International Remembrance Day, 21st July -For those who have died from the War on Drugs – which is a war on people!


This is a speech spoken at a Remembrance Day event in London yesterday. It gives a personal point of view looking at how the War on Drugs -which is a war on people in every part of the world that has been happening for almost 100 years! Here is just one persons story of being inside this insane maelstrom.

My Name is Anna

My name is Anna and I call myself a drug user activist.

I have been a drug injector for over 30 years and a drug user activist for more than half of that.

In that time – like many of us here today – I have seen a lot of things….

And, like many of us here – I have also had some extraordinary relationships, encounters and random chances with many, many people who used drugs.

People who, for the most part – were not dodgy or crazy – well maybe just a little –

Who were not dirty,  lying or cheating horrible people –

But mostly passionate, caring, sensitive and generous people. People who – yes they may have been pushed to the brink –marginalised and isolated by a society that had to criminalise before it cared – judged before it understood; people who should have received better protection from our drug policies – rather than annihilation…..

People who I have loved and cared about, like we all have –and this is why we are here on this very important day today.

As a drug user activist for many years now I have given speeches and presentations at lots of places all over the country –and while every presentation is different – but this one is special.

It is special because this is the one time I can honestly truly stand up and say – loud and proud – how grateful and how fortunate I am to have made friendships with some of the best people in the world – other drug users – fuck – other junkies! – wonderful, courageous people who have often battled huge odds to still be here – today – and many who are literally here today and in this audience.

People who have found each other, often initially through their enjoyment or pain, their that sharing of an illegal substance. You might say prohibition has brought many of us together.

But prohibition has also meant that –many of these very same people – these special, wild and crazy characters – are NOT here today.

Because they are DEAD. Those people –and we all knew someone – who died directly because our insane drug policies continue to make the same mistakes over and over again – day in and day out –while people like I have just mentioned – die!

Think about this: every minute of every day –someones brother or sister is crying out for methadone but cant get it because (like in Russia) they have an idea that it should be kept illegal to stop drug users indulging themselves.

That someones father is being bundled up in a rug in Guatemala and kidnapped by a quazy religious cult who have financially fleeced the relatives by selling a story that incarceration in a blacked out house – against a persons will is the only way to save someone from drugs.

And that – in the filipines a childs mother and father have been shot dead in the street by a vigilante public who cheer the bandits on and tie big signs round their dead necks calling them pushers.

While here in London someones best buddy overdoses alone in a half way hostel because they are using benzos on top of the shitty blackmarket heroin that available in an effort to drown out the misery of life criminalized after yet another prison sentence.

Prohibition is killing our community – over and over, to quickly to count the numbers –only through days like this do we have an opportunity to really reflect on who these policies are really affecting –in real time.

The anger is real – no doubt about that – it is why I became a drug user activist. But I just want to quickly tell you –being an angry activist didn’t happen overnight. It was an accumulation of several lightbulb moments that happened to me – that made me realise – OMG – I do not deserve shit treatment from people and services just because I use drugs and supposedly broke a few rules.

I used to think – well, what could I expect if I did the wrong thing. Jeezus, surely I couldn’t expect to be treated well? I was in the wrong, after all. I didn’t see then that societys label of junkie –and all its connotations – ran so deeply in people – that I was being judged and sentenced by their ignorance.

Ignorance that could literally put my life at risk.

Ill just tell you very quickly about 2 of those litebulb moments:

The first one happened after I had just been diagnosed HIV positive –it was in 1995 and things were different back then –but stigma is stigma and it is still rife today as we know –no matter what its shade or location.

So, 1995, and it was 6 weeks after I had been diagnosed –my first dr appoint. And I went with to this dr appoint –in fact I went with my mum –and I was met by a female dr who proceeded to  hammer me, in the most humiliating way, with a series of 100 questions about my drug use, whether I was sharing needles, did I have anal sex –all delivered with the most accusatory tone I was stunned into virtual silence! My mum –after she picked herself and me – metaphorically -off the floor –said ‘excuse me – I don’t appreciate you speaking to my daughter in that way’; and later, after we left and went for coffee, I realized –what she in fact was brimming with –was a judgement: I was guilty, I was a junky, I had brought this on myself. I was the non deserving.

And I realized in a flash: OMG – I had gone to this dr as an open book – as vulnerable as one can be – we both were – I felt like my life was in her hands –and that she didn’t want it. I wasn’t like everyone else – I really was ‘the other’ and this could literally affect my life now.

It was a lightbulb moment.

Later when a friend and I were bemoaning the fact that there were no drug users speaking on world aids day, considering how we had seen its impact on the injecting community; my friend Andrea, had just been telling me about her husband who had just died of aids. How incredibly courageous he was (in fact John mordant was one of several drug user activists in the world who formed the first front line of user activism back in early 1990s.- also started Mainliners) And that it really felt like there was nowhere for people like him to be welcomed, understood, appreciated –like there was for gay men at the time.

She said to me pointedly “ Because we have heroes too”.

And tears started to well up in my eyes because all of a sudden I thought about all the wonderful people I knew, some of whom were now dead –who never got the appreciation, the respect, the support even the funeral they should have got – just because they used an illegal substance.

But as I said – drug user activism helps me to channel my anger, and has helped me to fight back in constructive ways rather than remaining in a self destructive spiral of guilt, confusion, thwarted ambition, rage.

And days like today are an inspiration – to see all the wonderful people I deeply respect here today –and to celebrate the lives of those who –tragically – and for which there really are no words – are not here today –

Thank you all for coming today to remember those who lived life on the edge –in ways we all sometimes dream about doing but don’t dare –

We will keep remembering them all.

Dedicated to Raffi Ballian – a Canadian masterclass of an activist who died of an overdose this year.

Dealer’s Discuss

Articles from BP’s back catalogue….

Here’s a chat with a few of the people doing the biz, day in and day out, they haggle and hassle (and we cough up and complain)…But by and large, dealer’s are just like us, most are just trying to keep their own habits going without resorting to ‘other methods’. Can’t blame them. Dealer’s don’t sit out the front of schools tempting kiddies, they rarely want to sell to a newbie. In today’s world of prohibition and drug habits, dealing to keep your own head above water, is a way of managing day to day. It is the result of drug laws that leave all our drugs to the influences of the black-market. Some dealer’s are a nightmare, some violent, some a complete rip-off. BP says; if you are going to deal drugs -have compassion, take pride, do your best to give a clean product and treat your customers with respect. It shouldn’t have to get down and dirty. See our ‘Dealers Certificate’ and sign up to it. Let’s make the best of it and treat each other well; we are all struggling out there.

 

Martin (does heroin & crack):

“I wouldn’t call myself a dealer personally, and this very important to me; whether it’s the profiteering aspect or the pushy aspect, to me it makes a difference. I feel I am providing a service – most of my clients are middle class,  I see them twice a day, the same faces; My employers you could call business men or drug dealers, but again, its supply and demand. We don’t push drugs onto other people, we don’t go looking for new converts.

I guess I do it out of choice – it suits my lifestyle,  I’m paid a salary – I see the guy at the end of the day and get paid up. It doesn’t work on a commission basis like some setups. I use drugs myself so naturally it keeps my habit looked after. I look at it as a proper job, one has to be professional, it entails a hell of a lot from you and the law aspect is also on your mind. Yet sometimes one reaps the benefits and hits the highs, and meets some amazing people along the way. The myth of the user / dealer’s relationship is complex – discovering all the layers within each customer as you get to see them day after day in all manner of situations…It can be tough job.”

To see the rest of the article click here….

World -Take Note! The story of one country unafraid to take risks to better the lives of its citizens-despite overwhelming opposition and ridicule. So who’s laughing now?

 

health-logo

Switzerland, courageous, progressive, humane – junkies around the world thank you!

Dudes and Dudettes, around the globe; As I was just about to write an article for the British press on the demise of the much respected ‘British System’ and the diminishing role of the prescribing of legal, pharmaceutical heroin to opiate-dependent people, I came across this article. Published just last year it gives a brief but interesting look at Switzerland’s incredible journey as an innovator and leader in the field of drug treatment. I hope you may find this as interesting as I have.

Many of us will know something of the Swiss Story, but it is never more pertinent than today, to renew these very important discussions about heroin prescribing, standing up loud and proud and  showing off the very real successes this approach has decades on, across Europe today. We must take a leaf out of Swiss’s History book and, while fanning the flames of the decriminalization and regulation discourse, we can burn a clear and wide road ahead, devoid of the forest and the trees – out of our dangerously out of control illicit drugs market, and hopefully towards sowing some damn busting seeds at UNGASS 2016, in New York City. Once home to the archetypal junkie!!

Switzerland’s fascinating journey from the experimental Needle Park to the development of the most innovative, effective and publicly supported heroin prescribing clinics now available across the country and even in (2) prisons.

Friends, it is time we celebrated and thanked our Swiss comrades in arms -for their bravery in going it alone for so many years; their refusal to condemn junkies to the gutters and prisons of society, for standing so far out in the crowd in the search for humane and pragmatic solutions to the fallout from prohibition, and all at a time when all around was calling for blood; incarceration, isolation and discrimination.

A street heroin epidemic that was to sweep through Europe and the rest of the world during the 70’s and 80’s, while nations governments used tactics and policies that were brutal at worst -and misguided at best – psychiatrists and medical professionals began years of postulating and aggrandising their professions and their careers.

                                              ****************************************************************

PRESCRIPTION FOR SUCCESS?

Article by By Gabriele Ochsenbein

Article reprinted as it appeared on the online newspaper SWISSINFO.CH

At the beginning of the 1990s, pictures of the open drug scene at the so-called “Needle Park” in Zürich went around the world, leading to the introduction of legal heroin prescribing. Strongly criticized at first, it has since been hailed as an example.

The old Needle Park in Zurich, Switzerland; the experiment that led the way to one of the world's most successful drug policies -heroin prescribing.

The old Needle Park in Zurich, Switzerland; the experiment that paved the way towards one of the world’s most successful drug policies -heroin prescribing. Click the image to see more pictures of the era in Needle Park.

Doctor André Seidenberg, who has treated 3,500 patients suffering from addictions in his career, was one of the first to provide emergency help in Needle Park and to call for clean syringes to be given out to addicts. Police and the justice authorities tried to deal with the problem with repressive measures that failed to work. The crackdown even encouraged drug addiction and the drug trade, Seidenberg claims.

swissinfo.ch: Twenty years ago Switzerland became the first country to prescribe heroin to therapy-resistant addicts. Has it been a success story?

André Seidenberg: Yes, although you have to bear in mind that the heroin programme has been marginal and to my knowledge never reached more than 5% of the affected people. It is a kind of show project, a prestige project.

It is however a success because in Switzerland, the majority of people dependent on opioids are in treatment, mostly with methadone, and a small proportion, particularly those who respond poorly to therapy, with heroin. It would be preferable if the proportion of addicts in treatment could be increased. I wish we could have gone further with the medicalisation and legalisation of the market.

Needle Park in Zurich today -heroin use is very clearly on the decline

Needle Park in Zurich today,  heroin use is very clearly on the decline

swissinfo.ch: Would that have had an effect on the black market?

A.S.: Of course. The black market is a market that is encouraged by repressive measures and ultimately produces poor products that are harmful to people. I wish we could have a less hypocritical approach to drugs.

swissinfo.ch: Then you are in favour of a general legalisation of drugs?

A.S.: I am in favour of better market control. It is an international problem, because we still have a very active drug wars in many regions.

Appropriate control of the drug market is not a trivial matter either. One cannot for example just legalise cocaine and think that all problems will be swept away. It would have to be introduced very carefully.

swissinfo.ch: How is life different for a person who doesn’t have to seek out heroin in the back streets anymore but receives it regularly as a medicine?

A.S.: A person who receives their fix twice a day is in psychologically better condition, is more stable in every way. Of course there are side effects and even lasting impairments. Those who take this substance daily suffer from decreased libido, sleep problems or a limited capacity to experience emotional states in between euphoria and sadness.

People who take part in a heroin programme are also freed from the necessity to finance their existence through illegal activities. Delinquency, prostitution and social deviance of all kinds have decreased.

swissinfo.ch: So they can lead a normal life?

A.S.: The possibility of procuring drugs in this [legal] way makes a big difference, because in illegally procured drugs tend to be consumed in more dangerous ways. Most addicts are not in a position to always inject themselves carefully, which can lead to infections and infectious diseases. Overdoses also happen much more easily with drugs bought on the street.

When we are able to look after people medically, these risks are avoided to a larger extent. With controlled distribution people are able to lead a mostly normal life, although there are more people getting disability benefit among those taking part in the heroin programme, compared to the methadone programme.

swissinfo.ch: So from a medical point of view the focus is on limiting harm and stability rather than abstinence?

A.S.: The priority for doctors is to avoid serious harm to the body and death. Healing the soul comes, in medical terms, just after the body.

swissinfo.ch: Should abstinence not be the goal of a state drugs policy?

A.S.: That was the goal of politicians and society, and many doctors still nurture this illusion. But it’s a very dangerous strategy. Heroin addiction is a chronic illness. Only a small, shrinking minority of opioid addicts will become abstinent long-term. And most of them suffer during their abstinence.

With heroin – as opposed to alcohol – abstinence doesn’t improve well-being and health. The death rate is three to four times higher for abstinent patients, compared to those prescribed heroin or methadone. Repeated attempts to come off the drugs can trigger psychological difficulties, that can then lead to self-harm.

swissinfo.ch: Is heroin still an issue today?

A.S.: Thankfully we rarely see young people taking up heroin. Consumption has fallen massively. One per cent of those born in 1968, the Needle Park generation, became addicted and many of them died because of their addiction or are largely still dependent.

The average age of a heroin addict in Switzerland is now around 40. If we hadn’t stopped this development at the beginning of the 1990s, young people born in the following years would have been affected to the same extent. There are societies, for example the countries of the former Soviet Union or Iran, where a significant percentage of the population is dependent on opioids.

swissinfo.ch: You tried out various drugs, including heroin. Why didn’t you become addicted?

A.S.: Maybe I was just lucky. When I was young I tried out almost all kinds of drugs. I was able to satisfy my curiosity and maybe also learnt certain things that could be useful for my patients. I also got to know the danger of drugs: I lost many friends, even before my medical studies began.

swissinfo.ch: Do you have to have taken drugs to be a good drugs doctor?

A.S.: No, I would not recommend that. When dealing with problems that have to do with the psyche, it is definitely helpful to have an open mind. But you don’t have to try out everything for that, because that could be harmful and dangerous.
(Translated from German by Clare O’Dea), swissinfo.ch

Swiss drugs policy -A Timeline

  • Since 1991 Switzerland has implemented the so-called four pillar policy of prevention, therapy, damage limitation and repression.
  • This pragmatic policy was developed largely in response to the extreme drug-related misery in Zurich in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • The controlled prescription of heroin was first introduced in 1994.
  • In 1997, the Zurich Institute for Addiction Research came to the conclusion that the pilot project should be continued because the health and living situation of the patients had improved. There had also been a reduction in crime.
  • In 1997 the people’s initiative ‘Youth without Drugs‘, which called for a restrictive drugs policy, was rejected by 70% of voters.
  • In 1998 74% of voters rejected the ‘Dro-Leg’ initiative for the legalisation of drugs.
  • In 2008 68% of voters accepted revised drugs legislation. Since then controlled heroin distribution has been anchored in law.
  • The new law came into force in 2010.

Further reading; (docs come in German, French, Italian and English

Federal Office of Public Health; Click here for survey loads of interesting information on results of all the Swiss studies going back over a decade

The Challenge of addiction The basics of a sustainable approach for drugs policy in Switzerland

Interesting Doc on how the Needle Park experiment became the road into heroin on prescription -and discusses how the first studies were set up and the results

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.

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

Well Ditch it Brothers and Sisters!

Redaktionens bild

The world-class Swedish Drug Users Union

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

INPUD Statement for International Drug Users’

Day, 1st November 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drug use = my choice!

Abstinence = your choice.

Prohibition = no choice!

– – – – –

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

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

(more…)

That Old Viennese Waltz Begins Again …It’s the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

It’s That Time Again – the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs .

This blog is from INPUD’s blog and was posted today both there and here on March 15, 2014 by 

Note: These views are my own as a drug activist and writer and do not reflect INPUD’s own thoughtful and positioned response to the events at the 2014 CND. For a direct response from INPUD’s Chief Executive Director Eliot Albers, see below.

The Start of the Dance

Wednesday 13th March, 2014 marked the start of the High-Level segment of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) 57th session at the UN headquarters in Vienna. But before we start chatting do let me say: For an interesting and worthwhile insight into the machinations of global drug policy, the CND is a good place to start and you can read more about the event at these chosen sites, to help you enjoy a more rounded news feast that will provide some relief for those suffering drug war stress ulcers.

Where to go to follow the low down on the high level sessions?

Start at the official UNODC’s CND page for your basic brief and structure of the weeks events at http://j.mp/N9oggo, and even check out some of the (permitted) real-time webcasts at    http://www.unodc.org/hlr/en/webcast.html where you can see representatives from civil society speak on drug issues as well as some of the world’s more knowledgeable and persuasive speakers – and as always some complete political muppets will get to have a big say (although this is always good for a chuckle) but remember that the CND operates behind closed doors on the whole so many of the more surreal muppet moments will be hidden from our view . Recover yourself with a breath of common sense at the http://cndblog.org where you will get the unofficial official low down on all the news and views from a harm reduction and drug law reformers standpoint (I could have just said common sense overview I suppose) and then you can vent your frustrated opinions by joining the conversation in real time via good ol’ Twitter ‪#‎CND2014‬. Add your two pence worth friends!

For an interesting update on the events, get your taster session here, written by yours truly!

17th of December is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

The Red Umbrella is the global sign for sex worker solidarity and rights

The Red Umbrella is the global sign for sex worker solidarity and rights and the NSWP (Network Sex Worker Projects)

Global Network of Sex Work Projects

launches a global consensus

against violence

NSWP (known as Global Network of Sex Worker Projects) is publishing the results of a global consultation exercise, carried out with members in every region, and now written up into all the five languages of NSWP, for December 17th, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

The publication of the Consensus Statement represents a new tool for sex workers’ advocacy worldwide, as for the first time it distills into a consensus the global demands of the sex worker rights movement. The Consensus Statement details eight fundamental rights that sex worker-led groups from around the world identified as crucial targets for their activism and advocacy, and which, if fully realised, would be a huge step towards safeguarding sex workers’ human rights, labour rights, and health. These eight key rights were identified as:

  • The right to associate and organise;
  • The right to be protected by the law;
  • The right to be free from violence;
  • The right to be free from discrimination;
  • The right to privacy, and freedom from arbitrary interference;
  • The right to health;
  • The right to move and migrate; and
  • The right to work and free choice of employment

The documents – which have been published in both full and summary versions – are available in English (full and summary); French (full and summary); Russian (full and summary); Chinese (fulland summary) and Spanish (full and summary).

 

Fight Back on Benefits

Here’s a bit more interesting info I’ve come across recently.

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It came from an interesting and very useful website, or blog rather, called Benefit Tales. It is bang up to date on all the recent benefit changes, especially those affecting disable people. I was initially drawn in by a headline that said

‘ATOS physiotherapists cannot give opinions on mental health assessments – official’.  Which is what I had been fuming about for some time, given that so many people I know with mental health problems have gone before the  medical assessment, only to be assessed on their physical status, while their psychological side was basically ignored or misunderstood. The assessors are ‘HealthCare Professionals but who are also ATOS trained and clearly have certain objectives to meet. They regularly are allowed to more or less override what your doctor says. Regarding the heading, the story goes as follows…

“The case involved a claimant, with mental health problems, who suffered from depression and bouts of uncontrollable rage. An Upper Tribunal Judge held that the opinion of a physiotherapist Healthcare Professional (HCP) was only useful for recording what the claimant said and did during the medical/assessment. Any other was useless as evidence because of their lack of expertise of mental health conditions.

The ruling affects all ESA appeals where the severity and effects of a disabled person’s mental health is at issue and expertise in this field is required to give an adequate opinion. It may also affect claimants with a wide range of physical health conditions.

In addition, there is no logical reason why the Upper Tribunals’ conclusion should not apply to appeals relating to the points findings of a disputed Personal Independence Payment (PIP) medical report by Atos or Capita.

Anyone considering an ESA appeal, who disputes the health professionals’ evidence, may wish to consider challenging the HCP expert status in relation to their disability.”

This was published a little while back on 26th July 2013 but you can view a full summary and a link to the decision at

http://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/how-we-can-help/benefits-information/law-pages/case-law-summaries/latest-posted-decision-summaries

And here was a few more helpful links if you are feeling harassed and overwhelmed by the reviews, appeals, claims etc. This is also a little section repeated from this site Benefit Tales, in reply to people looking for help.

“Your best bet may be to find a local disability activist group, who will probably have local people who are experienced at helping people through tribunals. Many will be suffering from mental illnesses themselves and will understand what you are going through. Your local CAB or trades council may be able to put you in touch. If your council has a welfare rights officer they may be able to help too.

You can also go to one of the various organisations online that give help and advice. Try any of these
http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/
http://www.rethink.org/
http://www.disabilityrightsuk.org

I hope you already have someone to go to the tribunal with you. Theres some facebook pages; ‘Disability and Benefit Support – don’t go alone’ which has a national list of volunteers, some with legal experience, ready to help people through appeals and tribunals; ‘ATOS Miracles’ is a good place to post your story and get useful help and support from others in your situation; and a page called ‘Fightback’ which offers direct support form qualified benefit advisors, for a very small, voluntary fee – though they are rushed off their feet now.They can only attend tribunals within 100 miles of Birmingham, but can give advice by email or phone to anyone”.

One last interesting (depressing) Link for the ladies from the website:

Women biggest victims in coalition’s welfare blitz

http://welfaretales.wordpress.com/2013/08/

Good luck readers, seems we are going to need it.

Benefits: Essential information for ESA claims, assessments and appeals

Here is some exceptional information that will be very useful for British people who are on benefits and have been undergoing some very concerning pressure and irresponsible assessing from the governments new Benefits ‘bulldog’ ATOS, in the rush to get millions off benefits and into work. Sure we agree that work is good for most people, giving one a sense of achievement, usefulness, purpose and contribution to their communities -and of course to help lift people out of poverty (well that’s the idea).

However, there are many thousands of people who have been railroaded and unfairly treated who have dire health and mental health issues, who are suffering intensely, even to the point of committing suicide, such is the stress (there are agencies counting the numbers of these related and growing death stats). Here is some essential information from a terrific group of people who have provided us here with a very succinct account of appeal points, what to look out for, where your rights lie etc. If you or someone you know are undergoing a benefit review and are terrified of what might happen to you, I urge you to have a read of this. The blog it has come from can be found here http://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/1560/ and I urge you to have a look at it, if only for the 47 comments posted after the article (we have reprinted it fully on this website -partly here on the blog but again fully under Benefits, in our A-Z of Health.

 

There are three essential ideas to keep in mind when claiming Employment Support Allowance (ESA) because of the nature of the ESA50 form, and the fact that Atos are seeking to deny benefits, and NOT assess disability: this will not be a fair investigation of your health issues.

This information needs to be shared widely so people are made aware of them, and can use them when claiming ESA or appealing.

These very helpful ideas are:

  •  Reliably, repeatedly and safely

  •  Exceptional circumstances – Regulations 25 and 31, 29 and 35

  •  Atos assessments and pitfalls – how they try to deceive you

1. Reliably, repeatedly and safely. 

‘Lord’ Fraud made this statement in the House of Lords:

“It must be possible for all the descriptors to be completed reliably, repeatedly and safely, otherwise the individual is considered unable to complete the activity.”

You might be able to go up three steps *once* – but if cannot do it “reliably, repeatedly and safely”, in Fraud’s own words you CAN NOT do it at all.

Apply the phrase “reliably, repeatedly and safely” all through your ESA50 or appeal form, use it on each of the descriptors. Make sure you state clearly which activities you can not do reliably, repeatedly, safely and in a timely manner, because Atos will otherwise assume you are consistently capable of them all.

2. Exceptional Circumstances – Regulations 25 and 31 for Universal Credit and Regulations 29 and 35 for current and ongoing ESA claims and Contribution-based ESA.

Regulations 25 and 31 will replace the old Special Regulations 29 and 35 from April 2013 for Universal Credit. This is in preparation for the abolishment of income-related ESA only, and not contribution-based ESA.

However, the old Regulations 29 and 35 still apply to ongoing cases that are not yet affected by Universal Credit, and will remain in place indefinitely for all Contribution-based ESA. So there are two sets of Regulations in place for Exceptional Circumstances.

Income-based ESA will be replaced by Universal Credit, as (or if) it is rolled out, but there will be the same additional financial components added as we currently have for ESA – you will be able to claim either the work-related activity or the support component.

The contents of both sets of Regulations are essentially the same. They are applied in the same way. 25 and 29 are for those who are not capable of work, and would usually be placed in the Work-Related Activity Group, and 31 and 35 apply to those not capable of work-related activity, and would normally be placed in the Support Group.

Because of the tick-box nature of the ESA50 form, it is likely that people will fall below the number of points required to be declared incapable of work – it doesn’t take into account variable illnesses, mental illness, or the effects of having more than one illness.

However, the Exceptional Circumstances Regulations may cover us – they both state that the claimant should be found incapable of work (Regulation 29 for ongoing ESA claims, 29 for Universal Credit) or work-related activity (Regulation 35 for ongoing ESA claims, 31 for Universal Credit) if:

  • they have an uncontrolled or uncontrollable illness, or “the claimant suffers from some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement and

  • by reason of such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if the claimant were found not to have limited capability for work/work-related activity”.

If you feel this is your circumstance, then we suggest adding something like this, where you put “other information” on the ESA50:

“If the scoring from my answers above is insufficient, then I believe applying the Exceptional Circumstances Regulations would be appropriate due to the severity and interaction of my conditions, and my inability to reliably, repeatedly and safely encounter work-related situations and/or safely perform work-related tasks.

I am taking all available and appropriate medication as prescribed by my doctor(s), and there are no reasonable adjustments to a workplace which would mitigate my medical condition(s).

Therefore I believe being placed in the Support Group would be appropriate, because there would be a serious substantial risk to mental and/or physical health if I were placed into a workplace environment or in the work-related activity group.”

Please change the wording to fit your situation, delete “mental” or “physical” if appropriate, leave both in if necessary. If your illness cannot be controlled at all, or medication can’t be used to control it, add that instead.

Regulations 29 (for ESA) and 25 (for Universal Credit) cover people who might be put in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG), which has work-focused activities, sometimes it has workfare placements, and sanctions may apply, while Regulations 35 (for ESA) and 31 (for Universal Credit) cover people who are not well enough for any kind of work activity. This is for people who might be placed in the Support Group. There are no conditions placed on you for getting your ESA, such as workfare, if you have limited capability for work-related activity.

You can ask your doctor to support you with this claim, as it is stated in the regulations:

“(b) evidence (if any) from any health care professional or a hospital or similar institution, or such part of such evidence as constitutes the most reliable evidence available in the circumstances” may be presented to support your case.

Here are some links so you can download and print off documents to give to your GP to support your claim or appeal. You ought to submit copies of these to the DWP as soon as you can. (Make sure that you keep a copy)…….NOTE: This article goes on in some length and detail and we thought it was so relevant and useful for British people who use drugs/ have mental health issues/ disabilities etc, we just had to save it under Benefits, in our A-Z on Health Section. To go direct to that page, click link here:

For the rest of this brilliant piece of work, click here

Or for added Further reading Chosen by Kitty Jone’s blog writers; Robert Livingstone and Sue Jones.

More on questions you may be asked at assessment: dwpexamination forum 

How to deal with Benefits medical examinations: A Useful Guide to Benefit Claimants when up against ATOS Doctors


More support and advice here: How to deal with Benefits medical examinations


Step by step guide to appealing a ESA decision: Good Advice Matters

With many thanks to Joyce Drummond for contributing such valuable information about the Work Capability Assessment.With many thanks to The Black Triangle Campaign for sharing their work on the GP support letter template, and covering legal and explanatory documents
%d bloggers like this: