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Issue 14

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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.

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November 1st: International Drug Users Day

International Drug Users Day - Poster Available in several languages! Get Yours and Celebrate Nov 1st!
International Drug Users Day – Poster Available in several languages! Get Yours and Celebrate Nov 1st!

1 NOVEMBER 2014

‘Community. Solidarity. Empowerment.’ 

International Drug Users’ Day is the one day of the year where people who use drugs can celebrate the strength and diversity of our community, our solidarity and our empowerment.

To mark this day, INPUD is launching a statement, which asserts that to end the ‘war on drugs’, we must move away from the ideas that drive prohibition and criminalisation. We are calling for an end to the ‘war on drugs’ on the terms of people who use drugs. And we are affirming and celebrating who we are as a community of people who use drugs.

INPUD Statement
International Drug Users’ Day 2014 – 1st November
‘Community. Solidarity. Empowerment.’

The harms of stigma, discrimination and the ‘war on drugs’
The world over, people who use drugs are demonised and stereotyped. People who use drugs are stigmatised as being sick and dangerous, and are vilified, infantilised, and patronised as being unable to take care of themselves or their loved ones. Stigmatising people who use drugs follows through into discrimination and social exclusion, and has corresponding impacts on health and wellbeing. Stigma and stereotypes are what justify the so-called ‘war on drugs’, which in turn drives gross violations of the human rights of people who use drugs, violations that go, for the most part, unchallenged.

And violations of the human rights of people who use drugs are all too common. People who use drugs are detained and imprisoned. People who use drugs are incarcerated without due legal process in forced labour camps. People who use drugs are subject to torture and execution. People who use drugs are denied access to healthcare, service provision, and harm reduction. People who use drugs are harassed and assaulted by the police. The ‘war on drugs’, a war that drives these violations of the rights of people who use drugs, has been an abject failure (even by its own misguided objectives): it has failed to reduce drug use, and it has caused enormous harm to the lives of people who use drugs and the communities in which they live.

An end to the war on drugs on our terms
The war on drugs must end. But it must end on the terms of people who use drugs. Last International Drug Users’ Day, we asserted the right of consenting adults to use the 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 defended 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.

This 2014 International Drug Users’ Day, we assert that to end the war on drugs – the war on people who use drugs – we must move away from the ideas that drive prohibition and criminalisation: we must challenge and reject stigma and drug-userphobia in all of its forms. We reject infantilising, patronising, and demonising preconceptions. We reject blanket pathologisation of people who use drugs, reject the assumption that to use drugs is to be sick or dangerous or immoral. It is time to discard cruel, pejorative, and discriminatory language and labels. It is time, once and for all, to reject crude generalisations and stereotypes of people who use drugs, and to acknowledge the variability and diversity of our community.

And so, on this International Drug Users’ Day, we celebrate and emphasise the diversity and strength of our community. The world over, vast numbers of people from every section of society use illicit drugs. They use drugs for different reasons, in different ways, in different contexts. Though we are too often silenced and side-lined in debate and in the formation of policy and legislation that applies to us, we assert our diversity and our ability and right to exercise self-determination and agency. We demand the right to be respected as experts on our own lives, motivations, and experiences. We will not stand by silently whilst decisions are made about us and not with us. In reasserting ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’, we refer to the inclusion of our diverse community as a whole.

We, the International Network of People who Use Drugs, will fight to defend our human rights, to promote our health, and will fight to end the war on drugs and prohibition together and in solidarity. We recognise the struggles of our peers as our own, in the face of crosscutting stigmatisation, social exclusion, discrimination, silencing, and criminalisation. In 2014, we celebrate the strength of our community, our solidarity and our empowerment.


Resources: Click here for your own poster in different languages plus the statement.

International Drug User Day, Nov 1st, 2014

 

 

 

International Drug User Day 2014 – Let’s hear 3 cheers for that activists

activist -Theo Van Dam, the beautiful Dutchman who came up with the

brilliant idea of a day in the calendar to celebrate the existence, the

achievements, the lives and the work of people who use drugs and their

brave and courageous direct actions that have been challenging wrongs

and fighting injustice, wherever it lies in the world.

 

Drug User’s must always be part of the solution and never framed only as the problem. Our  lived, perceptive and insightful lives will always provide our communities with the insight and language to tackle the issues that black markets have left us; society must work with the drug using community to end the crippling discrimination, criminalization, marginalization and isolation felt by too many – generation to generation; and for what? So some could drink beer while others could not smoke dope? So some could arrest an entire  people of colour while others could put on the guards hat and boots while swinging the keys in the lock, stops the clock….IDUD is our day friends -walk tall, believe in yourself not based on your drug or the frequency you use it, but based on the person you really are deep down. Drug users will not be defined by their substance or by societys ignorance; only by the quality of their soul at the gates. Yessirree! November 1st – celebrate it all day friends!

The History of Drug User Activism in Australia; by an Aussie Activist Superstar

Dont Miss this!!! If you want to find out the story of drug user activism in Australia by a woman who was not only there but integral to the very essence of active drug users doin’ it for themselves, setting limits in the sky and rockin right up to parliament house itself to get the job done – then you cannot miss this production!! From WHACK; Victorias Drug User Magazine; Annie Madden, the firebrand of an Aussie cog in the Aussie activist wheel, was asked to write about he years of experience and knowledge around the evolution of the Australian drug user history movement – and it is compulsory reading my friends! The History of Drug User Activism in Australia by AIVL’s Chief Exec and Superwoman incarnate, Annie Madden – get out your reading specs, sit back with your favourite tipple, and IV the contents of this fabulous issue….

Please click this link for the easy to read online magazine, which you can print out.

http://hrvic.org.au/docs/historyofIDUactivism/index.html

A Word About Ms Annie Madden…

Annie Madden, Chief Exec, AIVL Australia; Australia's Own Superstar Activist!

Annie Madden, Chief Exec, AIVL Australia; Australia’s Own Superstar Activist!

Australian Injecting & Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL)

Annie Madden is currently the Executive Officer of the Australian Injecting & Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) which is the national peak body representing state and territory drug user organisations and illicit drug users at the national level. Prior to her current role, Annie was the Co-ordinator of the NSW Users & AIDS Association (NUAA) for six years. She has an honours degree in Social and Political Sciences. She is on numerous national, Commonwealth Government and research committees including the recently appointed Ministerial Advisory Committee on AIDS, Sexual Health and Hepatitis C and regularly takes extremely effective roles in global United Nation and WHO reviews, committees, global guidance publications and drug related recommendations. She has been working in the areas of illicit drug use, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis for over 14 years, has been an injecting drug user for over 18 years and on methadone for many years also. Annie is one of the world’s most inspiring women user activists who has worked tirelessly day in and day out to challenge the discrimination and human rights violations occurring to people who use drugs. And not just in Australia where she works at the top of her game, going head to head with politicians and Charity heads, doctors and do-gooders, parents and always her peers – drug users, but around the world, wherever she gets the chance to fight against ignorance and discrimination, for women who use drugs, for all of us, of any colour. Annie Madden is a woman we should all be proud of, especially, as drug users, we are lucky enough to have her on our side. Coz she is a truly kind and caring person, humble, hard working, smart and emphatic. Thanks for all you’ve done Annie Madden, and all your future will bring. We send you thanks, light and love.

Your friends at BP and around the world, those who know you, love you, and those who haven’t yet had the pleasure, thank you.

Check this out injectors!

A groovy new piece of Kit that really gives you a good look into your venous system – possibly one of the best types on the market right now. At $30,000 a pop, it had better be good! When are they going to invent an app for vein finding???? Now that would be a good idea!

New Research: former users may be a LOWER risk of developing new ‘addictions’

Excuse the language in the title  -and in some of the article – but here’s an interesting news item about some new research that came out at the end of September 2014 about testing the hypothesis about whether drug users ‘switch’ to another 2nd drug after they detox or give up their 1st drug of choice; very interesting answer- original source is below the piece (Reuters Health) -

some injecting environments

Hmm, more drugs anyone?

People who manage to get clean after being addicted to drugs are at lower risk of becoming addicted to something else in the future than people who never overcame the first substance use disorder, according to a new study.“The results are surprising, they cut against conventional clinical lore which holds that people who stop one addiction are at increased risk of picking up a new one,” said senior author Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. “The results challenge the old stereotype that people switch or substitute addictions but never truly overcome them,” Olfson told Reuters Health by email.

Getting over substance addiction reduces criminal activity, improves health and social functioning, as well as overall quality of life, Olfson’s team writes in JAMA Psychiatry.

But research into the assumption that former addicts are vulnerable to becoming addicted again has produced mixed results, they point out.

Using nationally representative data from surveys in 2001 and 2004, the researchers compared the occurrence of a new substance addiction among adults who started out with at least one substance addiction.

Nearly 35,000 people were asked about their use of sedatives, tranquilizers, painkillers, stimulants, cannabis, cocaine or crack, hallucinogens, inhalants, heroin, alcohol and nicotine dependence.

Participants were interviewed once at the beginning of the study and again three years later, with their responses either qualifying or not qualifying them for a diagnosis of substance use disorder.

At the time of the second survey, 3,275 people who had at least one addiction at the time of the first survey still qualified for a diagnosis of substance use disorder, and 2,741 people had overcome their original addiction and no longer qualified.

About 20 percent of participants developed a new substance addiction by year three. That included 27 percent of those who had not gotten clean from the original addiction and 13 percent of those who had gotten clean.

Based on those results, and after adjusting for other factors, the researchers calculated that people who overcame a substance use disorder had less than half the risk of people who didn’t overcome it of developing a new addiction.

“While it would be foolish to assume that people who quit one drug have no risk of becoming addicted to another drug, the new results should give encouragement to people who succeed in overcoming an addiction,” Olfson said.

Young, unmarried men with psychiatric problems in addition to substance abuse were most likely to develop a new substance use disorder during the study.

Though many people believe that conquering one addiction leaves you vulnerable to substituting another substance, that hypothesis actually has little support to-date, said Olaya García-Rodríguez, of the department of Psychology at the University of Oviedo in Spain.

“The ‘Substitution’ hypothesis is mainly based in clinical lore that may be biased with clinicians’ subjective perceptions of specific patients’ progression,” Garcia-Rodriguez told Reuters Heath by email.

This study is the first to test the concept with a large and representative sample in the general population, she said.

The results indicate that remission from addiction is possible, and we should rethink the common perception that substance use disorders are chronic illnesses, she said.

In the new results, only 13 percent of former addicts replaced the first substance with a new one, which is lower than usually thought, said Garcia-Rodriguez, who was not part of the new study.

“To achieve remission, most individuals need to make changes in their lifestyle and learn strategies to avoid substance use that will eventually protect against the onset of new addictions,” she said.

They may learn to avoid substance-related situations and peers, expand their behavioral repertory with coping strategies, and improved family relations, health, financial stability may contribute to maintain abstinence, she said.

The results indicate that remission from addiction is possible, and we should rethink the common perception that substance use disorders are chronic illnesses, she said.

“I hope that these results contribute to lessening the stigma and discrimination that many adults and young people with a history of substance abuse face when they seek employment,” Olfson said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1svcvPa JAMA Psychiatry, online September 10, 2014.

Succinct Explanation about the Many Misconceptions About ‘Addiction’

Check out another neatly defined, succinct and straightforward explanation of the roots of ‘addiction’ and just how society became laden with so many misconceptions about drug dependence or ‘addiction’. Dr Cart Hart has a new book out called High Price. Just 20 minutes long, this is a very useful listen for people wanting to know a bit of history around how we came to view ‘out of control drug addicts’ as the norm. He also mentions his fascinating research delivered over a few years around crack and crack users, which challenged many of our most deeply ingrained ideas about crack users. Get your facts up to date and have a listen..

Thanks to Vox.com for the article and video, though I think it originally appeared on TedsTalk.

Carl Hart is a neuroscientist and drug addiction expert at Columbia University. In a recent TEDMED talk, Hart spoke about drug addiction and the many misconceptions surrounding the topic — and how those misconceptions can mislead drug policy.

Hart went into neuroscience to cure the drug addiction he blamed for causing crime and poverty in his old Miami neighborhood. But when he began to work on the issue, he learned that his assumptions were wrong.

About 80 to 90 percent of the people who use illegal drugs don’t turn out addicts, Hart explained. As an example, Hart pointed to the three previous presidents, all of whom used drugs when they were younger. “Their drug use did not result in an inevitable downward spiral leading to debauchery and addiction,” Hart said. “And the experience of these men is the rule, not the exception.”

THE FINDINGS SHOW THE PROBLEMS ARE MUCH MORE COMPLICATED THAN SOME BELIEVE

As Hart explained, many of the current assumptions about drug addiction are based on old animal experiments from the 1960s and 1970s. In these tests, animals were put in a cage with a lever that they could pull for a shot of a drug. Researchers found the animals would pull the lever until they died from an overdose.

Hart said these animals were never presented with an alternative, though. In other experiments, animals were given another option: a mate or a sweet treat. At that point, the animals began choosing the non-drug alternative, and they didn’t take the drug until they died.

Hart followed up on these experiments with human participants in 2000 and 2012. His lab recruited meth and crack cocaine addicts, and the addicts were given the option to choose between a small amount of money or their drug of choice. When the money option was $5, they chose the money about half the time. When the money option was $20, they chose the money about eight out of 10 times.

The results, of course, don’t diminish the real problems of crime, poverty, and drug addiction in some of America’s communities. But the findings show the problems are much more complicated than some, including a younger Hart, believe.

 

Check out the useful flip cards and the rest of the article here.  Listen to Dr Carl Hart give a clear account of the many misconceptions around drug use and where they sprang from. 

 

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

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