Trafficking in Drug Users

Hi friends,

I just came across this old article/ presentation I wrote some years back about my own treatment journey (nightmare might be a better word!) and how so much idiocy, money, misguided support and policies, ignorance, do-gooders, moralising shits, and the whole web of the incredibly resourced, career inflating, gravy train that is the current drug and alcohol treatment /criminal justice interwoven system, is stitched up so tight across the globe, that it is going to take a hell of a lot of strategising for us to get out from under the intensity and chains of the current goal of ‘managing and controlling’ people who use drugs, in any way possible -and how carreers and reputations ride on this these days – the research, the papers, the positions in clinics and academy’s, the psychology and the ‘experts’ draining cash from everyone hand over fist with the misguided or embossed descriptions that they will ‘fix’ and cure your loved one, yourself, your child before it has even smoked a cigarette!  We are taught year by year, harder, longer and stronger – that we are weak, we have no control over our desires anymore, that we cannot do it ourselves – we HAVE to have professional help….Yet what of the professional help? The basic, colourless, inflexible, unchangeable, plain and homogenous, evidenceless help….my God, what a load of crock so much of it all is – and still – they never seem to ask us what we need. What would help. We just get encouraged to join into more peer pressure and trot out the same old slogans that we believe are right coz our old peers say so (12 steps etc). 

When is it EVER the right way to provide one solution for everyone no matter what where how when why they use drugs? in 2016, we are still one leg firmly in the dark friends….Sad alright. But it just shows – the only way is to get active – get politicised, get smart.

Hope you like it (bit dated now!)

Here – One of the BEST sites for resources on progressive ideas about drug use / treatment -based in UK – The SMMGP (includes forum, resources, GP chatter and much more).

RCGP Special Interest Masterclass Presentation

Originally entitled ‘Don’t Give Them What They Want’.

EO;  Editor Black Poppy Magazine, Written /presented July 2003

I left my home of Australia 10 years ago trying to find a way to get off heroin. I thought the beautiful scenery in Europe might inspire me, I thought London might show me a new way of looking at life. I thought I might find something that would interest me more than heroin. But I should have known that doing what many of my peers call a ‘geographical’ is very rarely the answer.

I had already been to a variety of treatment clinics and surgeries in Australia. I had hadpoppies_final_black5.jpg habits on heroin, cocaine, benzo’s, and a few other pharmaceuticals, but my treatment options, no matter where I went, were methadone, methadone and more methadone. I felt screwed by the time I came to England. I felt numb and I wasn’t well either. By the time I arrived, I was hanging out, sick, extremely tired and depressed and went to a hospital looking for some relief. I was offered a two week blind detox on methadone. Suffice to say, I remained sick. I felt like I was trapped and my head just kept wanting to be well. I was in a new city and hoping to find a bit of peace of mind, I had to begin to learn the ropes of the British prescribing system. Suffice to say, it has taken me another 10 years to finally land on my feet, with a script that suits me, Erin O’Mara, an individual with individual needs. After almost 20 years I can now look to a future – that’s what a tailored prescription has really meant.

To get to this point, I have attended around 10 different methadone programmes, 2 heroin prescribing programmes, seen numerous GP’s (both private and NHS), and sat with plenty of psych nurses, key workers, social workers, psychiatrists and counselors. I’ve been to rehabs in the country and detoxs in the city, made plenty of attempts at stabilizing and fought to come off completely with concoctions of pills gathered from anyone who would give them too me or suing acupuncture, massages and herbal teas. It wasn’t that I didn’t try. I really did. Everything was riding on it. My life, my health, my liberty. But I just kept coming back to the same old blanket prescribing of methadone linctus – a drug that, while I know it helps many people, it isn’t for all of us. Drug users are not born from the same mold, we all use for different reasons, we all take different drugs, we take differing amounts of different drugs and offering us variations on the same methadone theme, while helping many, is still going to leave thousands of us out in the cold. And how long can we afford to stay frozen out?

For many drug users, getting on the treatment rollercoaster means you are certainly in for a ride and a half. I have learnt that the right prescription is only half of the equation – the other half is the treatment and understanding you receive from your prescriber. It can be so hard to explain to some prescribers that it is the creation of the types of prescribing systems -that can cause so much difficulty in adhering to it. The clinics that offer only a 2 week break or holiday a year (no opportunities to mend familial bridges there then), the confusion or distrust around your intentions, the reducing of your script every time you take something else or have a need to top up your dose, having to turn up for dosing at inflexible times -whether you have to pick up your kids or go to work or uni or like being closely watched as you sit for 3 hours on a toilet to give a urine sample before you’re allowed to get your dose. I’ve been to a clinic where a girl burnt off her tracks with a cigarette because she was afraid the doctor would cut down their methadone if they found out she was still using on top. And, at that particular clinic, sadly she would have been right. Getting the treatment dose right is essential, finding the drug that suits that individual is critical, allowing room for maneuver or looking for other drug treatment alternatives is the most important of all.

chrispolice

Your nicked!

Since leaving Australia where we were all prescribed methadone – no options, no alternatives to coming to the UK where there was some room for maneuver with prescribing has been an interesting experience. Heroin has always been my drug of choice and for me, methadone linctus just didn’t work. It didn’t work for me in Australia and it wasn’t working for me here. I looked everywhere for a more suitable script. I’ve tried morphine, slow release tablets and ampoules – which, while being a welcome relief from methadone, I found it incredibly constipating and uncomfortable and found myself again, unhappy, not wanting to take it and looking for something else. I will never forget that particular doctor who was then the first one to actually sit down with me and talk to me about what it was I felt I needed. But while we both knew it was probably a diamorphine script, he was powerless to offer me it. Thus he offered me what we thought was the next best thing. Morphine. It wasn’t that I didn’t want it to work, I did, more than anything else in the world, but it just wasn’t suitable for me.

It is so important to be able to offer alternatives to drug users when they come in looking for treatment. Generalisations about drugs and drug users are made without considering how cultural differences mediate and transform both the reality and meaning of a persons drug use. Younger users, older users, women, men, mothers, those on parole or probation, those with HIV and or Hep C, injectors, smokers, pill takers and snorters – how can we expect to support an individual with a chemical dependence if we are only prepared to offer them methadone?

It has taken years for methadone to be accepted by doctors, and still it is only by a minority. Without question it clearly works for some people and it certainly has a place in prescribing options. But there are other alternatives. At Black poppy we are receiving many letters about how helpful Subutex has been (mainly for detoxing) but many more letters from people wanting to know how they can encourage their doctor to prescribe it. We all know its out there but where? How can one be prescribed it or is it too a lottery depending on your area or GP?

Morphine also holds an important place but is usually prescribed by private doctors and is prohibitively expensive. I have a good friend who has tried methadone unsuccessfully many times and finally went to a private doctor to try and get MST’s or slow release morphine sulphate tablets. Because he can’t stomach methadone linctus and doesn’t want to inject methadone ampoules, his morphine script has meant every fortnight he has to resort to spending literally his entire benefit cheque on paying his chemist and his doctor and is still fifteen pounds short. His clothes are old, his cupboards are empty and he is fighting off a depression that threatens to jeopardize his whole stability. This is because he cannot find a single NHS doctor in his area to prescribe him morphine tablets – despite his private doctor offering support. The last time I saw him he was eating the only thing he had in his cupboard – tomato paste. Why?

There are many people who have either dropped out of the prescribing system altogether or regularly have to top up with additional drugs because the system just isn’t geared for those with poly drug dependencies. While years ago many people just seemed to stick to using one or two drugs at a time, these days poly drug use has become the norm. How are doctors going to help support people if they can’t or won’t take on anyone who was multiple drug problems. This is 2003 and this is the way drugs are now taken. Both patients and doctors must be prepared to be open and have the courage to admit when something isn’t working and be flexible when considering alternatives. It isn’t easy. I know drug users can be difficult patients. When that doctor sitting opposite you seems to have the power to change your life – things do and can get emotional. For treatments to work we all have to be open and honest. The system has to let you be open and not punish you for what it sees as ‘not conforming to the treatment’. Relapsing is part of stabilizing as well as part of ‘the cure’.

For me, after years of searching for some stability – I was finally offered the chance to try diamorphine – or heroin on a script. It is extremely rare to get this chance and I believe the deciding factor was because I had recently contracted HIV.

Heroin is provided on prescription in what was known as 'The British System'

Now I’ve had the opportunity to participate in 2 very different approaches to heroin prescribing – and it has taught me a great deal about how the differing structures, regulations and nuances behind the way heroin is administered to users, is critical to the success of the programme. For example: The first heroin script I received was back in 98, through a pilot project in London, whose aim it was to study the effectiveness of prescribing either pharmaceutical heroin, or methadone in injectable form to drug users.

The first error and one eventually admitted, was to limit the amount of diamorphine prescribed, to an unmanageably low 200mg. (The Swiss, The Dutch and others, myself included, have found 400 – 1000mg much more suitable). Pharmaceutical heroin does not have a long half life and to seriously underestimate the dosages required was to become a momentous error and one that would seriously jeopardise a person’s ability to adhere to their prescription. With a median age range of 38 and an average injecting career of 19 years, many clients at this project had other drug problems, such as crack, benzodiazepines, alcohol or cocaine which I don’t fully believe were taken on board at the time. The severely punitive clinic regulations or ‘protocols’, would bear this out. i.e. anyone caught using any other drugs or ‘topping up’ their rather limited dose, would immediately be ‘sanctioned’ by way of a 30mg reduction in ones daily prescription, reducing even further ones ability to adhere to the programme. Once ones prescription began to lower, it was practically impossible not to ‘top up’ with something else, and so clients, myself included, were locked in a constant spiral of script alterations.

A stifling clinic environment would be the clinics 2nd fundamental error, where people would be unable to talk about their other drug issues for fear of a variety of repercussions. This would lead to an even more alarming situation where clients hid serious medical issues for fear of their prescription being stopped or being transferred back to methadone linctus.

The importance of maintaining an environment where users can talk openly and honestly to their keyworkers and consultants is a crucial element in a person’s success on any drug treatment programme and this was no exception. A deeply unhappy client group had nowhere to go to complain about their treatment and having to attend to such a stressful and demoralising project promptly each morning in order to receive ones medication only exacerbated people’s and my own depression and did little if nothing to improve the spirits of those attending.

Two years later, after a desperately unsuccessful period trying an injectable methadone prescription, I had developed a dire crack problem, was drinking alcohol regularly for the first time in my life, and began having regular seizures from increased benzodiazepine use.

It was at this time that, after an enormous effort and support from my GP Chris Ford, my mum, my local MP, (and bailing up the prescribing doctor at a conference I attended), I managed to secure a place at London’s Maudsley hospital, where there was a doctor prescribing heroin to a small group of patients. I clearly remember my sense of complete and total desperation. I felt I could not go on any longer, that if they didn’t help me I would be – I didn’t know where I would be and that was the trouble. I felt that this was my last hope, that I’d tried everything. And I begged…. Most drug users know well the feeling of someone else, a doctor, having the power of your life in their hands, every single day. A script started or terminated making the difference between life and death, or misery and hope. Sometimes you end up having to beg…

I have now been on my heroin script for 2_ years. My health has improved substantially and my HIV doctor is delighted – as is my mum and I. My moods and energy levels have improved considerably and so has my ability to contribute to life and my community. I founded and continue to work on what has become a National drug users’ magazine called Black Poppy, and I am actively involved in drug user politics, journalism and harm reduction issues. It has been a difficult journey, but thanks to my mum, my mates and the open-mindedness of my doctor, who fully engages me in my treatment decisions and doesn’t wave punishments in my face, I have stabilized and am well, for the first time in 18years of using opiates.

Now, I have somewhat of a vested interest in the campaign towards prescribing heroin – both here and overseas. Last year, my mum returned to Australia to live and while I would have liked to go with her, the thought of losing my heroin script after fighting so hard to get it, felt more than I could bear. I am HIV positive. There are going to be times when I will want to be near my family. Yet archaic laws in Australia forbid me from even entering the country with my prescription. How can this be legal? Anyone, on any other medication, would be permitted to continue that medication in another country but these basic human rights do not extend to drug users. The intense and totally unfounded hysteria that surrounds the prescribing of heroin to drug users sadly endures and has made the campaign to prescribe heroin in Australia a momentous task. Yet while campaigners look to the British System for guidance, it would be a mistake not to closely examine both its failings and successes. The potential for problems in importing a system that hasn’t been culturally fine tuned for the British using community are great because to get it wrong, Britain may lose the chance to ever attempt it on a large scale again. The Swiss users have to return to their heroin prescribing clinic 3 times a day to receive their heroin, watched over as they inject by a clinic nurse. Although the Swiss programme has had incredibly positive results, would English users blossom under such a severe restriction of an individual’s freedom? Or if the dosage is not allowed to be adjusted to suit each individual, as occurred before at the London clinic, what chance is there of success?

While there is undoubtedly a role for the prescribing of heroin to heroin users, it is important to remember how crucial the role of the heroin user is in the planning, implementation and evolution of a heroin programme – or any drug treatment programme for that matter. Users must be involved every step of the way and accepted, as other users of health services are, as an integral part of a treatment programmes development, with rights, responsibilities and a mutual respect for experience.

I know I’m fortunate. As an Aussie living in London, there are times when I have to pinch myself that this is real – I have a diamorphine prescription!. That the long and often harrowing road of ‘substitute prescribing’ has finally come to an end – and now I’m free to think about my future. But in the small silences that fall between me counting my blessings, I can’t help but wonder whether it’s all just been a bit to little, a bit too late. I question why it has taken 18 long years to get here? Why did I have to wait until I’d been chewed up and spat out of over 10 different treatment programmes and Dr’s surgeries, of at least 4 rehabs and an uncountable number of detox attempts? Why did I have to wait until I’d ‘finished’ selling my young body to men, til I’d got sick and deeply depressed, til I’d used every vein in my body from my neck to my feet, til I’d contracted both HIV and Hep C? Yet doctors can prescribe heroin to people who are opiate dependent in the UK and indeed they have recently been encouraged to by our current Home secretary, David Blunkett. Are doctors prepared to start looking at other alternatives? Is the government going to stand behind them? Support each other – doctors who are prepared to look at other options – keep each other updated. As a drug user, I know what its like to be on the other side of the fence – and as a drug user, I also know there are courageous doctors out there who are trying to do their best but are often working in isolation, with little support.

bppicnunsmall1.jpgMeanwhile, 96% of all opiate based prescriptions given out to British users, remains methadone and only 449 people currently receive a heroin prescription for opiate dependence. And I am one of them.

Unfortunately, I still hear the saying, ‘Don’t give them what they want’. But it’s not about want anymore. It’s about need and it’s about our lives. I would just like to take this opportunity to thank those doctors who did go that little bit further and treated me and my needs individually. Their support has got me the prescription I needed and has allowed me to be here today.One day we might have a system that doesn’t insist on me being sick and dysfunctional from the get-go and asks the big questions like ‘Why do we have a society / laws, that push substance users to the brink of insanity and outside the margins of society just because they prefer opiates instead of whiskey, a little stimulation from khat chewing instead of 20 cups of ‘legal’ coffee.

 

Addendum: The drug conventions are based on a lot of hot air and bullshit friends, the more you look back into history and the closer you inspect the world of economics, society, and criminal justice today, the more you unravel a mish-mash of men in suits making decisions decided by money, history, fear and racism, certainly not strong evidence, humanity and common sense.

– Erin

Editor Black poppy Magazine

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

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

some injecting environments

Hmm, more drugs anyone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh God, My Anxiety’s Back!

Hey readers,

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

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

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

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

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

 

How to Train Your Brain to Alleviate Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Methamphetamine – A document well worth a read

Hi,

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

Report cover

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

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

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

Go straight to the 36 page report here 

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.

Dying to be Heard

This all brings me back to one of the best guys we could have on our side as a community (or not even!) of people who use drugs. Theo Van Dam, once a strident, unflinching, innovative, brilliant user activist in Amsterdam (a real honest to God fore-runner of the whole user movement) -who now, at late 50’s/early 60’s or so, has put aside his fighting talk, his incredible persuasive manner who could sell an ice to an Inuit (as they say!) has re-invented himself and naturally as a humans evolution, he now speaks at funerals and remembrance days.

Not Theo's quote but an interesting comment on how funerals are changing;click on pick to hear about a womans take of different funeral styles

Not Theo’s quote but an interesting comment on how funerals are changing; click on pick to hear about a womans take of different funeral styles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He stands with the family and friends and says all the powerful, and beautiful words of remembrance that no one else dares to say. He acknowledges their place in the community, even if the community was ‘one of the guys on that park bench, you know, the one with his ol’ dog close at his side and his little woven bag that doubled as a pillow yet held everything in the world that was necessary and loved. Theo would talk about the whole person -the time this or that happened, talk warmly about the generous, kind, stubborn yet loyal person that would always have time for a chat for anyone who passed by the park bench. It didn’t even matter whether Theo knew the person lying prostrate in front of everyone -or not. Whether he admired and adored them, or wasn’t on very cool terms with them at the time they died. It was OK. Theo was there to ensure the person themselves -their life -with all its ups and downs -were captured and celebrated, not brushed under the carpet and hidden so everyone felt to uncomfortable to even mention what the person had been doing the last 30 years. Even more so – allowing the parents to hear that their child was a real person -who loved, lost, laughed and fought -like all of us -and that their drug/alcohol use should/must be accepted as part of their life, their journey, their experience. It contributed to who they are. It cannot be denied – or you deny your child/sibling/friend – and those who cared for him that lived in the same world.

We all need a Theo at our funerals, a celebrant to shine a touching light on our friends, ensuring they are laid to rest with everyone knowing the person -not the myth, not the stereotype, not the’failure or tragic child led astray. We are the summary of our experiences – all of our experiences – the good, the bad, the ugly.

Some days, Theo didn’t need to know who lay there in the coffin. The idea had been to simply turn up (he is now always invited!) and if he felt that heavy, asphyxiating silence fall, like heavy clouds of snowflakes on the shoulders of the family and friends, and the gentle but nervous shuffling of the priest’s ceremonial slippers as he looked around for someone to stand tall and proud and say a heartfelt speech about their loved one, talk briefly about their huge, momentous loss, and wait for the niece or uncle to read out a piece from the deceased favourite novel or poem…well, it sounds comforting doesnt it? But the person in the coffin has been living on the street for almost a decade. Their toes needed operating on to stop them rotting and re-infecting the next one. There parents hadnt seen them for 15 years…they wanted to cover over their fears…

dont let your loved one be constrained by legal and societal judgments even in death

dont let your loved one be constrained by legal and societal judgments even in death

The reality was that no-one at that funeral knew who the person in the coffin was anymore. Close buddies hadn’t been invited, Christ -they were all alcoholics and junkies! The parents expected it would be a disaster. No, they must be buried quickly, happy memories of the childhood rehashed, and everyone would just smudge out the last 20 years. It was a wasted time anyway, those years, they ruined their life, wasted chances, threw offers of help back in the families faces. God, they hadn’t even tried to pay back any of that money nice auntie Kay gave to them to get a deposit on bedsit. No, his homeless friends were not invited -some of them were with him when he died. ‘Imagine that’ the relatives think. ‘They are so wasted and hopeless, they can’t even tell one of their ‘friends’ are dying -they said he was just snoring…No, the funerals of  many thousands and thousands of us have been like this. It needs to change now.

So many families hadnt really known their loved one for  years. They hadn’t invited them to a family function for over 15 years -no birthdays, no christmas, no easter, no new year….it could have been embarrassing after all. Even if someone had been bold enough to invite them,  would they have gone? Would the feel comfortable, welcome, relaxed???What would they wear? What would they say they had been doing ‘lately’? How does one cope with the stares, the feelings of fear, of children’s wide eyed staring from behind mums skirt;

No, most funerals of people who died from drugs are strained…But strained for different reasons. Not from holding back waves of pain and loss! Or rather, pain and loss that is secret. Dark and lonely. shameful. Words that lie stuck deep down in the throat, words of love and caring locked inside a black box of shame and confusion. Of crippling pain, pain that will never fully ease for the parents and loved ones because they know  they judged their loved one in life when they didn’t really understand anymore. It weighs heavily forever. The funeral Theo encourages, provides a chance for everyone to relax and share and celebrate a human beings life – all those they loved, things they shared, families they were a part of, tragedies they fought through, those special and raare qualities they had.

We alll need a Theo.

Remember that on International Remembrance Day July 21st, or any day a drug using friend dies. Dont let their lives be erased in ignorance. Celebrate the whole life, and bring everyone peace.

If you want to reach Theo in Amsterdam to talk to him further about his ideas etc, add comment and we will forward them to him immediately.

Travis Jenkins Award 2008; Thanking Theo

As the lights dimmed in the auditorium and, for the last time this year the spotlight zeroed in on the podium speaker, a tall lanky Dutchman in a sharp black suit made his way up the stage steps to collect a few dues.After 2 decades of innovative and inspirational work within the drug using community, Theo Van Dam smiled broadly as he accepted the 2008 Travis Jenkin’s award from IHRA on the final day of their popular international conference. An award presented to current or former drug users who have made an outstanding contribution to reducing drug related harm, this year Theo was publicly acknowledged by a distinguished international cohort of colleagues, peers and admirers.He wasn’t the only one smiling. As this greatly admired and respected Dutchman sprung up the steps of the IHRA stage to collect his award, I felt myself grinning from ear to ear. It was a great moment – a chance to acknowledge a lifetime of workfrom one of the most well known and respected drug user activists of our times.

Theo has been at the forefront of the fight for the health, welfare and rights of drug users, from within his home in the Netherlandsand internationally. His creative and freethinking approach, his willingness and commitment, his humour – all coupled with his highly principled nature has made him one of the most inspirational and active Drug User Activists in the world.

Throughout the 90’s Theo fought hard to put harm reduction not just on the political agenda, but inside the minds of the using community. His direct approach was unique and he was as up front about how he delivered harm reduction to Dutch users and dealers, as he was to government officials and drug workers.

To try and write succinctly on Theo’s unique contribution to harm reduction leaves me hampered. I’m not sure of the finer details or of the dates of his projects and work.

I do know however, that as a young activist at the IHRA conference in Geneva (in 98/9?) hearing of the work Theo was doing amongst the using community left me feeling anything was possible. His idea behind starting International Drug User Day on November 1st was inspired and the 1st ever international gathering in Amsterdam in 2002? is still talked about today. The IDUD in now an international event, where drug users all over the world unite to protest, lobby, debate and discuss ways to reduce drug related harm, throw off the shackles of stereotyping and discrimination, push forward for effective peer and societal education about drugs, drug use and drug users and save lives.

Theo Van Dam came with the first wave of true international user activism, his experience is valuable, his commitment and belief in his work, is total. This year, the harm reduction world acknowledged and, most importantly thanked Theo Van Dam for his efforts, and I, still an activist he still inspires, thank him wholeheartedly too.

Thanks Theo. xx

 

Finding Balance in an Unbalanced World

Meditation

Meditation (Photo credit: atsukosmith)

This is an article by a friend who found he could make some really positive changes in his life, in his drug use, and his mental health, using a type of meditation called Vipassana. I’m very interested at the moment in how one can find ways to achieve a sense of balance, moderation and positivity in one’s life – especially when trying to deal with issues around controlling one’s drug use; – It seems society’s laws and regulations (namely prohibition) and our consumerist cultures, have conspired (amongst many other things) to ensure personal drug use gets very hard to manage at times and our mental health can be quite traumatised by what the world/life tends to throw at us, day in, day out.

Giving it all up altogether isn’t always a satisfactory answer, sometimes its about looking at our whole life, through our minds eye – the way we actually think about things – and ourselves. If we can start to find some peace of mind and positivity in there (inside) then we become better equipped to be able to deal with what is important, or necessary, rather than what we THINK is the problem. We all need to feel valued, purposeful and useful. I’m just wondering if maybe building some good foundations in our lives, especially within our mind, enables us to deal with the problems more effectively. And ok if that means giving up all substances, so be it, but sometimes that inner strength leads to finding, finally, moderation and control. Here is B’s article about his experience of using meditation as a tool to find his own inner balance. I really think there is something to be said about meditation and mindfulness. Any drug user worth their salt/substance knows there is way more in our brains/souls to be discovered and utilized! Take it away B!

Vipassana Meditation and Well Being

By B

It is said that most if not all people who attend meditation retreats have undergone
their fair share of suffering. This certainly applied to me when attending my first
Vipassana meditation course over the Christmas of 2008; I was looking for an end to
this suffering, having come to the realisation that the various recreational drugs I had
been using (and more often abusing) to appease it were in the long term making it
worse. These were pushing the problems back – just a temporary fix – my main
problems then probably having been anger, frustration and alienation from the world.
I had done a period of my life homeless and lost good friends, many gone too early
from poverty and drugs, and from my teenage years suffered mental illness (many
labels ranging from anxiety and depression to possible bipolar or schizophrenia).

My experience of prescribed drugs over all these years was that they had only ever done
more harm than good with their nasty side effects. Vipassana offered ‘a
straightforward, practical way to achieve real peace of mind and thus to lead a happy,
useful life’. As soon as I heard about it (originally from a youtube video, then further
researching it online) this was appealing. Translated, the word means ‘to see things as
they really are’. And it was free – with donations in money or service only accepted
on completion of a ten day course. (The courses all around the world run by
volunteers.)

Does  it really work?

For me personally, practising Vipassana these years since then (sitting and serving
several ten day courses at the UK’s main centre Dhamma Dipa in Hereford during
this time) has vastly improved my mental health (better than anything else I have
tried), and whilst maintaining daily sittings at home, has maintained my peace of
mind. It has also helped sort out long term cannabis dependence (and an online poker
playing problem also) by showing that addiction to these or anything is craving to
physical sensations, not accepting the reality as it is. Something I have found in my
own experience is that when staying mindful and equanimous accepting the reality as
it is, the bad stuff passes away quicker for not lingering in aversion or clinging. This
is not to say that unfavourable things won’t still happen, but in seeing that all is
impermanent and ever changing, one learns to deal wisely with the ups and downs of
life, without drowning in the lows or getting overly-elated in the highs. The practice
does not change the sometimes crazy and erratic nature of life, but moulds our
relationship to it in such a way that we can stay connected to peace, love and
happiness no matter how rough the terrain may be.

To read the rest of B’s article, which will be kept under ‘Meditation’  in our A-Z of Health file, click here.

Here is a terrific 10 minute video about Vipassana (also on B’s page) which gives a good insight into how it works and why it can be so useful. Further Links on B’s page (link above).

RECOVERING FROM RECOVERY RANT

…Help, someone, anyone, gimme something to get that taste out of my mouth!

I’ve just been mooching around the British recovery policy arrow . That all want us to RECOVER. They all want us to hurry along off that awful substitute drug methadone or whatever dulls your senses, and step into real life, the good life, the real shiny happy coloured world.

I’m seeing David Cameron, sitting there in his living room, talking intensly about ‘how to deal with this country’s drug problem’ about how Labour just left us all sitting on methadone by a policy drafted and financially driven ‘bums on clinic seats’ kinda approach (amongst other things).

In a way, it worked. EVERYONE got a ‘script. EVERYONE who went near heroin got a methadone or Suboxone (in fashion pharmaceutically with the Gov these days) prescription and got off the crazy merry go round of hunting for dope 24-7.

But I could go on and on about what I thought of the last governments policies and where we went wrong and right – and we definitely did – for the first time ever – make some right decisions with the drug users welfare in mind -and occasionally involved in that as well! Movement!

But my RANT for today……

I am soooooo sick of the way we are supposed to go to ‘health professionals’ for ‘recovery’. More money thrown at them (for us you understand).

They pull out their research statistics -most of which are dubious (we could tell you that if we were ar these meetings or were there designing the research with you).

RECOVERY has become religious. Like a light we have to follow to ‘come and accept the truth and waljk through the recovery door into the light…..’

STOP! WE are making a mistake! support us if you must -but support us to be a community – to support each other, to decide for ourselves what kinda warm and fuzzy workshops we want to attend on the way to our new life….I mean please! We are all individuals. WE need what everyone needs to make it;

We need a purpose.

We need love and support

We need community, family, bridges healed, bridges left behind.

We need to be able to deal with anxiety, pressure, deadlines, responsibility without always using drugs. Sometimes it might be appropriate but we need to know when that is and when that isnt. A joint in bed after a mental nites work -what the fuck is wrong with that?

We need to feel like we are contributing to something useful, that we are giving something useful to our community. We need to focus on these things – not be held up like a ‘recovery champion’.

Its embarrassing, its patronising, it is demeaning; it makes the service feel good. Especcially when they have their big ‘event day’.

‘Here we are, look commissioner, look at our guy/girl -and hear their story of where they have come from (the gutter of course) to how, with the help of their drug service, they are a new person, they have their lives back and even their children. We all well up, stuff a chip in our mouths, drink the free wine (oops, no alcohol at these kind of events), network, and everyone feels good and wants to know how they too can replicate this service.

Why dont we ever learn? Why dont we acknowledge those who really need some serious support, practical and emotional and help them to help themselves. Support them to support each other. Peer support works well — but not run like a church with a bloody door and light at the end of the tunnel and youve never really made until you get there. drug free.

Im so sick of it all. And now london is haveing the biggest ‘RECOVERY EVENT’ in the world in January????!!! Please god!

Breaking Convention: MDMA Debate – Its Place in Medicine, Society and Politics

MDMA for PTSD

MDMA for psychotherapy? Listen to the latest views

An excellent video which captures, for the first time in the UK, a conference convened on MDMA looking at the research and the debate around it being used as a drug for psychotherapy etc. This hour long video brings together some really knowledgeable speakers who each present for 5-10 minutes, and cover a lot of interesting info about the various studies undertaken with MDMA so far. There are various aspects of the debate highlighted here by the different speakers, a specific overriding issue for concern however is about how the risks of MDMA have been overplayed -indeed much of it is plain incorrect. Until recently, there was only 1 paper on the therapeutic benefits of MDMA and thousands about the risks. Yet all of these papers have assessed risks in terms of whether MDMA was safe to use in a theraputic setting,  based on research taken from street ecstasy used in a club setting, which they claim (and i agree also!) is vastly different to pharmaceutical MDMA used in a theraputic settings. For years researchers were unable to get funding for therapeutic based research of MDMA as it was consistently thwarted by the previous realms of more negative research on ecstasy which looked exclusively at street or black-market ecstasy (which may not have MDMA in it at all!), in hot, crowded athletic club settings -a million miles away from sterile MDMA in therapeutic settings. Rick Doblin took this even further and said he was deeply concerned about the egotism and careerism involved in much research publications etc, the sheer determinism to be published (and not challenged) all at the cost of the truth, another nail in the coffin of rational truthful drug research..Well worth listening to some of the worlds foremost researchers on MDMA, who happily seem to have also used it! Now thats the kind of researcher we like! Respect! thankks to MAPS for this (see more of their fascinating stuff -link on right hand side).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Meaning of Recovery Has Changed, You Just Don’t Know It | Psychology Today

Stanton Peele writes refreshingly once again in Psychology Today this month, about a remarkable development from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), in the States. This government agency is charged with “formulating drug and alcohol abuse treatment policy, [and] after surveying the leading specialists in the mainstream of the field, has created “Recovery Defined— A Unified Working Definition and Set of Principles.”” Peele goes on to enjoy the fact that SAMHSA actually ends up at his view of recovery — not AA’s and the 12 Steppers– as “A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

Quoting the article “The definition [of recovery] is the product of a year-long effort by SAMHSA and a wide range of partners in the behavioral health care community and other fields to develop a working definition of recovery that captures the essential, common experiences of those recovering from mental disorders and substance use disorders, along with major guiding principles that support the recovery definition”

Please do click the link at the bottom of this blogs section to find the article in its entirety, but just to summarise things here -and I have to add, I feel this is a very well good definition of recovery and alludes to what many of us have been saying for a long time. That it benefits to shift the focus off drug use per say and embrace the fact that it is about positive, meaningful change, wherever that may take you and whatever that may look like.

But back to the SAHMSA definition – Here is the resulting formulation:

Working Definition of Recovery

Recovery is a process of change whereby individuals work to improve their own health and wellness and to live a meaningful life in a community of their choice while striving to achieve their full potential.

Principles of Recovery

Person-driven;
Occurs via many pathways;
Is holistic;
Is supported by peers;
Is supported through relationships;
Is culturally-based and influenced;
Is supported by addressing trauma;
Involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibility;
Is based on respect; and
Emerges from hope.

Furthermore SAMHSA’s Recovery Support Initiative identifies four major domains that support recovery:

Health: overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) as well as living in a physically and emotionally healthy way;
Home: a stable and safe place to live that supports recovery;
Purpose: meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society; and
Community: relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.

Click below for the rest of the article and hear more from Stanton’s engaging summary.

The Meaning of Recovery Has Changed, You Just Don’t Know It | Psychology Today.

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