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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.
Hi again, For all you activists out there, check out this really terrific piece of work from some really interesting collaborators – and all their materials are available for others to use. Really useful stuff on how to explain the issues affecting people with multiple needs so that politicians and policymakers can understand the issues and the people better and thus, should be more able and willing to really listen.
Voices from the Frontline is an “exciting new project to bring the voices of people with multiple needs and those who support them to the heart of the policy debate.” Click here for more info. I love their thinking! Opportunity Nottingham exist to help people fighting at least three of the following: Reoffending, substance misuse, homelessness and mental ill health. “In achieving our primary goal of helping people we are also going to change the way the existing system of support works.” Bloody fantastic! I love this new way people are starting to think regarding issues of homelessness and incarceration, mental health problems and drug use etc; we have developed certain tools of empowerment -now we need to cross that divide, find out how we can make politicians really, but really understand our issues. Places where we can find the common ground, the language; As they say in the notes of what came out of their collaboration, “We need to move away from defensive practice. Services can help people raise their voice, but they’re not really listening if they’re only defending their own position”. So true, so true. Visit these sites my friends, for some really useful tips.
Bye for now – and thanks to the people working so hard to develop these amazing organisations and work towards changing the minds of some of the stubbonist in society – the politicians and policymakers!!
Here is the piece below…
How to build support: frontline tips for influencing politicians and policymakers
Last Wednesday, a number of participants in Voices from the Frontline traveled to the Multiple Needs Summit in London. Over the last few months, all of them have been involved in a conversation about what the next government should do to improve support for people with multiple needs.
A big part of this conversation has been about how to explain the issues affecting them so that politicians and policymakers can understand and will listen. For that reason, we held a joint workshop with Opportunity Nottingham (an organisation improving services for people with complex needs in the city) to explore this.
One thing was clear: there’s a huge amount of knowledge out there about how to put the case across. Here are some of the best tips that people had.
Get the right people in the room, and you’ll get the right answers. Go into a room feeling confident. Get people to listen to what you say (even if they roll their eyes.)
Bring people together and get them to talk about a real case study. Then they’ll realise that languages are different, and there are other worlds they very rarely think about.
Beware of ‘innovation fatigue’. For instance, someone explaining Fulfilling Lives (a major programme to help local areas improve how they work with complex needs) met with people saying “you’re just another person coming to my meetings – we’ll never see you again”.
Sometimes the bad news and bad stereotypes that exist can make it really difficult. It can help to capitalise on them, though. “If I don’t address those stereotypes, we haven’t had a conversation.”
The higher people are up, the less they know about what’s happening down below. Build relationships based on helping them see what’s happening. How do you bring things that don’t work to their attention?
We need to move away from defensive practice. Services can help people raise their voice, but they’re not really listening if they’re only defending their own position.
Be a critical friend. Or, as one person put it, “don’t throw a strop.”
Finally, don’t assume a divide between policy people and lived experience. There can be more overlap in their knowledge and interests than we sometimes assume.
If you want to think about how your own organisation could do more to influence decision-makers, Opportunity Nottingham have produced a brilliant handout summarising some of the things they’ve learned. Feel free to share it with others who you think might find it helpful.
Making Every Adult Matter
Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) is a coalition of four national charities – Clinks, DrugScope, Homeless Link and Mind – formed to influence policy and services for adults facing multiple needs and exclusions. Together the charities represent over 1600 frontline organisations working in the criminal justice, drug and alcohol treatment, homelessness and mental health sectors.
This was actually quoted straight out of the UK Labour Party Manifesto this week, the only mention of drugs in the whole thing, mind you…very depressing. It sounds like a last minute, late at night before the final draft of the manifesto is due in to head office… “Oh fuck, we forgot to put something about drugs -shit, ummm, lemme just…umm, Ill just put something like,..’We know drug addiction continues to be a major cause of crime'” person 2 says “Just don’t forget to mention legal highs being illegal!'”
“We know drug addiction continues to be a major cause of crime. We will ensure
drug treatment services focus on the root causes of addiction, with proper
integration between health, police and local authorities in the commissioning of
treatment. And we will ban the sale and distribution of dangerous psychoactive
Hi guys, now you know we are always the first to understand that things are complicated and never just black and white and that a junkies relationship with their doctor/s is something pretty unique (we could all write a book right?) and we are not saying we want all prescribing doctors arrested – that is not the point here, and its a very long way from it.
But just like when you scratch at the ugly scab that is the war on drugs and you find governments’ lying, scheming for their own economic ends, even wheeling and dealing in the very drugs they lock thousands of their citizens up for..and you scratch deeper still and you see the roots of these global drug laws rooted in fear and racism, xenophobia and cultural ignorance, economies and GDP’s, total monopolies by companies and the ever larger monolithic pharmaceutical industrys’ that orchestrate and lobby for the very laws they securely tie up ever tighter still, seeking global domination and a pill for everything we could never even imagine we needed one for….- there is certainly no concern for our youth or environment, – …..Well, I thought you might like to read this article that gives some background into the explosion in Oxycontin in the USA today. How big pharma is raking it in, how the doctors are earning billions as well, how USA overdose rates continue to rise and rise year on year, how prisons keep increasing their numbers of paid lobbyists at Capitol Hill to make sure that, although violent crime is, and has gone down (yes that’s right) in the USA for many years now, more and more laws keep getting introduced to ensnare the illegal immigrant, the petty criminal etc, so society can pay for these ‘Titan prisons’ and maintain the jobs within them, in the cities that the bureaucrats would flourish because of these disgusting, concrete jungles of inhumanity..
But let’s just get a glimpse of how big pharma do things – or rather – how little pharma can grow into HUGE pharma, courtesy of the American taxpayer, and another drug dependent generation – paying the ‘Right Man’ this time, not the junkie down the street….
PS – Remember, we don’t always dig the journo’s language when describing people who use drugs, but we will overlook that somewhat for the sake of the piece. Always write in to the editor to challenge their language if you see or feel that oit is inaccurate, sweeping, or causes offence.
(The link to complete article above and at the end of this text – thanks in advance to Mike Mariani – Here is an extract)
The state of Kentucky may finally get its deliverance. After more than seven years of battling the evasive legal tactics of Purdue Pharma, 2015 may be the year that Kentucky and its attorney general, Jack Conway, are able to move forward with a civil lawsuit alleging that the drug maker misled doctors and patients about their blockbuster pain pill OxyContin, leading to a vicious addiction epidemic across large swaths of the state.
On December 12, 1995, the Food and Drug Administration approved the opioid analgesic OxyContin. It hit the market in 1996. In its first year, OxyContin accounted for $45 million in sales for its manufacturer, Stamford, Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma. By 2000 that number would balloon to $1.1 billion, an increase of well over 2,000 percent in a span of just four years. Ten years later, the profits would inflate still further, to $3.1 billion. By then the potent opioid accounted for about 30 percent of the painkiller market. What’s more, Purdue Pharma’s patent for the original OxyContin formula didn’t expire until 2013. This meant that a single private, family owned pharmaceutical company with non-descript headquarters in the Northeast controlled nearly a third of the entire United States market for pain pills.
OxyContin’s ball-of-lightning emergence in the health care marketplace was close to unprecedented for a new painkiller in an age where synthetic opiates like Vicodin, Percocet, and Fentanyl had already been competing for decades in doctors’ offices and pharmacies for their piece of the market share of pain-relieving drugs. In retrospect, it almost didn’t make sense. Why was OxyContin so much more popular? Had it been approved for a wider range of ailments than its opioid cousins? Did doctors prefer prescribing it to their patients?
Because there was simply so much OxyContin available for over a decade, it trickled down from pharmacies and hospitals and became a street drug, coveted by teens and fiends and sold by dealers at a premium
During its rise in popularity, there was a suspicious undercurrent to the drug’s spectrum of approved uses and Purdue Pharma’s relationship to the physicians that were suddenly privileging OxyContin over other meds to combat everything from back pain to arthritis to post-operative discomfort. It would take years to discover that there was much more to the story than the benign introduction of a new, highly effective painkiller.
In 1952, brothers Arthur, Raymond, and Mortimer Sackler purchased Purdue Pharma, then called Purdue Frederick Co. All three men were psychiatrists by trade, working at a mental facility in Queens in the 1940s.
The eldest brother, Arthur, was a brilliant polymath, contributing not only to psychiatric research but also thriving in the fledgling field of pharmaceutical advertising. It was here that he would leave his greatest mark. As a member of William Douglas McAdams, a small New York-based advertising firm, Sackler expanded the possibilities of medical advertising by promoting products in medical journals and experimenting with television and radio marketing. Perhaps his greatest achievement, detailed in his biography in the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame, was finding enough different uses for Valium to turn it into the first drug to hit $100 million in revenue.
The Medical Advertising Hall of Fame website’s euphemistic argot for this accomplishment states that Sackler’s experience in the fields of psychiatry and experimental medicine “enabled him to position different indications for Roche’s Librium and Valium.”
Sackler was also among the first medical advertisers to foster relationships with doctors in the hopes of earning extra points for his company’s drugs, according to a 2011 exposé in Fortune. Such backscratching in the hopes of reciprocity is now the model for the whole drug marketing industry. Arthur Sackler’s pioneering methods would be cultivated by his younger brothers Raymond and Mortimer in the decades to come, as they grew their small pharmaceutical firm.
Starting in 1996, Purdue Pharma expanded its sales department to coincide with the debut of its new drug. According to an article published in The American Journal of Public Health, “The Promotion and Marketing of OxyContin: Commercial Triumph, Public Health Tragedy,” Purdue increased its number of sales representatives from 318 in 1996 to 671 in 2000. By 2001, when OxyContin was hitting its stride, these sales reps received annual bonuses averaging over $70,000, with some bonuses nearing a quarter of a million dollars. In that year Purdue Pharma spent $200 million marketing its golden goose. Pouring money into marketing is not uncommon for Big Pharma, but proportionate to the size of the company, Purdue’s OxyContin push was substantial.
Boots on the ground was not the only stratagem employed by Purdue to increase sales for OxyContin. Long before the rise of big data, Purdue was compiling profiles of doctors and their prescribing habits into databases. These databases then organized the information based on location to indicate the spectrum of prescribing patterns in a given state or county. The idea was to pinpoint the doctors prescribing the most pain medication and target them for the company’s marketing onslaught.
That the databases couldn’t distinguish between doctors who were prescribing more pain meds because they were seeing more patients with chronic pain or were simply looser with their signatures didn’t matter to Purdue. The Los Angeles Times reported that by 2002 Purdue Pharma had identified hundreds of doctors who were prescribing OxyContin recklessly, yet they did little about it. The same article notes that it wasn’t until June of 2013, at a drug dependency conference in San Diego, that the database was ever even discussed in public.
purdue_reformulated_oxy_Pic – crushed by a mortar n pestle: reformulated to deter injecting…
Combining the physician database with its expanded marketing, it would become one of Purdue’s preeminent missions to make primary care doctors less judicious when it came to handing out OxyContin prescriptions.
Beginning around 1980, one of the more significant trends in pain pharmacology was the increased use of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain. Like other pharmaceutical companies, Purdue likely sought to capitalize on the abundant financial opportunities of this trend. The logic was simple: While the number of cancer patients was not likely to increase drastically from one year to the next, if a company could expand the indications for use of a particular drug, then it could boost sales exponentially without any real change in the country’s health demography.
Id like to discuss a campaign involving many members of the drug using community across the world. As far as campaigns go, this one should be a done deal. In fact it should of been snapped up as a central component in all our national and community drugs strategies years ago. The benefits and results to be reaped from rolling out similar campaigns is nothing less than saving life itself and the prevention of repeated tragedy, trauma, gut-wrenching grief and endless pain and loss. What is the campaign? To get Naloxone, the drug that instantly brings a fully overdosed and dying person back to life in seconds, into the hands of every single heroin user and ideally, into the hands of their family and partners.
The reasons to implement and progress this campaigns’ agenda are, at first glance so crystal clear, so straightforward, so blindingly obvious that the average person could be forgiven for asking, “Just what is taking so long? – We need to empower people to save lives, naloxone works, its cheap and simple to use, so let’s do this!”
But, after we remove the blindingly obvious common sense and our societies desperate need to rollout these programmes in the face of rising overdose figures, we must question why we still have unacceptable dithering by authorities and a worrying lack of will to progress the agenda.
It must be considered that such delays carry the familiar hallmarks of the common ‘junkie stain’ or rather, the agenda that is stained or dismantled or even left to rot, simply through its association with drug users. However, this particular campaign, which has come in all sorts of shapes and guises, is gaining traction in areas all over the world and recently, finally, here in the UK too. It has the fangs of drug user activists in it all over the place, with programmes that are getting naloxone into the trained hands of policemen and women, family members and partners, pushing forward the idea of Naloxone as a free item or a purchase from a pharmacy by people, even bringing a used one back to get a new one etc.
There is bound to be something you can do in your own community to help push this agenda forward and to get Naloxone into the trained hands of at least every single heroin user in your neck of the woods, in the rollout towards Naloxone being in every hand, in every city across the world.
What do we do with a medicine that prevents certain death for people with a particular condition—and is safe, cheap, and easy to administer?
Immediately make it accessible to those who can administer it when such a life-or-death situation arises.
Make it available to no one except doctors and emergency room workers.
Endlessly debate the particulars of how and when it should be widely introduced.
If you picked number one, that would seem to be a reasonable choice. Unfortunately, it would also be incorrect. With few exceptions, answers two or three apply in the vast majority of the world when it comes to the medicine naloxone.
Overdose remains a leading cause of death among people who use drugs, particularly those who inject. Increasing the availability and accessibility of naloxone would reduce these deaths overnight.
Naloxone is an effective opioid antagonist used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose. On a global scale, however, exactly how and where naloxone is used remains unclear. International Doctors for Healthier Drug Policies (IDHDP) is seeking to learn why this is and what can be done to change it.
Some form of community-based distribution programs for naloxone exist in over a dozen countries. But the quality of data pertaining to how naloxone is used is highly variable. Enhancing our knowledge about the use of naloxone will help us to better reap its benefits.
What we do know is that the availability of naloxone is growing in several countries. Scotland implemented a national program in 2010, and outcomes there have demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing drug overdose deaths. In China, it is available in an increasing number of hospitals. Canada and Estonia have pioneered programs on take-home naloxone.
And in the United States, policymakers called for greater availability and accessibility of naloxone after opioid overdose deaths more than tripled between 2000 and 2010. In some states, distribution expanded from emergency rooms, paramedic services, and needle-exchange programs to police stations. In Quincy, Massachusetts, all police began carrying naloxone [PDF] in 2010, leading to a 70 percent decrease in overdose deaths.
The role of naloxone in addressing opioid overdose was recognized for the first time in a high-level international resolution in March 2012. Members at the UN’s 55th commission on Narcotic Drugs unanimously endorsed a resolution promoting evidence-based strategies to address opioid overdose. Recently, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) published a very useful literature review of the effectiveness of take-home naloxone.
To build on these gains, we need more data. IDHDP wants to find more out about the availability and accessibility of this life-saving intervention. To that end, we’ve created the Global Naloxone Survey, an attempt to compile information about where naloxone is available, who can use it, and where it can be accessed with or without a prescription.
We then will analyze the results with the short-term goal of obtaining as much information as possible on how widely and readily available naloxone is. Subsequently, we intend to work to maximize both the availability and the accessibility of naloxone, particularly to those who are most likely to be present where and when an opioid overdose takes place.
This talk on Naloxone was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently at one of the TED Conferences. In 2011, fatal drug overdoses in the UK (3,338) exceeded the number of road accident deaths (1,960). These deaths are preventable. Jamie Bridge talks here about how rethinking both product design and service design have the potential to save lives in the administration of overdose medication. Naloxone was developed in the 1960s to counter the effects of heroin overdose. It’s a staple part of ambulance crew kits, but those who need it face barriers to the drug at the point at which it could save their lives. Recently, there has been a shift in focus and design to ensure that naloxone is available to those likeliest to witness an overdose – drug users, their families and friends. The evidence shows that naloxone works, and that drug users can be empowered to save the lives of their friends.
Jamie Bridge is a passionate advocate for drug services and drug policy reform in order to protect the rights, health and well-being of vulnerable people around the world.
* Naloxone is the generic term, it is also known by its brand name which is Narcan.
Wow, great question huh? And one that Max Daly from VICE Magazine has just answered in its January 13th Edition. I was really pleased to see an articulation of how I have been feeling about set ups like Silk Road and the Dark Web as well as the hype around NPS’s – New Psychoactive Substances, or research chemicals to you and me.
I couldn’t help shake the feeling that many of these new research chemicals sound like (and feel like) a bad day in your drugged out teenage bedroom. Chemicals that are – well, just too chemically, with spiky, wired kind of edges, insomnia rather than stimulation, and a strange collection of side effects like twitches, memory loss, anxiety or nausea or even seizures, arrhythmias, panic attacks and collapsing/black outs. You’re sensing the picture. You’ve probably had experience of the ‘almost’ drugs; ephedrine trying to be amphetamine, (no good) pheniramine trying to pose as LSD (a trip for sure but…) The old school big sellers are out there as big sellers for a reason.They have risen above the throng. Surely we would know by now if these new drugs were consistently more like diamonds than mud to experience? But I fear we do know, for the most part. Most of the newbies, 98% of them, aren’t really very pleasant. Now of course there has been fatalities, but what do we expect when we really dont know shit about where these chemicals are coming from, the lab conditions, the chemists making it up, let alone whats REALLY in a particular substance.
15 minutes of Fame, NPS Style
A look on YouTube into NPS /research chemicals/bath salts and overdoses, and you get our wonderful society out there filming their buddy’s or a strangers weird drug overdose. This was when I saw some very disturbing but similar overdose reactions of a type Id never seen before from any other drug. These weren’t seizures of any kind currently understood, they were some kind of altered state where the person (and their were many sharing the same kind of symptoms) was unable to master any lower limb movements -in other words their arms and legs were completely all over the place and they were often unable to walk at all. Not only that, but movement came from a kind of seal like or fish like, flapping, rolling, careering along the pavement. Vocal sounds became an awful guttural kind of noise or a choked up screaming. apparently something does actually happen to the vocal chords so the person cannot use it for normal communication. There has also been videos of police getting out taser and repeatedly, and I mean REPEATEDLY, tasering a person 2,3,4 even 5 times and the person is still able to excitedly respond or get up and still freak out etc. Body temperature supposedly heats up so clothes come off, which again gets all the home grown film makers out, filming another persons terrifying psychosis of some sort for all their workmates and neighbours to see.
(Note: This is a very disturbing video (think Ill remove it afterwards) of what appears to be the kind of ‘bathsalts’ type of overdose -NOT Krokodil as the heading describes. There are many of chemicals possibly derived from the cathinones that seem to be responsible for some of these responses, in particular MDVP which may be the culprit. People often use way over the tiny dose that is advised of 5-10mg. There are quite a lot of youtube videos like this where people are having some kind of episode but all show strikingly similar side effects, side effects that I for one, in over 30 years on the scene, have never seen before. It isn’t to be hyped, but there is something weird and a bit scary about the effects of some of these unknown new chemicals).
Click to KFX.org.uk, a really comprehensive website on all drugs but esp NPS, updated regularly.
So yeah, its scary but, to go back to the future of drugs and the Vice article, it was good to hear someone agreeing that the NPS’s wont really take off, that they will remain a teenagers fallback, or for the person that has not yet properly developed real drug taste. That only the good old troopers will remain the most used and the quality will; just get better as more and more people use the Dark Web and networks like Silk Road 3, to really flesh out a safe place to buy quality drugs and, yes ok, hellishly over inflated prices. But, if your anything like me and, dare I say, a drug connoisseur, you will be happy to pay an inflated fee if the drugs are going to be exactamundo – quality high, packaging clever, weight bang on. Here is a quote from the article:
” Yet the future will not be about the endless procession of legal highs. A smattering of new psychoactive substances (or NPS) will always be around, and to an extent always have been, but they have had their day in the sun. An interesting sideshow, they have served a purpose. Yes,mephedrone is here to stay and maybe 2C-B will hang around too, but now that the ecstasy and cocaine markets have righted themselves, with the purity of both drugs up considerably, the old school drugs are back. Clones of stimulants and other chemicals will still have an appeal to those who are skint, or are unable to get hold of decent drugs or who want to avoid getting caught out in piss tests, but the imminent clampdown on head shops will stifle supply to teenagers and the homeless – two of the keenest buyers of NPS products.
The online drug trade, however, will be blazing a trail into the next decade and beyond, whether the world’s police like it or not.”
Finally a Market to Dream About?
The Future of Drugs: Vice Magazine Issue 531: Written by Max Daly
Max Daly then relays his meeting with Mike Power, author of what looks to be a great read, called Drugs 2.0: The Web Revolution That’s Changing How the World Gets High. Max asks himabout how the online drug trade might fare over the next decade or two. “At the moment, the online trade in drugs is a minority sport, a good way of buying high quality drugs,” he told me. “Even now it’s tipping over from early adopters into the mainstream. It will get bigger, easier to use and more widespread. There will be more sites and more people using them because it is the perfect business model: anonymous, commission-based, peer-reviewed, postal drug dealing. Online dealing is not a replacement for trafficking cartels, it’s never going to work on that level, but if you’ve got a kilo of MDMA it’s the way to go.”
I would actually add to that, having just a bit of this and that, it can still be a way to go. Sharing in a solid community where a forum is tightly connected to the site itself, so people regularly post about who they bought off and what it was like, along with who to avoid like the plague, all overseen by the sites moderator ensuring there is no bullshit being allowed to fester or take off, its really effective. It has a terrific potential for the future to be a real by the people for the people, kind of drug market, one where quality triumphs! What, what, no I’m not dreaming! This could slowly start to formulate around us. Oh sure I think people will continue to invent chemicals to take, although it does seem like they’ve already exhausted the best feeling drugs from a few main families of drugs: cathinones / phenethylamines, and amphetamines and are already on the dregs of these. Surely there has to be another surprise like a synthetic ‘opioid’ family to discover??
In the meantime, it could well be as VICE, and Max state. That NPS’s will die a slow death or remain in relatively low numbers as adults go old school and teens grow out of it, and bans catch up and overdoses get publicised. Mephedrone and a few relatives are here to stay of course, and although I think Spice and the synthetic cannabinoids are a bit creepy, even scary, that will always attract some who think it’s a cheap and easy cannabis alternative (just buy real pot and avoid the brain damage!).
All those goodies to buy! The old silk road online shop. It seems the FBI busts only served to force the dodgier online set ups out of business and tightened up safety protocols for the remainders.
I saw the wonderful JP Grund so a recent presentation on NPS’s at a conference in Amsterdam and he talked about the 3 D printer and that we will, one day in the near future, have drug recipes that are made for our genetic makeup and they will be sent to you with the computer programme and I presume the associated chemicals, that you administer to your 3D printer and it makes you your own, personal drug of choice. Now how nice could that be friends?
the LSD-related compounds commonly known as ALD-52, AL-LAD, ETH-LAD, PRO-LAD and LSZ as Class A drugs,
the compounds captured by the extended definition of tryptamines, which now include compounds commonly known as AMT and 5-MeO-DALT, as Class A drugs.
The Misuse of Drugs (Designation) (Amendment) (No. 3) (England, Wales and Scotland) Order 2014 amends the Misuse of Drugs (Designation) Order 2001 to “designate” the synthetic opioid AH-7921, the LSD-related compounds and the compounds captured by the extended definition of tryptamines as controlled drugs to which section 7(4) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 applies, because they have no recognised medicinal or legitimate uses outside of research. This means that it is unlawful to possess, supply, produce, import or export these drugs except under a Home Office licence for research or “other special purpose”.
The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment No. 3) (England, Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2014 (“the 2014 Regulations”) amend the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (“the 2001 Regulations”) to add the synthetic opioid AH-7921, the named LSD-related compounds and the compounds captured by the extended definition of tryptamines to Schedule 1. The 2014 Regulations also reschedules 4-Hydroxy-n-butyric acid (GHB) from Schedule 4 to Schedule 2 to the 2001 Regulations. GHB is not being reclassified.
The codes for recording drug offences relating to these substances by the police and the courts for statistical purposes within the Home Office Recorded Crime and Ministry of Justice Court Appearance Database (CAD) – which includes cautions – are set out in Annex A. – see link above for full details.
Hi, I received a comment from Joe (hi Joe!) who said he was writing an aricle on why Britain needs a drug user union and could we help? Well, it happens to be good timing Joe, because it is a discussion on many peoples lips – how to unify and strength the voice of the drug user in the UK enabling it to become more effective addressing issues that routinely affect the lives of drug users. For England however, it is even more pertinent as we are currently adrift in what might be a diverse and eclectic drug user movement, but it is one without a unified voice, or indeed a mechanism to sift and reflect back through the real concerns of the drug using community at large. So what do we do? Well, we can start by answering Joe’s question. Do we need a drug user union in the UK? (Note: this is pitched at a newcomers look into the drug user union movement so does not go in depth into some of the issues that are bubbling away for the movement).
We do need a drug user union in the UK, just like they do in many other parts of the world. Whilst a trade union’s primary role is to represent their members on employment issues, a drug user union has often emerged in a country to focus on issues affecting drug users in treatment. And just like a workers union would fight for better pay and working conditions, a drug users union focuses at least half of their energy on ensuring drug users in treatment get treated fairly, humanely, and equally – like anyone else who is a consumer of a health service.
Historically and no different from many other countries, drug treatment in the UK has varied widely in its ability to reflect the needs of its client group and has often been modelled on extremely punitive, isolating and demoralising approaches to treating drug use. The most widely used approach has always been the ‘Carrot and Stick’ model, where users are rewarded with privileges for compliance. This often means permitting take home doses of methadone if users choose to ‘get with the programme’ and show it by presenting no positive urine samples. The Carrot.
The stick happens when users are punished punitively when they ‘fail’. This has varied from the inexplicable; a reduction in ones prescription (just when they are showing they perhaps need an increase) to the common; drink your methadone supervised -which can mean rather humiliatingly drinking it at the chemist in front of everybody (including your children’s friends parents). But anyone who fully understands drug dependence in all its complexity, will know that punishments make no hay when it comes to the decision, or the overwhelming need to use drugs. In fact punishments often simply isolate the person further and drive them deeper into their dependence/addiction. People become resentful, unable to confide in the people who are supposed to be supporting them, and simply lose the resources, the motivation and the knowledge about how to make the changes they wanted to when they started the programme.
Twenty years ago when ‘user involvement started in the UK, we were coming out of the dark ages in terms of drug treatment. Today, with a high degree of user involvement around the country, things have been much better for the average drug user in treatment. But success in the UK has been patchy to say the least, and todays political ideology that directs the funding wand has caused not only cut backs in drug treatment but has created a whole series of new problems, problems which are ripe for a drug user union to tackle.
The UK needs independent union/s for drug users simply because they must have an independent voice in their treatment which affects, like a work or a trade union, a huge part of ones daily life. Much of todays user involvement is now suffering from the left turn it took many years ago to follow the money (and sometimes the support as well, both are understandable to some degree) and get into bed with the same health authorities they needed to have clear heads about. This has not only influenced some of the decisions such groups have made, sometimes at the expense of their communities, but has now left them defenseless to big budget cuts in the health service, money which is no longer ring-fenced to protect drug treatment. Drug User Groups that have spent years working, often for no pay, sometimes doing or supporting much of the work of professionals, have, at the stroke of a pen, been vanquished. Thanks for all the work mate, but seeya later.
Perhaps if we had set up as unions, even to the extent where users who wanted to join could pay their dues with the knowledge that they were getting something for their money; positive change, we would have a strong lead and vision for the way we want drug treatment to go in this country, a direction which is centred around the needs of the client, not the government, and not the key-worker or consultant. The client who is, after all supporting a massive industry of jobs, careers and reputations.
But drug user unions have a much bigger part to play in civil society. Unions can offer educational, lifelong learning and training opportunities to their members, just like real unions.
But drug user unions have a much bigger part to play in civil society. Unions can offer educational, lifelong learning and training opportunities to their members, just like real unions. Historically, unions have not only negotiated for and championed better workplace rights with employers but for a better deal for working people in the wider world. Having battled to extend the right to vote, it was the unions that created a political party that working people could vote for – the Labour Party. It is perfectly possible, as is reflected in perhaps one of the world’s most brilliant Drug User Unions, The Swedish User Union, for drug users to become directly influential in a country’s national politics; becoming to Go To organisation on drug related issues: Nothing About Us Without Us – the slogan for the drug user movement.
So yes, the collected strength and political ability of the English user movement is perhaps at a bit of a crossroads, or on a cliff edge, or even a sinking boat. It has only to look to its brethren in Scotland and Ireland (north and south) to see shining examples of cohesive and effective partnership working and union values, forging better and more humane drug policies in various sectors like health, criminal justice, treatment etc. But the space is empty for a unified user voice in England, the seat is up, the pantry littered with almosts and nearlies. Yet the values of a drug user union are urgently needed today. For those drug users still struggling with substandard or punitive treatment, poor engagement opportunities, or one size fits all care, it is just as much-needed for the society we live in, the drug policies that desperately need our thoughts, creativity and input, the solutions to community drug issues that only we as drug users can really pinpoint and tackle effectively. But that’s not all. What about unions at work?
All the unpaid hours we do to better our communities as harm reduction and recovery workers, all the glass ceilings we encounter despite our enormous skill and ability. Indeed Canada has recently ensured its harm reduction workers have been able to come together under a union banner as the Harm Reduction Workers Union, a really marvellous idea that is also primed as a template for other countries to adopt. And while history tells us that England, indeed Britain, has always been a rather tribal country, with tribal interests and cultures that still affect the way shires and counties do things, it will be basic union values that are able to touch a common core through all that diversity, and hopefully, bring us home to a unified drug user movement. A movement that is solid and secure with our UK brethren, allied in defence of ever more humane drug policies for our societies. And a vision of innovative and responsive drug treatment that is driven forward by equally by ex/current drug users and a diverse orchestra of dedicated others forever fine tuning our treatment and information response. All leading our communities down the right road ahead, across the changing landscape of drug using Britain today. Erin O’Mara
Black Poppy and INPUD, are more than pleased to report on THRWU, the world’s first ever harm reduction workers’ union which went public on 11 November 2014. Members of INPUD have been involved in this campaign, with a major shout out going to Torontonian Raffi Balian – (a long time friend of both Black Poppy and member of INPUD since its beginnings). Raffi has been a serious mover and shaker on the East Side of Canada for about 20 years now, setting up CounterFIT, which has consistently brought us all innovative, user led and drug user centric projects while inspiring people from all over the world that there is a time to stop thinking and just do it! So it was no surprise to see Raffi, (the guy kneeling down with the green jacket on the left in the picture below) at it again, enthusing, organising, promoting and supporting his fellow junkies, workers, and of course the community.
Toronto Harm Reduction Workers Union -What are you waiting for -give your local union leader (IWW) a call and start talking!
The Toronto Harm Reduction Workers Union is a city-wide organization, representing over 50 employed, unemployed, and student workers. At the launch workers at two of the city’s largest harm reduction programs went public with their affiliation to the Union which is a part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The IWW is a fighting union for all workers that organizes workers regardless of skill or trade and it is member (not staff) run, with a long history of fighting for the most oppressed and marginalized workers in society
The majority of these workers have been hired for their lived experience of using drugs, incarceration and homelessness and are continuing to organize with the goal of unionizing all of the city’s harm reduction workers.
THRWU speak about the need to organise around many of the issues affecting the industry – of which many harm reduction workers who come from a drug using background, will know a lot about. THRWU point to some of the main areas on their website:
Discrepancies in wages, with workers doing similar work taking home vastly different pay.
People work for years without raises, and have limited to no access to benefits, vacation and sick days.
Management depends on social assistance to provide the basic benefits that workers need (such as emergency dental and drug benefits). This is especially detrimental for those of us hired because we live with HIV and/or Hep C, or use opiode substitution therapy.
Workers are discriminated against based on the lived experience they are hired for.
Many positions are extremely precarious, with grants and funding threatened by conservative and anti-science ideology, and austerity budgets that endanger public health.
These are very real issues affecting the daily lives of people who’s work is not just a job, but a ’cause’, a life, based on their lived experience and a way to put their heart and soul back into their communities, funneling years and years of privileged insight into their work, which has gone such a long way towards stemming the HIV epidemic in the drug injecting community. And damn right they deserve paid work or a raise along with everyone else! Damn right their should be the chance of promotion from volunteer to worker, to team leader to manager. Let’s all be clear here, harm reduction would not work saving the lives it does, reducing the harm it does, stemming the tide of infectious diseases that it does, without the world’s harm reduction workers and many of these are our peers. People who use drugs, used drugs, are on prescriptions etc. The majority of work is unsung, underpaid and under acknowledged for the real impact it has on the community.
So who are we talking about exactly? Well, let’s let THRWU speak for themselves!
“We are the workers that make harm reduction work. We are the kit makers, outreach workers, community workers, and coordinators that reduce the harms associated with bad drug laws, poverty and capitalism. As working class people, our communities have been hard hit by the War on Drugs, the epidemics of HIV, Hepatitis C and overdose deaths. We are organizing to better our working conditions and improve the services we provide. And we are organizing to fight for a society free of oppression and injustice.”
Below is THRWU’s mandate and definition of harm reduction:
“THRWU is an organization of Harm Reduction Workers who are united together in solidarity, to improve our working conditions and to strengthen equality in the workplace for the betterment of the workers and those who access the services. We are a union of employed and unemployed workers committed to harm reduction with a range of skills, education and lived experience. We have come together in our common concerns to form a non-hierarchical democratic labour union with a commitment to mutual aid, social justice and the principles of harm reduction.”
“Harm reduction is an evidence-based and practical approach to dealing with the harms associated with drug use…Harm reduction also aims to respond to harm experienced on a structural or societal level (such as stigma, discrimination and criminalization). This work should be grounded in the values of respect, non-judgment, and in the promotion of self-determination and self-empowerment for folks involved!
We recognize that many healthcare and social service providers endorse a ‘harm reduction framework’ in name only. Our union will prioritize those workers who are actively engaged in harm reduction work, as defined above!”
INPUD, the International Network of People who use Drugs are positive about the future as more drug users self organise. In a statement of support INPUD said, “In the context of the War on Drugs, in which our fellow workers are the casualties, an organizing campaign of this nature is exciting. The THRWU is setting itself up to be a powerful voice for harm reduction workers in the workplaces as well as in broader political struggles”. Last word to THRWU: “We need to organize ourselves to demand an improvement in wages and in workplace conditions. We love the work we do but we also know we need to be treated more equitably. There are many of us working in harm reduction and we can work in solidarity with each other to improve this.”
Boy oh boy, lets wish them luck with their new unionised labour force and their further organizing efforts!
How do I organize a Harm Reduction Workers Union in my city?
If you are interested in building a Harm Reduction Workers Union in your city, get in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org
Head of legal services at Release Kirstie Douse explains the state of illicit drug taking in the UK on Sky News Tonight and does a great job. Nice one Kirstie – RELEASE does it again – clear, concise, succinct, evidence based. We have to give praise and thanks to Niamh Eastwood who is the current boss woman at RELEASE and has brought the organisation on in leaps and bounds. BP attended RELEASE several times over the last month and has been blown away by the exceptional work, the terrific working relationships, the respect RELEASE continues to engender across not just the UK but the world, and our own gary sutton, who still heads up RELEASE’S excellent drugs helpline – possibly one of the last bastions in the UK where, drugs, law and human rights intersect directly across the lives and futures of people who use drugs. Thanks to all the team at RELEASE for some really exceptional work. Thank God you are on our side! If you can – please don’t forget to donate to RELEASE – I can tell you they work extremely hard for the issues that affect the drug using community and have done so since 1968 – possibly one of the longest running drug law and human rights charity’s in the world.
NOTE: If you have been busted for drugs – and you think that the statements the police are giving/guiding the jury with are incorrect – that your ounce of grass is indeed for personal use not for sale, that your new car was bought from your own money not drug money, that the 8 ball of crack and few bags of heroin is for your own personal habit and is not a sign of you being some drug king pin or runner for the ‘man’ – get your lawyer to ring RELEASE and ask for their very experienced ‘Drug Expert Witness’ to analyse the police reports and give the jury and judge an honest, considered and extremely experienced look at what the evidence really means. It could be the difference between being locked up for years or going home to your kids after court.
Don’t forget – call the RELEASE drugs helpline if you are having any issues, questions or problems with drug use, drug treatment, drug testing -regarding yourself or a loved one. BP’s Erin O’Mara is currently volunteering there every Thursday.
A small number of people write for BP so if your email is urgent PLEASE mark it as urgent and we will do our very best to reply as soon as possible. We work on junk time and as volunteers inbetween other drug user activism work - so the speed of replies can be a little unpredictable - but we always do our best. If you want to write or volunteer for the BP webzine - please do get in touch: In solidarity, BP x