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

Drug Consumption Rooms

Here is a video I just wanted to share with you all, it was made in the UK by one of our treasured harm reduction /drug workers Phillipe Bonnet in Birmingham and he presents a very honest (and difficult to watch at times) account of why we need drug consumption rooms all across the world – particularly in the UK today. We have yet to open such a facility in the UK -it makes no sense to shy away from such a simple, straightforward solution. Our pal Neil Hunt talks about cost and why DCR’s are not that expensive and that they could hook onto needle exchanges as they already appear. Why not? How much longer can we look the other way when we have the solution in our very hands -solutions with the evidence base to back it up. As Dr Judith Yates in the film says “A simple intervention like this early on, can prevent all this damage later on”.

A word from the film-makers – Published on 23 Oct 2012

This Documentary invites the audience to see the harsh reality of ‘street injecting’ drug users in the UK’s second city Birmingham. The presenter Philippe Bonnet explores this subject by interviewing outreach workers, health care professionals and current and ex drug-users. The film shows how other countries around the world have found a solution to this and as a result have reduced harms and costs associated with this phenomenon and ultimately helped drug users access treatment and begin their recovery.

 

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

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!

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

Terrific examples of Drug User Run Organisations

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

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

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

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

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

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

QueenslandQUIVAA   (Queensland Intravenous AIDS Assoc) and

NSW – NUAA (NSW Users AIDS Assoc)

Latest Update on Floridas War Against People using Drugs

Finally some sense from Florida -as  Judge Scriven calls ‘unlawful and unconstitutional’ and may violate people’s right under the Constitution to lawful search and seizures, as the USA’s fourth Amendment states people must be suspected before any ‘warrant’ can be issued.

Governor Rick Scott’s plan to strip the welfare benefits of anyone testing positive for drugs, including parents (although other ‘clean’ adults would be able to apply on the children’s behalf) has already been implemented for 4 months however on 32 people have been ‘caught’ -most from smoking cannabis.  Florida is the first state since 1999 to enact this law, following Michigan, however this year as times get tougher, over 36 more US states are also trying to implement very similar acts.

The law cannot be overturned unless someone decides to file a complaint, which in Florida’s case, turned out to be a brave single dad, currently attending University whilst caring for his 4 year old son and disabled mum, who refused to have the drug test and filed a complaint.

For some background on this from BP, click here for our previous post when Florida was trying to launch the scapegoating law.

Florida law requiring people seeking welfare benfits to take a drug test has been blocked by a US federal court.

Full Article from BBC (24th Oct 2011)

The judge ruled that the law was unconstitutional and infringes a ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

Since the law was introduced in July, nearly 1,600 people have refused to take the test, according to reports.

Under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families scheme those who pass receive $180 (£113) a month, while a family of four receives $364 a month.

While 32 people have failed the test, some 7,000 have passed since the testing began in mid-July, the Associated Press reports.

Marijuana suspicion

Judge Mary Scriven ruled on a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of Luis Lebron, a 35-year-old Navy veteran and single father who applied for the welfare benefits but would not take the drugs test.

He applied for benefits while attending university and cares for his four-year-old son and disabled mother.

Applicants are not required to say why they refuse to take the test.

Supporters of the measure say applicants are avoiding the test because the results would have been positive.

The Florida Department of Children and Families says the majority of those who failed had tested positive for marijuana.

Applicants are required to pay between $25-$35 (£22) to take the test, but only those who pass are reimbursed by the state.

Florida Governor Rick Scott has said the measure could save the state as much as $77m, although it is not clear how the number has been calculated.

The ACLU says Florida is the first US state to enforce such a measure since 1999, when Michigan enacted a similar law.

A judge halted the law five weeks later and it was deemed unconstitutional after an ensuing four-year lawsuit.

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