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!

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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.

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Text uppdaterad: 2013-11-03 21:58
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A Vending Machine for Crack Pipes? Now that Rocks!

Well, I’ll be damned, harm reduction is getting down with drug users -how  fabulous when we find a glowing example of a perfectly useful, innovative and user friendly invention that actually makes it out of its’ idea stage, only to leap frog over the community hysterics into production and onto our streets; the streets of Vancouver in this case. A vending machine for crack pipes -selling the pipes that one may be constantly in need of (if one has a constant preoccupation with the white rocks, that is…) for just 25c.

OK, so as the VICE news item below says, the over-arching idea behind this was to prevent HIV or Hepatitis C transmission that people COULD be exposed too, when finding themselves sharing pipes and some bodily fluids from the associated burnt or cut thumbs and lips that can occur from heavy sessions on the pipe. But I notice at least one of the vending machines is located in a popular drop in service, which on its own provides an important moment for a user to touch base, be seen by peers and health professionals, add to an important data pool on drug usage, – and all at the same time as making a personal positive health choice and a chance to reduce harm. Nice one!

But what is really cool is that this is an evolution of the work our rather clever peers are doing in Vancouver, work started in the area by VANDU (Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users),

Mariner James of the Portland Hotel Society with the machine.

Three Cheers for our Junkie Peers!

So three cheers to the continuation of user ingenuity and peer outreach in Vancouver, they have done us all proud. I should say however, that the sheer scale of what drug users are up against in Vancouver seems to ensure our colleagues are constantly fighting hard to maintain some semblance of humanity  for our community there.

The Downtown Eastside, centered on the intersection of Main and Hasting streets in Vancouver, has one of the highest concentrations of injection drug users in the world. An overgrown ‘Skid Row’ is flush with prostitution and destitution, most of its residents live in badly maintained hotels and hostels lining Main Street.

Out of 12,000 residents in the area, some 5,000 are estimated to be drug users and any chat with a peer from these streets or indeed a look at any of the  documentaries on You Tube about the area, shows our peers are struggling;  crack and methamphetamine use remains steady or is increasing and even injecting heroin use continues to rise as much of the scene is now buoyed by pharmaceutical opiates which appears to be collecting young, newer users whereas in other places, like the UK and Western Europe, we are seeing injecting heroin use dropping among the young and plateauing among older users..

Since 2008 it seems over half of Vancouver’s opiate users are on methadone or similar OST’s although the figures aren’t as encouraging for its aboriginal population. For up to date information on the drug situation in Vancouver, Click here.

With such numbers of heavy drug users living in such a deprived area, an outsider could believe any inroads made by progressive harm reduction policies and initiatives are slowly unpicked again by repeated incarceration, illness and infection, discrimination and homelessness. Yet this is the battle that harm reductionists and drug user activists are fighting; it is indeed one step forward and two steps back and lives are literally won and lost on the back of populist election promises, just like in so many parts of the world…

Humanity on Skid Row

Although the battle to save lives and promote humane drug policies in Vancouver however is ongoing, there are certainly signs that the current interventions are working. Yet the aim must be to examine the strategies that are showing results  Statistics show the number of new HIV infections (incidence) may be decreasing among people who inject drugs, females and Aboriginal people and where targeted, innovative health and harm reduction responses are delivered, results generally follow.

According to 2011 national HIV estimates, an estimated  14% of new infections were attributed to injection drug use compared to an estimated 17% of new infection in 2008.*

In Vancouver itself, initiatives across the board have given us all a welcome insight into just what targeted, user friendly and progressive health interventions can do. The project STOP (The Seek and Treat for Optimal Prevention of HIV/AIDS Project) was a three-year pilot funded by the Ministry of Health and ending in March 2013. This fascinating endeavour would  ultimately transform the HIV system of care in the city through a variety of initiatives and activities we now know as imperative for change, such as community engagement with people living with HIV, evidence review, consultations with both service and healthcare providers, the development of population-specific reports, constant assessment of the current state of the HIV system of care, policy change, and the funding, monitoring and evaluation of over 40 pilot activities. Phew! A terrific document was recently published which I urge anyone interested in progressive health interventions for this community, to read this (Click Here).

Toronto user activists, still innovating and agitating for their community.

Across the other side of Canada in Toronto, we have the same level of innovative peer initiatives and activism behind many of the most progressive  community approaches to the drug issue. Raffi Balian, a founder member of Toronto’s  exceptional harm reduction service CounterFIT,  told me “The best and most innovative harm reduction initiatives are taking place in cities where people who use drugs are represented by strong unions; such as VANDU in Vancouver, and Brugerforeningen in Copenhagen.  In Toronto” he continued “we have been blessed because we were the first city to distribute crack stems.  A lot of the push came through the work of the Illegal Drug Users Union of Toronto in 2000, followed by the Safer Crack Use Coalition of Toronto (SCUC, 2001-2011).  In Toronto, service users can get as many as 200-300 stems without questions asked.” Upon being asked about the popularity of Vancouver’s crack pipe vending machine, Raffi was quick to enthuse  that the distribution of crack stems through vending machines, “is a brilliant idea and something that we will surely import here [Toronto].  It will take some time and effort, but I’m sure we will learn from VANDU’s efforts and will make it a reality in Toronto – just as we are doing with supervised injection sites. “

Recent moves to copy Vancouver’s famous safer drug consumption room INSITE – (sometimes known as a supervised injection centre or clinic) has been underway, and a feasibility study on injection rooms was actually requested by the City of Toronto in 2008 (and later expanded to include Ottawa). The study was then undertaken by researchers at the University of Toronto and staff at St. Michael’s Hospital,  after watching the developments at INSITE.

The results of the study were released in April 2012 and it advised Ottawa to introduce two “safe consumption” sites and Toronto to open three sites. While they didn’t recommend specific locations, they did suggest more than one centralized location, which is what Vancouver has with its Insite program. Around the same time a Public Health initiated study emerged recommending Montreal also open up to four safe drug consumption rooms, openly referring to the benefits such sites have repeatedly shown in reducing the number of overdose deaths, assisting people to make positive changes in their lives and reducing the drug paraphernalia found on the streets and in the parks.

INSITE – North America’s first drug consumption room in Vancouver

Although conservatives in Toronto raced to  dampen spirits with their usual confused concerns about the recommendations, the brilliant partnership working recently undertaken by drug user activists like those at VANDU, who worked long and hard with various  groups, advocates, researchers, health professionals, lawyers and others to fight for the special exemption to Canada’s Federal Drug Laws which enabled INSITE to remain open for good, (an exemption which now finally stands) today means that cities and provinces like Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, can also fight for a similar exemption -and should.

Yet before we say goodnight to our peers in Vancouver (and across Canada) may we just wish our friends luck as they embark on their latest Crack Pipe Vending Machine initiative and hope that other countries may soon follow their courageous lead. Well done in using another tool in the fight to prevent HIV and Hep C, in fostering rights and responsibilities for people who use drugs, and forwarding the adage that judgements and moralising will never help the drugs debate, only humanity, intelligent policies and community partnerships involving the drug using community -will provide us all with the solutions we require now and for the future. G ‘Night friends.

Toronto Public Health

Pic: Another recent initiative that drug using peers have been trained up in, in Toronto -using the anti overdose drug Naloxone, to be administered to an opiate user at the time of an overdose to essentially restart breathing again.

*2011 Estimates of HIV prevalence and incidence in Canada, published by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)

The Crack Pipe Vending Machine -A Vice Article.

“Crack pipes: 25 Cents,” reads the sign on a shiny vending machine, painted in bright polka dots. Decades ago, this device sold sandwiches. Now, when you put in your quarter and punch in a number, there is a click, a pause, and a little whirr. Then the spiral rotates until a crack pipe—packaged in a cardboard tube to avoid shattering—drops into a tray. Then you reach through the flap and retrieve your new stem.

According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, Hepatitis C and HIV can be spread through sharing crack pipes. The intense heat and repeated usage that comes with crack addiction can quickly wear pipes down to jagged nubs. Users are always in need of fresh supplies. Like distributing clean needles, making crack pipes available is just good public health policy, as users don’t have to resort to risky activities to come up with the cash to buy one on the street.

The crack pipe vending machine was the dream of Mark Townsend and Mariner Janes, of the Portland Hotel Society (PHS), a non-profit that provides services to persons with mental health and addiction issues. There are currently two machines and they’ve been in place for six months.  Each holds 200 pipes and needs refilling a couple times each week.

One of the machines is located at PHS’s bustling Drug Users Resource Centre. As I arrive there with Mariner, people greet each other as a writing workshop wraps up, while others queue up for lunch. I ask if anyone wants to talk to me about the vending machine that stood in the corner.

Joe looks at me like I’m an idiot, then smiles, and adds: “It’s a vending machine, what else do you need to know?” He says he uses it all the time and that “a quarter is way better than what’d you have to pay on the street.” A bit of a debate kicks off about how to improve the machines e.g. including other crack related supplies: lighters, push sticks, etc.

A woman named DJ chimes in. She uses the machine and tells her friends about it. She says she’d like to see more pipe vending machines around the Downtown Eastside. “But bolt them down… People go: ‘Hey, pipes!’ And shake it to get them to drop out for free.” Mariner nods his head, all too aware of the shaken machine dilemma.

Mariner hopes that distributing pipes will one day be as accepted a practice as handing out needles to IV drug users has become. He says, “the stigma around crack use is much higher than, say, heroin or any other drug. There’s a particular quality of panic.” And he worries about the possible sensationalism that the vending machines might attract from more conservative commentators.

But community support for handing out safe crack smoking supplies is growing. Three years ago, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority began a pipe distribution pilot program. The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users started even before that. Vancouver Police have come round, giving the nod to some harm reduction initiatives, even directing users to the safe injection site and other programs.

“Aiyanas Ormond of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users told me the vending machines are “a good intervention. Access to a pipe can make the difference for people having a safe practice.” Citing research from the Safer Crack Use, Outreach, Research and Education (SCORE) project, he noted that significant harm reduction comes from distributing pipes to users in the sex trade. They won’t have to work potentially unsafe dates just to pay for the pipe itself.”

Mariner spends his days behind the wheel of PHS’s needle exchange van, doing outreach and distributing clean needles and pipes around Vancouver. There is a neighbourly, comradely feeling between him and the people who use the vending machines, or sidle up to the his van whose purpose is announced in giant letters on the side panel of the vehicle.

Sometimes, a client will ask for a more subtle approach, so as not to announce to the entire neighbourhood what’s going on. Mariner will pull into an alley, or even use a less obvious vehicle. And if a more anonymous interaction is what the user wants, all they need is a quarter. That’s his philosophy—meet people on their own terms, and provide services as a peer, not an authority.

It’s not by chance the vending machine has a happy—rather than official—design; as its meant to contrast the typically cold, heavily secured, and clinical facilities for addicts. The vending machine has an aesthetic that exudes care for the people who will use it. Mariner says “part of the design that we chose is to provide a sense of respect and dignity to the user, who is pretty much stigmatized and reviled everywhere else in the city.”

The look and feel says: I am a machine that dispenses a basic health care supply to the community, not a judgement or moral lecture.

This article was authored by: Garth Mullins ; for VICE and has been copied fully from the VICE.com website.

Feb 7 2014

Norway’s’ Drug Users’ Inject Some Common Sense into Parliament!

Norway’s Drug User’s Day has been arranged every year on November 18 but this year it seemed quite special. Arranged by Arild Knutsen and his companions in The Association for Humane Drug Policies to raise awareness about the issues facing people who use drugs in Norway, this year would see a contingent of passionate drug user activists face their country’s politicians across the table in Parliament – offering opinions and answering questions – all upon invitation by the current Labour Government.

The film shows how drug users in Norway effectively banded together to ask their government to implement heroin prescribing for many of its country’s  10,000  users.

Fully subtitled, the film follows a large group of Norway’s drug users as they put their thoughts and views across to their country’s politicians in an articulate, direct and heartfelt way way, asking simply for the considered implementation of more progressive drug policies that would permit many  the chance to live a more dignified life; for is that not their right like any other?

They ask why, when the results from heroin prescribing in neighboring Denmark is so encouraging as to now be expanded, can’t Norway consider a heroin (diamorphine) trial or programme? Why, when more and more European countries continue to collate positive and encouraging data on the outcomes from heroin prescribing clinics does Norway continue to hold back a tool that could provide so many heroin users with stability, dignity, and well being?

Quoted here, Arild Knutsen  Norway’s Association for Humane Drug Policies (fabulous name!) gives a short introduction to their film (edited)…”There’s around 10,000 injecting drug users in Norway and we want more harm reduction measures for them. Stop the criminalization of drug users! We also want the politicians to try implementing heroin assisted rehabilitation, like Denmark, The Netherlands and Switzerland (among others) have successfully done.”

He continues to describe the film…”Drug users are rallying to be treated with dignity. The group is invited in to The Parliament. This year by The Labour Party. There, drug users’ show the short movie: “Magnus, a Spring Day” which is heroin user Magnus Lilleberg documenting his life, through Munin Films.  Magnus, an Academy Award winner and heroin user, screened his short documentary for politicians in the Norwegian Parliament. Like many others, he tells how Methadone and Subutex haven’t worked for him and he asks the politicians to implement heroin assisted treatment.”

“Then Winnie Jørgensen (Drug User Union, Denmark) appears on a Skype Feed, answering questions about her life now that she gets heroin legally in Copenhagen.”

Amongst others in this film were: Geir Hjelmerud, Torstein Bjordal, Line Huldra Pedersen and Arild Knutsen from The Association for Humane Drug Policies. http://www.fhn.no

facebook.com/pages/Foreningen-for-human-­narkotikapolitikk

Ronnie Bjørnestad from proLAR and Borge Andersen are also profiled as fighting for drug users rights.
A film by Chistoffer Næss and Per Kristian Lomsdalen, Munin Film.

Australia’s hidden gem: A Tradition of Exceptional Drug User Orgs

Terrific examples of Drug User Run Organisations

Here is something you will rarely hear about emanating from Australia, or mooted by its politicians. Yet it is worth shouting about -and worth emulating — and demanding more recognition for its many excellent years of work outside the drugs field! In Australia, the user run, federally funded AIVL (Australian Injecting & Illicit drug users League) is an incredible, national organisation that is at the centre of the some of the best harm reduction initiatives in OZ and in the world.  Extremely well versed in drug policy and politics, AIVL  and its team of extremely able people who use/d drugs (many at the top are women!) have been tireless in their innovation, research and developments to help empower the drug using community in ways to look after themselves, each other and their communities. The publish a National user magazine called Junkmail (like our BP blog,by coincidence -(we called it Junkmail after BP’s letters page although Junkmail has been the Aussie national mag for many years)). Many states like NSW, Queensland and Victoria also have their own excellent magazines by and for users – with NSW probably having the longest running user mag in the world in Users Voice by NUAA.

Positioned as the national drug user organsiation, AIVL members stretch across Australia, and in each state there is another State ‘user run’ organisation, which has just as much oomph, savvy, and articulateness as their ‘mothership’ AIVL. Organisations like QuIVAA (Queensland Intravenous AIDS assoc) which aims to “represent the diversity of interests of injectors and illicit drug users, through systemic advocacy aimed at addressing issues affecting users in Queensland” (Fantastic!) -along with other groups in what can sometimes really seem like a police state -Northern territory for example, or where in Western Australia they lock up more indiginous folk per head of population than anywhere in the world, targeting plenty of drug users and throwing them in the lock up in the process, over and over again…Shameful.

But you really can count on the user activists in OZ to be fighting the good fight, and if you are ever searching for good quality info on harm reduction and user rights in English – here is a good place to start. BP will be adding more reviews about user orgs as we go. (Sweden next)

AIVL gives you the list of contacts for all states in Australia – great orgs to seek out should you ever be travelling there and need advice or help with scripts, legal issues, the low down on the local scene etc.

AIVL, is Australia’s national org - (click here) but here is a list of Australia’s State Organisations run by and for people who use drugs.

Canberra - CAHMA  (Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimisation and Advocay)

QueenslandQUIVAA   (Queensland Intravenous AIDS Assoc) and

NSW - NUAA (NSW Users AIDS Assoc)

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