered the market (more than 200 people just in Simferopol! ) and devastated all the opium reserves in the Crimea. Moreover, new anti-narcotic structures represented by the Russian police (all police officers came to the Crimea from the Russian cities – Perm, Kazan, Moscow, there are not any local representatives in police) and by Federal Service on Control of the Drug trafficking (FDCS) – the nightmare of the Russian drug users. The increase in number of “checks” users led to a decrease in its supply and importing from Ukraine became a big problem.

By hearsay, so as not to suddenly miss an opportunity to increase profits, dealers began to add foreign substances to their product, it could be harmless substances or hard shit like home-made methadone. New police forces and new circumstances around buying drugs has led to the situation where purchasing “checks” poses a big problem now.

Heroin. I often hear from people in the Crimea that there is lot of cheap heroin here now. But I couldn’t find even one person who saw or tried that heroin. So I can draw a conclusion that there is not and there was not any heroin in the Crimea.

Krokodil. I assure you that if it wasn’t for a deficiency of medical products in drugstores, including codeine-containing ones, “krokodil” would now be problem No. 1 in the Crimea. But every cloud has a silver lining.  People just can’t find the substance that you should use to make this poison, and that’s why krokodil isn’t present in the Crimean drug scene.

“Well, this is how it goes.”

Well, this is how it goes.

Now I hear from people who were full of vim and vigor, who had plans for the future just two months ago that they want to die. Former patients aren’t able to go to work because they suffer from never-ending withdrawal syndrome. Their families suffer as much as they do.

I am an optimist.  My glass is always half full. But I can’t see anything optimistic in the future of those from the last OST programme in Crimea.

Well, who knows, maybe I’m mistaken.

Written by Igor Kuzmenko

*ART: Anti Retroviral Therapy is a medical treatment for HIV/AIDS

 

All 4 parts in the Crimean OST series has been written by Igor Kuzmenko and here’s a massive public thank you to him for his really honest and personal insights into what it has been like for our peers in the region, and answering many of our questions too, I’m sure. The blogs were translated from Russian into English by the very professional Daria Mighty, and we are indebted to her speed and accuracy, thank you Daria! (The Russian version is available atENPUD)
If you want to find out more about the drug using community and its issues in the region of Eurasia, or you are living in that part of the world, check out INPUD’s sister organisation on their website ENPUD (The Eurasian Network of People who Use Drugs). You can become a member, read other blogs from Igor and others and find out the news and views on drug issues and politics.

So Just What has Happened to Silk Road Lately?…Reincarnation of course!

 

Colin Moore

Colin Moore

A really interesting article from writer Colin Moore from a terrific (new-ish) drug news website called Substance.com. I have copied the article directly from their website complete with links and credits of course. Most of the article is reprinted here but to read the rest you’ll have to go to the site itself, which might I add is well worth the trip. Subscribe with just an email address and they will send you daily or weekly updates of really interesting articles about the weird and wonderful world of substances! Photos courtesy of Via

Does Dark Web Drug Dealing Make the World a Better Place?

Cybermarkets are seen to promote individual liberty, violence-free transactions and less-contaminated drugs. Is their main failing simply their inability to scale up massively? Substance.com investigates.

 

Silk Road 2. Since the feds shut down Silk Road, it only took 6 weeks before it was reinvented and back on line. And, instead of leaving 4 online drug markets  in its place, dozens have appeared to replace it, and Silk Road reincarnated, sees to be doing better than ever. Doh! The Feds get it wrong again!

Silk Road 2. Since the feds shut down Silk Road, it only took 6 weeks before it was reinvented and back on line. And, instead of leaving 4 online drug markets in its place, dozens have appeared to replace it, and Silk Road reincarnated, sees to be doing better than ever. Doh! The Feds get it wrong again!

“Silk Road is transforming a notoriously violent industry into a safe online marketplace, removing the risk of face-to-face transactions. We [are] humanity’s first truly free, anonymous, unbiased marketplace.”

These were the first words of the welcome on the homepage of Silk Road, the first-ever illegal Dark Web drug market, when the site went live in February 2011. They were written by the site’s founder Dread Pirate Roberts—real name: Ross William Ulbricht—who was then a 27-year-old self-described libertarian in thrall to the idea of real freedom: “Freedom from violence, from arbitrary morals and law, from corrupt centralized authorities and from centralization altogether.”

The illegal Dark Web, which is only accessible by volunteer-operated encrypted networks like Tor, attracts many “freedom-loving” types—libertarians, hackers, anarchists—as well as criminals of all kinds. It is home to a vast underground of black markets that move contraband. Trafficking has always been a high-reward, high-risk business. The creation of a massive anonymous online drug trafficking operation enabled Ulbricht to make more than $80 million in less than three years—even as he called himself a revolutionary promoting freedom, and safer drug selling, buying and using, and an end to prohibition and the violence of the drug war.

In October 2013, the FBI arrested Ulbricht and shut down Silk Road. He is now in jail awaiting trial on charges including narcotics trafficking, money laundering, computer hacking—and conspiracy to commit murder. This advocate of nonviolence allegedly paid hit men to kill a blackmailer and one of his employees. (One of the guns for hire was an undercover cop.)

Ross Ulbricht, the founder of Silk Road, which was started to promote some very serious  ethical ideals, encouuraging better drugs, less rip offs, safer transactions where the user cold finally avoid the more dangerous street black market...

Ross Ulbricht, the founder of Silk Road, which was started to promote some very serious ethical ideals, encouraging a space that was free “… from violence, from arbitrary morals and law, from corrupt centralized authorities and from centralization altogether.”

His personal legal problems, however, do not invalidate his claims about Silk Road’s higher mission. It is still possible to ask, with a straight face, whether drug “cryptomarkets” are—or are capable of—transforming the illegal drug trade from a violent struggle between ruthless organized crime groups to a network of individual entrepreneurs and consumers. Or, more modestly, do these markets—or can they—promote safer drug dealing and using? Substance.com surveyed vendors and customers on Silk Road 2.0 and other cybermarkets and evaluated new research to answer these questions.

The FBI’s success in shutting down Silk Road did not spell doom for the illegal online drug bazaar. By November 2013, Silk Road administrators had a better-protected 2.0 version up and running. Meantime, rival marketplaces, such as Agora and Evolution, continue to operate, with Agora quickly becoming the new standard for online drug transactions. Its main competitor, Black Market Reloaded, shut down in November 2013 after its source code was leaked. After that, Sheep was the main competitor until it too went under—and stole a treasure in users’ bitcoin, the peer-to-peer crypto currency. A big part of Black Market Reloaded’s success came from its willingness to sell lethal weapons—even dynamite and other explosives. By contrast, Silk Road offers a wide range of merchandise but draws the line at weapons; the staff, who work on commission, take measures to reduce user risks, such as product contamination.

Some Silk Road 2.0 vendors voice on their profiles a belief in the freedom to use illegal drugs recreationally and a commitment to a safe forum for people to exercise that freedom. A vendor with over 1,000 successful sales, JustSmuggledN, writes: “This job is done because of the belief in freedom of choice, as we are free spirits who deserve that right. Our policy is to live by these principles and we make it our mission to satisfy all of our clients! We believe in good business practices and we run our operation that way.”

“Whereas violence was commonly used to gain market share, protect turfs and resolve conflicts,” the authors write, “the virtual location and anonymity that the cryptomarket provides reduces or eliminates the need—or even the ability—to resort to violence.”
The site’s forums engender discussion of the concepts of freedom, philosophy, economics, justice and drug safety. For example, in a November 2013 post, AussieMitch writes, “I believe that the consumption of mind-altering substances by consenting adults is a fundamental human right that is being impinged on by current government policy in much of the world. I believe that protecting the rightful freedoms of my fellow humans by subverting the current laws and assisting others in doing so is not only ethically justifiable but also morally commendable.” He includes his own 10-point ethical code for participation in the drug marketplace.
 

The Dark Web Model and the Drug War
 

Silk Road 2.0 was up and running the month after Silk Road was shut down. 
A new study suggests that these underground drug marketplaces may—if scaled up enormously, in some distant future—pose an actual challenge to the cartel business model. Called “Not an ‘eBay for Drugs’: The Cryptomarket “Silk Road” as a Paradigm-Shifting Criminal Innovation” and authored by University of Manchester criminal science expert Judith Aldridge and University of Lausanne legal expert David Decary-Hetu, the study uses a tailor-made web crawler to scrape feedback and review data from Silk Road’s vendor profiles. Some surprising findings result. The most significant is that the amount of Silk Road’s bulk sales is much greater than analysts had previously estimated. It turns out that many customers are small-scale “street” dealers obtaining inventory on the Dark Web rather than traditional organized crime channels.

Estimated sales on Silk Road jumped from $14.4 million in mid-2012 to $89.7 million in the month before its shutdown, an increase of more than 600%. On average, 40% of these sales consisted of bulk buys; the top 20% included, for example, purchases of cannabis ranging from $1,000 to $1,475 and of ecstasy for $3,494. Many vendors offer their product at lower “dealer” prices when bought in bulk; some customers buy in bulk several times a month. In addition, “precursor” ingredients for hallucinogens, say, or methamphetamine are available for would-be producers and sellers.

“This new breed of drug dealer is…likely to be relatively free from the violence typically associated with traditional drug markets,” the authors write. “Whereas violence [in the traditional drug trade] was commonly used to gain market share, protect turfs and resolve conflicts, the virtual location and anonymity that the cryptomarket provides reduces or eliminates the need—or even the ability—to resort to violence.”

The claim that these drug cryptomarkets are comparatively free of violence is sound enough. But the authors go further, arguing that because this alternative drug supply chain has access to a worldwide market of new customers and the ability to operate in a low-risk environment through anonymous exchanges, it could—if scaled up—transform the global drug trade. That assertion may look good on paper, but in reality, the total revenue of the Dark Web drug market is minuscule compared to the $500 billion annual market of the cartels. While Silk Road’s 600% annual increase in sales indicates the alternative model’s growth potential, scaling up to a size capable of posing a competitive threat to the cartel business is impossible to credit.

“My hunch is that Silk Road may already be hitting some scalability limits due to the Tor network itself,” Carnegie Mellon computer security professor Nicolas Christin told The Daily Dot. “Although it has grown by leaps and bounds, it is still not a very large network, and most relays are run by volunteers. Hidden services are still a very experimental feature with known issues.”
 

The Safety of Deals and Drugs on the Dark Web

Putting the Zetas out of business may be off the table for Silk Road, but Silk Road gets high marks when it comes to improving the safety of drug transactions. Safety may be the main attraction of these sites for buyers and sellers. When Substance.com asked 20 participants on the forums, not a single one of them believed that transactions in Dark Web marketplaces present a danger from either law enforcement or violent or competing drug dealers.

“I started selling my products online when dealing on the streets became too dangerous for me and my family,” Australian cannabis and pharmaceuticals vendor TheSlyFox says. “Years ago, when I was 18, I sold small $50 bags of cannabis to a customer who bought from me successfully three times before. But the fourth time, I was seriously assaulted and robbed by seven Samoan New Zealanders. They stole all of my drugs, my money and left me to die.” Since he began selling his goods online, he has not encountered even the threat of violence.

The danger in buying drugs from street dealers sends many consumers to Silk Road. A Pennsylvania man described how an armed drug dealer ordered him to show his track marks to prove that he was not an undercover cop. “If I’m going down,” the dealer said, “I’m going to take you with me.” The man didn’t have track marks, but his accompanying friend did, sparing both of their lives. After two other life-threatening street deals, he started purchasing drugs from a trusted broker who buys online on behalf of others for a small fee.

goodies to buy. But there are no new vendors on SR2 these days, only old vendors from Silk Road are permitted to sell these days, seems it is safer that way...

goodies to buy. But there are no new vendors on SR2 these days, only old vendors from Silk Road are permitted to sell these days, seems it is safer that way…

Silk Road beats the street in the safety not only in the buying but also the selling of the drugs themselves. “Reducing face-face interaction was really important to me since a dealer mistrusting me is always an awful feeling and the situation might escalate,” says PGX83, an Agora user. “However, I didn’t primarily switch from traditional street deals to online marketplaces because of safety. It’s just more comfortable, you have a nice review system and can order directly from manufacturers guaranteeing better quality and also better prices.”

The purity of a street drug is typically unknown to the consumer; the further down the supply chain the product moves, the more cutting it goes through. With street heroin differing ratios of pure heroin to fentanyl or other substances can result in a fatal overdose. Silk Road features numerous listings that advertise high purity and sometimes include pictures of the product alongside chemical or EZ-test results. EZ tests, the most popular quick chemical testing kit, are also sold on the site. Small-scale drug dealers who source from Silk Road are likely get cleaner drugs (and lower prices), and may in turn sell a purer, safer product.

Read the rest of this article on Substance.coms website - and be sure to subscribe while your there for some really cool, well written drug related stories -for the drug enthusiast.

Colin Moore is a Pennsylvania-based writer who has been following the trends in the Dark Web’s illegal marketplaces for several years. Previously he wrote press releases and content for a media group in Texas, started a small alternative newsletter about local events, and wrote a monthly column for a local music e-zine, Get M.A.D.E.

 

 

Another place that thinks its fine to kidnap users…

Just thought I would put in a story i saw on the BBC website today. It has left me cold and angry. I get so sick and tired of people who just think it is ok to come and take someone away, lock them up, beat them if necessary, maybe if your lucky your parents know where you are but you don’t get out until they let you…Guatemala, ok so it is having problems with a crack surge, but for Goddsake, this is a money making scam and a human rights violation. Why do we think its ok to just take a person who uses drugs, and think that there life is so worthless, that no one really cares enough to save them, that they actually need to be kidnapped, locked up and never let out. That it is ok to ‘treat’ them psychologically with any sort of unproven bullshit  for hours and days or months at a time. That they need to be made into slaves to work scrubbing floors or cleaning toilets…It is a disgrace and a scam and we need to keep the UN, who it says, said in 2012 that these places must be shut down (enforced treatment centres)…is there something the using community can do to speed this up? 

The rehab centres that lock up addicts against their will

A man behind bars

In Guatemala, behind barred and locked doors, thousands of drug addicts are offered treatment by Protestant churches. Christianity offers salvation for some but many are held against their will, and some are swept off the street by “hunting” parties.

“They grabbed me. They found me completely out of it on the streets, and they just grabbed me.”

Marcos is a big guy. With closely cropped hair, and a huge expanse of chest, he is not the kind of man to tackle lightly. But Marcos was accosted by a group of men in Guatemala City and forcibly taken to a private, Christian rehabilitation centre.

“I was there for about a month and a half, and nobody knew anything about me. People thought I was killed or something, because that’s what happens in Guatemala.”

“I saw terrible things in that rehab – the owner used to beat up the girls. He would tie up the guys and roll them up like a taco in a piece of carpet, and leave them there for hours,” he says.

Listen to Linda Pressly’s report from Guatemala City on Crossing Continents on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday at 11:00 BST – or find it soon after on BBC iPlayer

Marcos was freed when a friend came looking for him, and demanded his release. He doesn’t think enforced rehab is the right approach and says it did nothing to help him quit his alcohol and drug habit.

“People came out madder and more furious. Instead of being rehabilitated, you just went out to get high again.”

Marcos grew up in the United States – a refugee from Guatemala’s civil war in the 1980s – but was deported back to his parents’ homeland after serving a prison sentence. With family in California, the owner of the rehab centre saw Marcos as a money-making proposition – he tried, and failed, to get contact details for Marcos’ family to ask them for money for Marcos’ keep.

All that is behind him now – Marcos is clean, and is dedicated to mentoring young people.

As there is no residential, state provision for addicts in Guatemala, private rehabilitation facilities have filled the vacuum. There may be as many as 200 Christian centres in Guatemala, possibly holding 6,000 people, estimates Dr Kevin O’Neill, from the University of Toronto, who has made an anthropological study of the centres. It is not known how many of them practice the aggressive “hunting” Marcos experienced.

A rehab centre with metal bars on the outsideOne of the private rehabilitation centres that have sprung up in Guatemala City

O’Neill believes Guatemala is confronting a surge of addiction. Its strategic location in Central America means the majority of illicit narcotics moving from South America to the United States make landfall here. And the fallout is a growing local market for highly addictive drugs like crack cocaine.

“It’s increased the number of centres in the capital city. But it’s also changed the culture inside the centres – the internal dynamics have become much more aggressive, and much more discipline-driven because of the rise of crack cocaine,” he says.

The founder and director of the Rescatados del Abismo, Rescued from the Abyss, centre is Pablo Marroquin, a born-again Christian and former drug addict.

Pablo Marroquin at his rehab centre

“I’d been in other rehabilitation centres, but I wanted to make mine more personal. I put it in the hands of God – he’s the only one who can rescue us from drug addiction,” he says.

Marroquin lives on the ground floor of an unremarkable building in Guatemala City with his family, his budgerigars, and a pack of small, snappy dogs.

On the first floor, behind a locked, barred door, 54 addicts mill around. Many of them will not be allowed to leave for at least three months – but it could be years. Only the addicts’ families or the director himself sanction the release of those interned here.

It is a confined space for so many people – the size of a large, three-bedroom flat. Off a common area, there is a bathroom, a room stacked with roughly-constructed bunks for those with privileges -most inmates sleep on the floor – and a bedroom for the six women internees.

A man sits on the floor against the wall, eating out of a bowl

Currently, the smooth running of the centre is down to Carlos – an internee who has been into rehab more than 30 times to try to overcome his addiction to crack cocaine and alcohol. Carlos imposes discipline and punishment at Rescatados del Abismo.

“When people arrive they can be very violent, and the only way to respond to that is with violence. It makes me uncomfortable, but it’s extremely important to maintain discipline here,” he says.

CarlosCarlos, an internee himself, maintains order at Rescatados del Abismo

Forcing an internee to clean the floors or to work at night are other forms of punishment.

Internees are partly controlled by compulsory attendance at meetings. They spend seven hours a day telling and re-telling each other their stories, charting their descent into addiction. These meetings are the only “therapy”.

They are not structured, there is no psychologist or doctor involved, and no one is allowed to leave the room without permission. While listening to the testimony, the residents sit in shadow – the barred windows of the meeting room are covered with thick yellow corrugated plastic.

Freddie speaking to other internees

It is impossible to see the street from anywhere inside the centre.

“The vast majority, I would say 95% of the internees are here against their will,” says Carlos.

“Now he’s there, we have a bit more peace of mind – if he were in the street, anything could happen here in Guatemala”

Carlos Ruiz

Carlos Ruiz, brother of Victor, an internee

When desperate families call the centre asking for help with a substance-abusing loved one, he often accompanies the director to go and pick an addict up.

“It’s our role to bring them here, and that can mean using handcuffs like the police. Sometimes a family will say their son is very violent and has a knife or machete. In those cases we tie him up before bringing him here.”

Carlos believes this is legal in Guatemala. A ministerial accord of 2006 states that an addict can be interned when they are not in a fit state, but once they have recovered sufficiently, they must give consent. By all accounts, this rarely happens.

At the Ministry of Health, the regulation and co-ordination of the centres comes in the shape of just one man – Hector Hernandez has worked for the last 14 years to try to improve the centres and make them more humane. He has closed some, but he says forced detention has never been proven.

“Not even the attorney for the defence of human rights has been able to establish there are people detained against their will – there’s been no confirmation of any allegations made,” he says.

During the compulsory meetings at Rescatados del Abismo, Victor Ruiz reads his well-thumbed bible. An abuser of crack cocaine and alcohol, he has been here for three months. Victor believes only God and Jesus Christ will rescue him from addiction.

Victor Ruiz reading his bible

“I think I’ll be here for another five months, it all depends what my brothers decide,” he says.

Before he came to the centre, Victor was living on the streets. One day when the family could not find him anywhere, his older brother, Carlos Ruiz went to look for Victor at the morgue.

“I was looking at the photos of dead people to see if one of them was him. It’s really shocking. These things stay with you, it’s like you die a bit too,” he says.

After Victor was attacked in the street by someone with a machete, the family had him interned in Rescatados del Abismo.

“Now he’s there, we have a bit more peace of mind – if he were in the street, anything could happen here in Guatemala.”

The director of Rescatados del Abismo, Pablo Marroquin, has little patience with arguments about whether the regime he runs violates the rights of internees, especially when they are held involuntarily.

“What about families? What we do is give families peace, so their loved one doesn’t get himself into trouble. And so that he won’t kill them,” he counters.

Adverts for other rehab centresAdverts for other rehabilitation centres in Guatemala City, with the left one titled “Warriors of Christ”

There is no data about how successful the rehabilitation of addicts is in Guatemala. In 2012, the United Nations called on all member states to close compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres.

“There is no evidence that these centres represent a favourable or effective environment for the treatment of drug dependence,” declared the UN statement.

Many experts believe addicts can never be forced to change – they have to want to stop. And in Guatemala there are many Christian establishments that will only take addicts on a voluntary basis.

But Pablo Marroquin, clean now for 22 years, is a testament to his own approach to rehabilitation.

“I experienced God’s mercy – he rescued me. He brought me to a rehabilitation centre where I met myself, and I met God. And these days, I’m a happy man.”

Listen to Linda Pressly’s report from Guatemala City on Crossing Continents on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday at 11:00 BST – or find it soon

Last Calls on Methadone, Russia’s in Charge

A  fascinating insight into what can happen to the drug using community after a  government is deposed and a region splits borders. Igor Kuzmenko, a member of Eurasian Network of People who Use Drugs, wrote this insightful article for sister organisation INPUD (International Network of People Who Use Drugs).

The recent events in Ukraine were watched by us all over the world. A president is deposed, and civil unrest spreads throughout the region. The Ukraine loses control of its western front in Crimea and by way of a rushed referendum supported by the people, has to hand the region back to Russia.  Military personal appear in the streets and laws change overnight. But what happens to the drug users? At INPUD, our members know very well that while the Ukraine recently started giving methadone and buprenorphine (mainly buprenorphine) to its users, Russia on the other hand, deems both drugs illegal and will not entertain OST (Opiate Substitution Therapy) for any reasons whatsoever. So, to the Crimean drug users who had once been lining up outside the methadone clinic, what was going to happen? Igor Kuzmenko was there and has written a series of blogs for us to give readers an insight into life after The Russian Referendum. 

Note: Igor Kuzmenko is an active member of INPUD’s sister organisation ENPUD, the Eurasian Network of People who Use Drugs / Click the link to find out about what is going on in the region (pages are translatable with Chrome) and if interested, if you can fill in their membership form.

 

RI.P. Crimean OST program, 2006  

By Igor Kuzmenko

Part 1 (of 4)   It just so happened that when that a life changing referendum was being held in March in the Crimea this year, the one which asked all Crimean citizens about whether our region should stay with the current government of Ukraine or return again to Russia, I was participating in the annual commission of Narcotic Drugs in Vienna.  This meant  I could only receive news from the Crimea via Skype or by phone. And the news was bad. For my own work as a social worker dispensing Opiate Substitution Treatment (OST),  it really was bad news; a sharp decrease in dosages was followed by panic among the patients and  low spirits of the medical personnel on the OST site. And then there was the strange armed people and large numbers of ‘unknown’ military equipment now appearing in the Crimea…

Igor Kuzmenko outside the Commission for Narcotic Drugs In Vienna this year. He would return to quite a different Crimea…

Igor Kuzmenko outside the Commission for Narcotic Drugs In Vienna this year. He would return to quite a different Crimea…

 

Almost nothing has changed in the Crimea on the surface. Except that instead of usual Ukrainian flags there are now Russian ones, and instead of traffic cops there are notorious “green little men” at the junctions. And at night you can sometimes hear the roar of military machines crossing the city.

 

“If, at the beginning buprenorphine was reduced by 2 mg a week, at the end of April and in May it was being reduced by 2 mg every other day. It was a very painful process.”

 

The OST site changed externally even less – the same people, the same fuss. But it was only externally. The fear started to grow. The doctors and nurses were afraid because legally, if the Crimea belongs to Russia and obeys Russian laws and they continue with methadone distribution on the site, they could be arrested for “distribution of drugs in especially large amounts performed in collusion by a group of people”. And you should agree, that’s no laughing matter.

OST clients were terrified because changes to prescriptions are always frightening. Their families were terrified too, because years of quiet living came to an end after the termination of OST.

Dosages decreased more and more. If, at the beginning buprenorphine was reduced by 2 mg a week, at the end of April and in May it was being reduced by 2 mg every other day. It was a very painful process. Of course, many patients tried to compensate for a lack drugs by using a large amount of barbiturates and those who could, also used street drugs. Thus the condition of patients constantly worsened: barbiturates helped to numb unpleasant feelings a little but not the pain, which was enfeebling you at the same time. I still remember people wandering about the site yard like ghosts, patients who had grown old in just a few days.

OST Patients walking away having consumed their last dose of methadone…

OST Patients walking away having consumed their last dose of methadone…

 

How OST Died

I want everyone to have a clear idea of how exactly OST died in the Crimea. There weren’t any documents issued by local authorities or from the Ukrainian or Russian side which could forbid, limit or in any other way have an effect on the situation with substitution therapy on the Crimean sites.

The reasons for the decrease in dosages were a limited quantity of pharmaceuticals in the Crimean warehouses and an impossibility to import methadone and buprenorphine from Ukraine to the Crimea.

It was difficult to import enough methadone and buprenorphine for a month into the Crimea even before the referendum because there wasn’t calm in Ukraine due to the Maiden* and, after March 16, all these difficulties were multiplied by the issues of state affiliation. We just weren’t allowed to import a new consignment of medicine. OST wasn’t banned in the Crimea, it was strangled.

 

“OST wasn’t banned in the Crimea, it was strangled”

 

OST wasn’t banned in the Crimea, it was strangled. Whose fault is this? It is difficult to tell. It seems to me that happiness of the patients wasn’t important for both sides. A patient on pills is a medical issue, and a suffering patient is political issue. We live in politically charged times and in my opinion, a political outcome was favorable to both parties: beneficial for Russia because methadone is not legal there, and Ukraine got its’ chance to once again confirm the inhumane actions of Russia.

 

In Simferopol there were rumours of drug users being severely beaten by ‘groups of sporty looking people’. However, Igor says; “There was the death of a patient in Simferopol that was for real during that period. He just didn’t have any energy left to live with a daily decreasing dose…”

 

In the meantime there were a lot of rumors spreading around. Rumors of absolutely fanatical methods of counter-drug operations by FDCS,  (The Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation) such as shooting out the wheels of suspected cars. Rumors about groups of young sporty looking people who had recently appeared in Simferopol to attack drug addicts and beat them almost to death in places where it is possible to buy drugs. Rumors about  a shipload of heroin delivered to the Crimea from Russia. But there wasn’t any real confirmation of these rumors either.

But there was the death of a patient in Simferopol that was for real during that period. He just didn’t have any energy left to live with daily decreasing dose…. The fear of the future was for real too. And at the same time, there were high hopes. At that time very few people believed that OST, which everyone had gotten used to and without which nobody could imagine one’s life, would be banned and services closed all of the sudden.

The hope helps us to live.

Igor Kuzmenko

* Maiden: The name of the city Square in Kiev. It has been the site of many important protests including The Orange Revolution but for many months in 2014 it became the place where Euro-centric activists protested, camping out and fighting back against authorities. After bloody battles, people power reigned and the Ukrainian president fled into Russia. The protest gained the name The EuroMaiden Revolution.

 

RI.P. Crimean OST program, 2006

Part 2         Igor Kuzmenko

Around April, during the period of intensive decreases in methadone and buprenorphine doses, one of the patients approached me in the OST site in Simferopol. He was an adult man, slightly over 50 years old. He had multiple diagnoses, including  active form of tuberculosis (before the referendum he was admitted to the tuberculosis dispensary where he could get methadone, but after the referendum this opportunity didn’t exist anymore and he had to go the remaining OST site to get his methadone among healthy patients). He also suffered from Hepatitis C and HIV. He is an artist and looks like a true artist – he wears a raincoat and a long scarf. It was notable that he was extremely worried. Nervously taking a puff, he said:

“Igor, if sometimes you need my help, you can count on me. I have only one wish right now – to douse myself in gasoline and set myself on fire. If only it could do any good!”

Many of us didn’t want to sit back and do nothing. We organized a group. We didn’t set a task to change the political reality, obviously we were unable to do it, and we simply wanted to draw as much attention as possible to the stopping of the importation of OST medicine to the Crimea. So three of us paid a visit to the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, in Kiev.

 

The Opiate Substitution Programme In Simferopol closes its doors for the forseeable future…

The Opiate Substitution Programme In Simferopol closes its doors for the forseeable future…

 

Besides us, inhabitants of the Crimea, there was a large number of local activists and representatives of The Alliance Ukraine (an HIV/AIDS organisation) participating in a protest action. Unfortunately, we couldn’t meet the minister, but some officials from the civil service on HIV issues found a little bit of time for us.

…It became absolutely clear to me that there will be no importation of OST medicines to the Crimea at all.”

I must admit that after this meeting in the Ministry of Health, it became absolutely clear to me that there will be no importation of OST medicines to the Crimea at all. Nobody was interested in that..

 

No Discontent Allowed

 

Meanwhile in Simferopol in the Crimea, our people tried to make a protest action near the headquarters of the Crimean government. And there we ran into surprise: all of us had gotten used to our liberal Ukrainian system regarding protest actions and meetings. It was rather simple to inform the city authorities of the time and place of a meeting in Ukraine. But as it became clear, in Russia, (and now in Crimea)  it is impossible for more than two people to gather together to show any discontent. Therefore we had to drop any idea of setting a protest action in the center of Simferopol.

 

Almost nothing changed in Crimea on the surface…(pic: Sevestapol)

Almost nothing changed in Crimea on the surface…(pic: Sevestapol)

 

Parental support is also very effective in context of raising the profile of OST, not least for the reason that parents are not drug-dependent and the stigmatizing that is usual in such cases, doesn’t apply to them. Unfortunately however, we also failed to attract a lot of parents to our movement.

I have to admit that the OST patient community couldn’t find complete consensus either. Some of us considered the proximity of Russia as being a benefit, others rejoiced at the sudden opportunity to quit methadone, and someone didn’t care at all. Some patients even participated in the referendum and the self-defense groups (groups which promoted pro-Russian forces in the Crimea). Nevertheless the majority of us wanted the same: at the maximum – the resumption of Opiate Substitution Treatment, and at the minimum – importation of a monthly stock of methadone and buprenorphine.

I am very grateful to the medical personnel of OST sites in the Crimea. Not their chiefs but the ordinary physicians and nurses. All of them are courageous people. Just think of it: according to Russian laws every day they went to work to give out methadone to the patients, they were making criminal acts. Acts that can be characterized as “distribution of drugs in especially large amounts performed in collusion by a group of people“. It was a very courageous especially as all of them without exception knew perfectly well how it could turn out for them.

And there were some things and some people to be afraid of. Both the administration and numerous “guests” put unbearable pressure on them. But I will tell you about that and many other things next time…

Stay tuned for part 3 and 4 in Igor Kuzmenko’s personal story of his community after Crimea becomes Russian again, first posted at INPUD’s International Diaries or read it all in Russian at ENPUD

Christiane F…A Bit of Junkie Film History

Christiane-FfgwI reckon a lot of people have wondered from time to time, whatever happened to Christiane F.

I always felt that this book – and film -had a profound effect on a lot of people.  Christiane -first came out as a book of course, and one worth reading because it was, as is often the case, a lot better than the film. The story for you young ‘ens out there, is about a 14 year old heroin addict living the life of a prostitute in the 24 hour, 7 day a week chaos that is a young junkies life. I say young coz as most junkies get older, life tends to slow down somewhat and is nowhere near as eventful as ones younger years on the gear and on the game….

“In the ’70’s and 80’s [Zoo Station]…was the place for kids, young kids on smack to be precise; buying, selling, shooting up, scamming, sleeping, nodding and overdosing, learning the rules of a game with some very serious consequences and a lot of unspoken rules.”

 

I’m digressing. Christiane F is about a group of misfits and invisible outsiders living inside and outside the Berlin ZOO train station; Now cleaned up considerably of all the ‘riff raff’ back then, in the ’70’s and 80’s it was the place for kids, young kids on smack to be precise, buying, selling, shooting up, scamming, sleeping, nodding and overdosing, learning the rules of a game with some very serious consequences and a lot of unspoken rules.

It is a seriously compelling book for reasons that you’ll have to decide for yourself as you find yourself being dragged under the bus that is Christiane’s life at 14. She is a real person, and this was a real story, an autobiography written by herself some years later, helped along a bit by a journalist. When she was in her early 20’s I believe, the film came out and the media storm that surrounded it had a major impact on her life. In the book/film, we find her at the end….Ok, Ok, I wont spoil it, suffice to say that she struggles with dependency her whole adult like so many of us.

She travelled the world with her money from the book/film, met loads of people, many who kept wanting to give her drugs, and she used drugs all around the world. German critics regularly gave her a hard time especially when they learnt she was back in a methadone clinic somewhere or just back on the gear or just snapped pics of her visual dramas for the papers. Then at around late 30’s or something she had a kid and left Germany because the wonderful papers were already deciding if she would be a fit mother….

PICTURES OF CHRISTIANE – slideshow


So she had her son in Amsterdam (could be a bad place to go methinks? But the Dutch are sooo civilised so I really catch her drift) and then went on a methadone programme as she had got back on the H at some stage there, only to find herself in a battle with social services in Germany and lost her son! interfering Bastards! I will guess we will have to read book 2 to find out if it was a case of need be or not because, yessiree! She has written a long-awaited follow up fans!

CHRISTIANE AT 51 YEARS OLD IN BERLIN: Promoting her new book.

 

I only found all this out recently as it goes. I thought somehow she made a miraculous recovery and became a writer living out her life…Well, I didn’t know where but just last year, I discovered that she had brought out this other book, based on her life since the first book, because sooooo many peeps were interested in what happened to her.

But before I fill in with a bit of info about her new life and book, (Christiane F; My 2nd Life)  here is the film. For any teen junkies or young ones on the game, it’ll touch a few chords and for anyone else, it will touch many more. Its powerful, though maybe a little dated now, but some things never change. It shows us too how young we are at that age, how vulnerable to predators, and how we always think everything is going to work out, that we know the score when we sooo don’t!  Well folks, here is a full dubbed version of her film (original is in German, this one is dubbed not with subtitles). Some of the actors were real junkies from the Zoo apparently.

 Click here for Christiane F’s interview last year with Vice Magazine about her life since the book and film.

And news of Detlef!!

Fuck, these days you can even say hello in person to Christiane on her FaceBook page which she is regularly updating. Go on, you know you want to!

RARE PICTURE OF CHRISTIANE’S BOYFRIEND DETLEF: He was 14 as well and paying for gear as a rent boy, on show behind the lavs at Zoo station along with lots of other young heroin addicted boys at the time. These days he is alive thank god , and apparently mmarried with kids and drives a buus for the disabled.

 

 

Living the great ‘Edinburgh AIDS panic’ of ’85.

Part 2 of David Graham Scott’s harrowing portrayal of

a junkie’s life on the streets of Edinburgh, Scotland’s

capital city and in 1985, known as the ‘AIDS CAPITAL OF

EUROPE’.

Written by David Graham Scott   (pic above – back in the day…)

(part one is the blog below this)

The only reason people went to ‘The City Hospital for Infectious Diseases’ was essentially for their methadone and free needles which at the time were very hard to come by. It was the carrot they dangled in front of us in order to encourage all the city’s junkies to attend, and thereby get tested for HIV/AIDS.

 

So data could get collected, clumsy attempts at healthcare would be given to all those with a positive result, and then we would all leave clutching leaflets about safer injecting together with possibly the first needle and syringe packs in Scotland.

This methadone and HIV testing clinic was really isolated from the main hub of Edinburgh city and was surrounded by vast woodlands.

1985; David in Edinburgh, in the flat arond the corner from the cop shop.

To get there we would have to board a public bus that took us towards the hospital which we shared with housewives heading back to their genteel homes in the wealthy southern suburbs of Edinburgh.  Each time they disembarked they would glance back at those of us left on the bus; the dregs of humanity, and everyone knew exactly where we were going; The Infectious Diseases Clinic at The City Hospital.

As the bus drove us further down the narrow meandering roads towards the clinic itself, it only seemed to  exacerbate our sense of alienation and fear, heading towards ‘that clinic’.

The Fear

There was an incredibly deep climate of fear at this time which is hard to fully explain today. It was 1985, the height of the HIV/AIDS ‘panic’.  People may remember the time, and God knows we all remember it was confusing and frightening enough, but actually  living within it, being terrorised by the label AIDS JUNKIE in your own community, there really are few words to describe what living through that time was like.

There were two ostracised communities (gay men and IV drug users) and sadly in those days neither group managed to find common ground with the other, such was the fear , ignorance and stigma from all those involved. People stuck tightly to what they knew.

A Slow Death by Newsnight

1985: Edinburgh

By early 1986, my girlfriend and I were asked if we wanted to appear on Newsnight to talk about being an injecting drug user in Edinburgh. Newsnight is the well respected current affairs programme which was (and still is) broadcast across the UK. The journalists involved offered us money, a paltry (but useful) £50 each to basically sell our souls to the ignorant masses. To be fair, the money wasn’t the reason we did it, it merely sealed the deal, both of us being broke and on heroin.

Naturally, we got totally stitched up. They edited the show to make us look irresponsible as they could. The idea was not to expose our status either way, but just to talk about the reality of life for drug users confronting the spectre of HIV/AIDS in Edinburgh.

However, the whole thing rapidly turned into a nightmare that had immense repercussions for us for months and years to come.

My girlfriend’s ex boyfriend was also appearing on the show, claiming to be the man who brought ‘AIDS’ to Scotland from Canada. He had kind of given up on himself I think, and although a very talented guitarist and session musician known by many major bands of the time, I think he ultimately felt jealous and lonely. It felt like his exposure on Newsnight was designed to draw my girlfriend and I into his own private hell. He knew he was dying…

We thought we were just trying to explain to viewers what was going on in Edinburgh among drug users, however pointed questioning from the journalist, who, looked from their body language to be quite fearful and disgusted by these three Scottish junkies sitting before them, soon had us saying things we didn’t set out to say.

True to the Style of Jeremy Kyle…*

My girlfriend soon began to respond to her ex boyfriend’s issues  goaded by the journalist, which meant she began feeling the need to explain her own positive status, something neither of us anticipated. I was negative but it didn’t matter. We had ‘AIDS by default’ of being junkies.

Today, I am a documentary filmmaker and as such, as I sit here and reflect back as I have done many times over the years, I know we were manipulated in an irresponsible, careless and insidious manner. Christ we were only 20 and 22 years old!

As for repercussions, they were horrific. We were both abused and spat at in the street regularly. The local police always gave us a hard time and because we lived around the corner from the local police station, regularly we would get a battering ram smashing through our door and our flat turned upside down for no reason. We were on prescription methadone and they never found anything. It was shameful.

David: Outside the doctors surgery, 1987, Edinburgh

David: Outside the doctors surgery, 1987, Edinburgh

Shameful!

 

It was a different era. We were vilified by the public. Even though I didn’t have HIV, I was positive just by association. When I went back to my family’s home in the highlands I was quickly approached by the local environmental health officer and rudely advised not to have sex with any women in town and it would be a good idea if I left town as soon as possible.

Even years later I was arrested on a trumped up charge when i returned home again, kept in jail overnight and later told that the cell was literally fumigated after I left. Completely unbelievable.

I haven’t put in to this story some of the worst things that happened to us because it is just to difficult to talk about and I don’t want to drag things up especially for my ex girlfriend who is happily still well and is really getting on with her life.

I think now in my life as a documentary film maker I continue to try and write the wrongs of that kind of shoddy, sensationalist journalism by trying to be as sensitive as I can and letting the person feel comfortable enough to talk freely but never to feel that false sense of security that people can do when they let their guard down. It is a big responsibility and I know personally how it feels to be completely exploited and to suffer the repercussions when one goes back into their community.

It was a terrible time for so many of us back then. So many deaths, so much fear, so much gossip,  people drowning others to save themselves, all pressured by an insane media appetite for sensationalist stories that just ruined people’s lives and spread fear and hate like poison. We cannot forget these days. We can never forget these days. We must all do whatever we can to stop the kind of scapegoating society is so apt to do when it is frightened by some unknown quantity. At the end of each day, it is always about people’s lives.

DGS

David today winning an award for Iboga Nights, his powerful film following people struggling to get off heroin using the iboga root.

Iboga Nights trailer from John Archer on Vimeo.

 

HIV/AIDS in 1985; No Really, We Will Never Forget…

It was 1988, in Wick, a small highland town in the far north of Scotland. My wife’s ex boyfriend had been diagnosed as being HIV positive. We knew we had to get tested. My wife was from the infamous period in Edinburgh period of shooting gallery’s where it was so hard to find works (syringes) that people would stand in a line and the dealer would cook up the hits using te same syringe on everyone.

There was a prototype of a needle exchange that had been running from an area called the Grassmarket in Edinburgh but the police were routinely arresting people who visited it. The police eventually closed it down in the early 1980’s. The cops were very hard on junkies who were injectors.

It was a strange time where you could be busted for having traces of gear or even a needle packet on your person. But the drug that was the real gold dust for the using community was Diconol which were bright pink tablets (I think that were made by Roche -dipionone hydrochloride).

Opus Morphia from David Graham Scott on Vimeo.

This film was made by David around the time (1985). Incredibly, he did not go to film school.

It was a really strong opiate analgesic, a mixture of Cyclomorph and a sort of anti-emetic) and the rush was the reason people bought it. It was like a religious experience, you generally felt you were in the company of God for a few moments,  it was a truly beautiful sensation, the best I have ever had in my life.

So anyway, my girlfriend and I went to get tested. I wasn’t really bothered about it, I never even thought I’d be positive, and neither did my girlfriend.

Three weeks later the results were in and it was my girl that got the bad news. She was positive and  I wasn’t. I said I would stick behind her no matter what happened; and typical of her (remains anonymous), she took it all in her stride. God only knows how, as things would get a lot, lot worse.

I would go with her to the HIV clinic and all the positive people had to sit along a wall. There was those old-fashioned weighing scales measuring height and weight, and without any privacy whatsoever, they would announce your weight, like at school, and because everyone always went there  coz they had to for their methadone (there was almost nothing on offer then), it was like some cattle market.

Gallows humour would run loose among the patients, as is the Scottish way, topped off with small junkie self platitudes such as ‘thank fuck I ain’t as bad as him’ .  Comments bounced around the echoing hospital hallways like” Oh, he is going down….61Kilograms today laddy, that’s quite a drop to tell ya ma” or “Oh,lookee there, she has that whatsimacallit, the scabby things, she must be getting AIDS nurse, right or no? “, and on and on it went. People just wasted away in front of you, on parade for all of us to see.

 

Episode 2 will tell you more from David of the shameful story of Edinburgh and HIV/AIDS in the 1980’s and should be about a week behind this.  

HOWEVER!!!

You can see more about David Graham Scott’s exemplary career in filmmaking, covering various issues but covering brilliantly his experiences as a junkie, or indeed battling ‘junkdom’.

In particular the famous ‘Detox or Die (his personal experience of undergoing an Ibogaine detox on film a decade ago (available to view today free online and on DGS’s Vimeo channel to this blog on INPUD’s webpage. This just released film (which you can read about on the link provided) called Iboga Nights. It is the culmination of three long years of in-depth research into the drug Iboga and the lives and detoxes of the accompanying clutch of courageous, wonderful characters involved in the film, the much called for sequel Iboga Nights (google it but we will review it shortly) was a big success on the documentary film circuit recently winning much deserved awards and acclaim.  BP will cover this next in more detail. If this has whetted your appetite, look for David Graham Scott on Facebook and speak to him directly! Or you will find much covering both films and more by googling it.

 

Feeling a bit defeated?? Find yourself slowly crushed by the weight of a loved one’s ignorant viewpoints on your drug use?

Well Ditch it Brothers and Sisters!

Redaktionens bild

The world-class Swedish Drug Users Union

Last year, just like every year on the 1st of November, that very special day in the drug users own calendar comes alive! Only last year, guess who should write one of the most moving, powerful and courageous testimonies of our times – but the Swedish Drug Users Union!

This readers, is no great shock as this world-class union consisting of 13 separate chapters including Stockholm, Malmo etc is consistently putting out some of the most innovative and high quality peer resources available, certainly within Europe, and is a 1st class example of just what your user group can do both inside and outside government. Remember, Sweden may appear liberal but it is in fact very conservative towards drug users and just demanding a globally approved and evidenced based needle exchange for the inner city, has taken years and years of struggle by the union (so they have opened it themselves sans local permission in order to save lives. Now that’s action!).

Along with the impressive journey travelled over (at least) the last decade pushed onwards by some of their leading Union members (a big shout out to the brilliant founder Berne and his team at the lead union of Sweden, and Kikki and her close team running the highly visible and hardworking Stockholm branch.

But getting to the fabulous point – I discovered on the Swedish Users Union Website, a statement to really mark and celebrate OUR DAY – the 1st of November every year;

It is, dear readers, a day to proclaim and reclaim the precious rights to our own bodies and what goes in them, our independence regarding our alternative lifestyle choices, to relish and delight in our chemical search for enlightenment; and to have fun, be loud and proud and educate the consistently new ignorant people who read the tabloids and watch the chat shows to understand their news..

Reader’z, I implore you to read out and even copy a version of this truly excellent statement of our rights and our scapegoated position in English, be polite and ask SDDU if you wish to reprint any of it (credited of course) on your groups website and goddammit, pin it up in your local methadone clinic, prison or rehab on 1st November!

 

Big thank you to Theo Van Dam and the Netherland’s LSD for starting our special global day.

INPUD Statement for International Drug Users’

Day, 1st November 2013

AvRedaktionen (SBFRiks) den 02 nov 2013 23:43 | 0kommentarer

The international drug users’ movement welcomes the introduction over recent years of a human rights discourse into discussions about drug law reform, harm reduction and public health, and the clear delineation of the systemic relations between global punitive prohibition and the grotesque violations of the rights of people who use drugs.

However, on this, International Drug Users’ Day, the International Network of People who Use Drugs wants to push this discourse one step further and affirm the positive right of people to use the drugs of their choice without the undue interference of police, judicial, and medical authorities. This right is implied most clearly by those to privacy, bodily integrity, and the right not to be discriminated against.

For too long, human rights discourse has largely ignored this thorny issue, and has focused to great effect on the egregious human rights violations rained down upon people simply on the basis that they choose to use drugs whose usage is deemed unacceptable subsequent to the passage of the three global conventions that together comprise global prohibition.

The range of such abuses is vast, systemic and grotesque, and includes abrogations of the right to vote, of the right to liberty, to privacy, to physical and mental integrity, to freedom from cruel and inhuman treatment, to freedom from involuntary medical procedures, to be free from discrimination, and to the highest attainable standard of health. Repressive drug laws also jeopardise the right to safety by denying people access to drugs of known quality, quantity, and purity, thus exposing us to the risk of overdose, poisoning and infection, as well as to sterile means of administering injectable drugs.

These systemic rights abuses driven by a globally repressive legal environment of varying degrees of viciousness has included torture, forced treatment, police shakedowns and violence, arbitrary mass incarceration and detention, the denial of access to medical services (most notably denial of the right to access treatment for HCV and HIV), and the denial of access to harm reduction services. Harsh drug laws jeopardise the right to family life by denying drug using parents access to their children, and in some countries people, especially women, known to be users of illegal drugs have been forcefully sterilised. These violations driven by a combination of puritanical moralism, racism, sexism, and the biopolitical imperative of governments to exert control over, and discipline, the bodies of their citizens, has created a world in which people who use, and in particular who inject, drugs are massively, disproportionately affected by blood borne viruses, most notably HIV and HCV. These violations are not glitches in the system of drug control, nor the actions of a few ‘rogue’ enforcement agents, rather they are constitutive of, and directly entailed by, prohibition.

People who use currently illegal drugs have been labelled immoral, criminal, and sick, often a combination of all three at the same time. We have been moralised over, criminalised and pathologised. On this International Drug Users’ Day, we say enough. On this International Drug Users’ Day we assert the right to bodily integrity, and to privacy, we reclaim control over our bodies and minds and assert the right of consenting adults to use whatever drugs they choose, whether it be for pleasure, to self-medicate, to enhance performance, to alter consciousness  or to provide some succour and relief from hard lives, we insist that as adults that right is ours. We defend the right of adults to use their drugs of choice in their homes without causing harm or nuisance to others, and to carry them in public without fear of police harassment, abuse and intimidation.

The use of consciousness altering drugs is an integral part of the human experience, common to all cultures throughout history, as such drug use is neither bad, mad, nor sick, it should not, and need not, be a crime. The use of currently illegal drugs is not a sign of moral depravity, a character fault, a marker of criminal tendencies, or of pathology, it is no more and no less than one aspect of what it is to be human, a part of the diversity of human experience. Doug Husak, one of the few academics to have seriously looked at this issue concludes in his book Drugs and Rights that ” the arguments in favour of believing that adults have a moral right to use drugs recreationally are more persuasive than the arguments on the other side” he continues that those of us who reject the war on drugs, which is in reality a war on people who use drugs, “should be described as endorsing a pro-choice position on recreational drug use”.

To assert and defend this implied right to use drugs INPUD will be launching a ‘Charter of the Rights of People who Use Drugs’ laying out the basic rights to which we, like all other members of the human family are entitled. This charter will be prefaced by a detailed exposition of the multiple areas of life in which the rights of people who use drugs are violated, simply on the basis of what drugs we choose to use.

Drug use = my choice!

Abstinence = your choice.

Prohibition = no choice!

- – – – -

More information: Protecting rights to ensure health: International Drug Users Day 2013.

Kontakta författaren
Text uppdaterad: 2013-11-03 21:58
Alla inlägg från Redaktionen

Read the full post »

Oh God, My Anxiety’s Back!

Hey readers,

I just saw this piece on a really fab website/blog created it seems to people who are getting out there and doing it for themselves  -kinda like us with our drug thing, they push onward and enlighten others around mental health issues. Many of us in the drug using world are intimate friends with ‘the shrink’, and many of us have suffered from being pushed backwards and forwards from the drug clinic to the psych ward and back again…‘No! You just use too many drugs. Stop them and then we can talk!’…Actually, Ill just piss off now then instead of stroking your ego or being mummified under your useless labels…

Their fabulous sites link…http://slamtwigops.wordpress.com/category/resources/.

follow pic to a terrific blog where this artwork lives as does an anxious person who can help us laugh at ourselves a bit more...

follow pic to a terrific blog where this artwork lives as does an anxious person who can help us laugh at ourselves a bit more….

In any case, if one hasn’t got a mental health thing going on that is truly making your using life difficult, then you will still understand the dreaded anxiety and panic you can get used to feeling when our life has taken a turn for the worse. So much of the time anxiety bubbles just under the surface creating obstacles for us and preventing us from doing something -it can really be crippling and often we don’t even really know it is there. We think it is just us being crap. Its the drugs. Im procrastinating again….Anxiety appears to us in so many forms, I think it is worth having a wee read of this just to see if it feels like it could be helpful. Just the mere fact of beginning to ‘understand’ what is happening to us, is a huge weight lifted of our shoulders. If we understand how our mind structures itself, we can actually liberate ourselves by re-wiring a bit here and there! Its what therapy is basically. We can help ourselves as well you know!

 

How to Train Your Brain to Alleviate Anxiety

Our thoughts affect our brains. More specifically, “… what you pay attention to, what you think and feel and want, and how you work with your reactions to things sculpt your brain in multiple ways,” according to neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D, in his newest book Just One Thing: Developing A Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time. In other words, how you use your mind can change your brain.

According to Canadian scientist Donald Hebb, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” If your thoughts focus on worrying and self-criticism, you’ll develop neural structures of anxiety and a negative sense of self, says Hanson.

For instance, individuals who are constantly stressed (such as acute or traumatic stress) release cortisol, which in another article Hanson says eats away at the memory-focused hippocampus. People with a history of stress have lost up to 25 percent of the volume of their hippocampus and have more difficulty forming new memories.

The opposite also is true. Engaging in relaxing activities regularly can wire your brain for calm. Research has shown that people who routinely relax have “improved expression of genes that calm down stress reactions, making them more resilient,” Hanson writes.

Also, over time, people who engage in mindfulness meditation develop thicker layers of neurons in the attention-focused parts of the prefrontal cortex and in the insula, an area that’s triggered when we tune into our feelings and bodies.

Other research has shown that being mindful boosts activation of the left prefrontal cortex, which suppresses negative emotions, and minimizes the activation of the amygdala, which Hanson refers to as the “alarm bell of the brain.”

Hanson’s book gives readers a variety of exercises to cultivate calm and self-confidence and to enjoy life. Here are three anxiety-alleviating practices to try.

1. “Notice you’re all right right now.” For many of us sitting still is a joke — as in, it’s impossible. According to Hanson, “To keep our ancestors alive, the brain evolved an ongoing internal trickle of unease. This little whisper of worry keeps you scanning your inner and outer world for signs of trouble.”

Being on high alert is adaptive. It’s meant to protect us. But this isn’t so helpful when we’re trying to soothe our stress and keep calm. Some of us — me included — even worry that if we relax for a few minutes, something bad will happen. (Of course, this isn’t true.)

Hanson encourages readers to focus on the present and to realize that right now in this moment, you’re probably OK. He says that focusing on the future forces us to worry and focusing on the past leads to regret. Whatever activity you’re engaged in, whether it’s driving, cooking dinner or replying to email, Hanson suggests saying, “I’m all right right now.”

Of course, there will be moments when you won’t be all right. In these times, Hanson suggests that after you ride out the storm, “… as soon as possible, notice that the core of your being is okay, like the quiet place fifty feet underwater, beneath a hurricane howling above the sea.”

2. “Feel safer.” “Evolution has given us an anxious brain,” Hanson writes. So, whether there’s a tiger in the bushes doesn’t matter, because staying away in both cases keeps us alive. But, again, this also keeps us hyper-focused on avoiding danger day to day. And depending on our temperaments and life experiences, we might be even more anxious.

Most people overestimate threats. This leads to excessive worrying, anxiety, stress-related aliments, less patience and generosity with others and a shorter fuse, according to Hanson.

Are you more guarded or anxious than you need to be? If so, Hanson suggests the following for feeling safer:

  • Think of how it feels to be with a person who cares about you and connect to those feelings and sensations.
  • Remember a time when you felt strong.
  • List some of the resources at your disposal to cope with life’s curveballs.
  • Take several long, deep breaths.
  • Become more in tune with what it feels like to feel safer. “Let those good feelings sink in, so you can remember them in your body and find your way back to them in the future.”

3. “Let go.” Letting go is hard. Even though clinging to clutter, regrets, resentment, unrealistic expectations or unfulfilling relationships is painful, we might be afraid that letting go makes us weak, shows we don’t care or lets someone off the hook. What holds you back in letting go?

Letting go is liberating. Hanson says that letting go might mean releasing pain or damaging thoughts or deeds or yielding instead of breaking. He offers a great analogy:

“When you let go, you’re like a supple and resilient willow tree that bends before the storm, still here in the morning — rather than a stiff oak that ends up broken and toppled over.”

Here are some of Hanson’s suggestions for letting go:

  • Be aware of how you let go naturally every day, whether it’s sending an email, taking out the trash, going from one thought or feeling to another or saying goodbye to a friend.
  • Let go of tension in your body. Take long and slow exhalations, and relax your shoulders, jaw and eyes.
  • Let go of things you don’t need or use.
  • Resolve to let go of a certain grudge or resentment. “This does not necessarily mean letting other people off the moral hook, just that you are letting yourself off the hotplate of staying upset about whatever happened,” Hanson writes. If you still feel hurt, he suggests recognizing your feelings, being kind to yourself and gently releasing them.
  • Let go of painful emotions. Hanson recommends several books on this topic: Focusing by Eugene Gendlin and What We May Beby Piero Ferrucci. In his book, Hanson summarizes his favorite methods: “relax your body;” “imagine that the feelings are flowing out of you like water’” express your feelings in a letter that you won’t send or vent aloud; talk to a good friend; and be open to positive feelings and let them replace the negative ones.

#RT via Bridget via http://psychcentral.com

Methamphetamine – A document well worth a read

Hi,

Many of you will recognise the writings of US psychologist Carl Hart, having had many interesting things to say about crack, and now methamphetamine. Yes there have been many books on the subject but this is different and you can read it all here right now! It is a fascinating read on meth, the facts and the hype. If the subject interests you, and I reckon it probably does, give it a read. Love to hear your comments.

Report cover

Text From Open Society Institute: The rise in methamphetamine use has provoked a barrage of misinformation and reckless policies, such as mandatory minimum sentences, increased penalties for minor offenders and major restrictions against certain medicines.

This new report, titled Methamphetamine: Fact vs. Fiction and Lessons from the Crack Hysteria, reveals the extreme stigmatization of users and dangerous policy responses that are reminiscent of the crack hysteria in the 1980s and 1990s, which led to grossly misguided laws that accelerated mass incarceration in the United States.

The report recommends that national and international policymakers review laws that harshly punish methamphetamine possession or use, invest in treatment rather than punishment, restudy the restriction of access to amphetamines for legitimate medical purposes, and stop supporting wasteful and ineffective campaigns of misinformation on methamphetamine use.

Go straight to the 36 page report here 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,205 other followers

%d bloggers like this: