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.

 

World First! – Harm Reduction Worker’s Union Takes off in Toronto

Harm Reduction Workers Union Takes Off in Toronto

OMG! I just LOVE  these Canadian drug users! 

 

NEWS: TORONTO HARM REDUCTION WORKER’S UNION

(THRWU) – A World’s First!

12 NOVEMBER 2014

Black Poppy and INPUD, are more than pleased to report on THRWU,  the world’s first ever harm reduction workers’ union which went public on 11 November 2014.  Members of INPUD have been involved in this campaign, with a major shout out going to Torontonian Raffi Balian – (a long time friend of both Black Poppy and member of INPUD since its beginnings).  Raffi has been a serious mover and shaker on the East Side of Canada for about 20 years now, setting up CounterFIT, which has consistently  brought us all innovative, user led and drug user centric projects while inspiring people from all over the world that there is a time to stop thinking and just do it! So it was no surprise to see Raffi,  (the guy kneeling down with the green jacket on the left in the  picture below) at it again, enthusing, organising, promoting and supporting his fellow junkies, workers, and of course the community.

Toronto Harm Reduction Workers Union -What are you waiting for -give your local union leader a call and start talking!

Toronto Harm Reduction Workers Union -What are you waiting for -give your local union leader  (IWW) a call and start talking!

The Toronto Harm Reduction Workers Union  is a city-wide organization, representing over 50 employed, unemployed, and student workers. At the launch workers at two of the city’s largest harm reduction programs went public with their affiliation to the Union which is a part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The IWW is a fighting union for all workers that organizes workers regardless of skill or trade and it is member (not staff) run, with a long history of fighting for the most oppressed and marginalized workers in society

The majority of these workers have been hired for their lived experience of using drugs, incarceration and homelessness and are continuing to organize with the goal of unionizing all of the city’s harm reduction workers.

THRWU speak about the need to organise around many of the issues affecting the industry – of which many harm reduction workers who come from a drug using background, will know a lot about. THRWU point to some of the main areas on their website:

  • Discrepancies in wages, with workers doing similar work taking home vastly different pay.
  • People work for years without raises, and have limited to no access to benefits, vacation and sick days.
  • Management depends on social assistance to provide the basic benefits that workers need (such as emergency dental and drug benefits). This is especially detrimental for those of us hired because we live with HIV and/or Hep C, or use opiode substitution therapy.
  • Workers are discriminated against based on the lived experience they are hired for.
  • Many positions are extremely precarious, with grants and funding threatened by conservative and anti-science ideology, and austerity budgets that endanger public health.

These are very real issues affecting the daily lives of people who’s work is not just a job, but a ’cause’,  a life, based on their lived experience and a way to put their heart and soul back into their communities, funneling years and years of privileged insight into their work, which has gone such a long way towards stemming the HIV epidemic in the drug injecting community. And damn right they deserve paid work or a raise along with everyone else! Damn right their should be the chance of promotion from volunteer to worker, to team leader to manager. Let’s all be clear here, harm reduction would not work saving the lives it does, reducing the harm it does, stemming the tide of infectious diseases that it does, without the world’s harm reduction workers and many of these are our peers. People who use drugs, used drugs, are on prescriptions etc.  The majority of work is unsung, underpaid and under acknowledged for the real impact it has on the community.

So who are we talking about exactly? Well, let’s let THRWU speak for themselves!

We are the workers that make harm reduction work.  We are the kit makers, outreach workers, community workers, and coordinators that reduce the harms associated with bad drug laws, poverty and capitalism.  As working class people, our communities have been hard hit by the War on Drugs, the epidemics of HIV, Hepatitis C and overdose deaths. We are organizing to better our working conditions and improve the services we provide. And we are organizing to fight for a society free of oppression and injustice.”

Below is THRWU’s mandate and definition of harm reduction:

“THRWU is an organization of Harm Reduction Workers who are united together in solidarity, to improve our working conditions and to strengthen equality in the workplace for the betterment of the workers and those who access the services. We are a union of employed and unemployed workers committed to harm reduction with a range of skills, education and lived experience. We have come together in our common concerns to form a non-hierarchical democratic labour union with a commitment to mutual aid, social justice and the principles of harm reduction.”

“Harm reduction is an evidence-based and practical approach to dealing with the harms associated with drug use…Harm reduction also aims to respond to harm experienced on a structural or societal level (such as stigma, discrimination and criminalization). This work should be grounded in the values of respect, non-judgment, and in the promotion of self-determination and self-empowerment for folks involved!

We recognize that many healthcare and social service providers endorse a ‘harm reduction framework’ in name only. Our union will prioritize those workers who are actively engaged in harm reduction work, as defined above!”

INPUD, the International Network of People who use Drugs are positive about the future as more drug users self organise. In a statement of support INPUD said, “In the context of the War on Drugs, in which our fellow workers are the casualties, an organizing campaign of this nature is exciting. The THRWU is setting itself up to be a powerful voice for harm reduction workers in the workplaces as well as in broader political struggles”. Last word to THRWU: “We need to organize ourselves to demand an improvement in wages and in workplace conditions. We love the work we do but we also know we need to be treated more equitably. There are many of us working in harm reduction and we can work in solidarity with each other to improve this.”

Boy oh boy, lets wish them luck with their new unionised labour force and their further organizing efforts!

How do I organize a Harm Reduction Workers Union in my city?

If you are interested in building a Harm Reduction Workers Union in your city, get in touch! thrwunion@gmail.com

For more information don’t miss visiting their website www.thrwu.org or by email  and  – if you are in Toronto – JOIN UP!!

Check out more of their news and events on their FaceBook page herehttps://www.facebook.com/thrwu

Share:

One of those videos you just gotta have a listen too…

This is another terrific Exchange Supplies production -a straight up talk from a wonderful woman called Magdalena Harris. Mags, a Kiwi now living in London talks straight to camera about her life as a committed career drug user and her journey telling how she managed to pull all her experiences together and marry up her knowledge of drugs with academia. A really empowering story, Mags eloquently and succinctly takes us through her life as a street drug user – New Zealand style -with all its pharmacological nuances, to treatment and methadone which left her even more despairing as she battled the punitive ‘clinic system’. Make no mistake, this is no self pity story. This is upfront and in your face -but more than that it is extremely perceptive and Mags is able to tell us just how valuable those years of using were to the work she does today.Many will empathise with her battle with hepatitis C and her dilemma over ‘to treat or not to treat’  – and at each turn of the story you will find something you can take from it to empower, inspire, laugh or get angry. For just 15 minutes, its well worth a look readers. Nice one Mags, thanks for being so honest but more than that even, thanks for the inspiration. And thanks to Exchange Supplies for bringing us another goodie! we love you guys!

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)

A young Russian and a message you can’t forget.

The Red ribbon is a symbol for solidarity with...

Russia’s Aleksey Kurmanaevskiy speech delivered at the UN High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS in New York – June 9 2011 by INPUD on Thursday, 09 June 2011 at 18:33:

INPUD is a global peer-based organisation that seeks to promote the health and defend the rights of people who use drugs. We will expose and challenge stigma, discrimination and the criminalisation of people who use drugs and its impact on our community’s health and rights. We will achieve this through processes of empowerment and international advocacy. Find us at: http://www.inpud.net, Facebook/INPUD, Twitter/INPUD. Blog at: http://www.inpud.wordpress.comThe following speech was delivered by Aleksey Kurmanaevskiy at A dialogue on HIV and Human Rights at: Universal Access for Key Affected Populations. This event was hosted by the United Kingdom and the Republic of South Africa together with the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. This session took place at the High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS at the United Nations in New York City.

Aleksey is from Russia and is 30 years old. He has been dependent on drugs for 15 years, and has been living with HIV for 11 years. He is a member of the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) and will speak with you today for people who inject drugs, those who are living with HIV\AIDS, and for the members of the drug using community who are no longer with us because of HIV\AIDS, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis, and drug Overdoses.

Text of Aleksey’s speech:

Q1 – Highlight key challenge or obstacle & successful action or approach:

I would like to call to attention the laws and practices that are based on the criminalization of people who use drugs and the consequences of these measures. In our opinion, the practice of imprisoning people who use drugs in order to deny them their freedom or subjecting them to coerced treatment for the personal use of drugs should be ended. Imprisonment and coerced treatment are clear breaches of human rights that undermine the public health of people who use drugs and the wider community.

The criminalisation of people who use drugs and the widespread stigma and discrimination against our community results in people hiding and living in fear and secrecy. This can cut people off from family support and drives people further into problem drug use. As such, punitive laws can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of HIV prevention strategies with my community and undermine access to and retention in services. As a result, punitive laws are costly and ineffective.

The introduction of science-based harm reduction interventions like needle and syringe programmes, opioid substitution therapy (OST), and overdose management programmes is saving the lives of my community in many countries in the world. We have the experience, the evidence and tools to end concentrated epidemics of HIV among people who inject drugs. 30 years of evidence demonstrates that OST radically improves the health and wellbeing of people who take drugs and supports our engagement in HIV and TB treatment. Significantly OST gives people who are dependent on heroin and other opiate drugs an alternative to crime and allows us to fully participate in and contribute to society. History has shown that when people who use drugs are involved in the design, development and delivery of HIV prevention interventions, the reach is greater, the quality is higher and there is better value for money.

Q2 – 1 or 2 key recommendations to HLM on practical way forward:

I am a husband and father of two sons and very much want peace and mutual understanding within my family. I learned that it is absolutely critical to listen to my loved ones. Before agreeing on a solution, we consider all of the possible alternatives. The very welfare of our family depends upon this process of open dialogue.

I have drawn this analogy deliberately. The family can be viewed as a microcosm of society. We are all members of one global family. Though we all have unique worldviews, customs, and ways of life, there is no doubt that we have to deal with the HIV epidemic together. The foundation of such mutual understanding through dialogue is the first step in this process.

Around the world people who inject drugs are giving sterile injecting equipment to their friends, are sharing education and knowledge and supporting service access. At a global and regional level drug user organisations are supporting consultation and contributing to policy development. At a country level we can provide a community watch dog function helping donors to spend money wisely and programmers to deliver services effectively.

Our challenge to all countries is meaningfully involve people who use drugs in the design, implementation and monitoring of the HIV response. If you are serious about engaging us as true partners then this has include the resourcing of our organisations and the meaningful participation of our representatives. This is key to reversing the trajectory of the HIV epidemic and bringing under control the spiraling costs of HIV. It is time to stop framing my community always as the problem and instead to recognise that we are a key part of the solution to HIV.

Order the NEW ISSUE of Black Poppy Today!

Yes it is out and available to order online now!

Issue 14 is out now!

To find out more about what is in the latest issue (no 14) go to the tab button in the heading above called ‘NEW ISSUE’ which gives details about the contents.

To order the magazine please go to the online shop at

c/o Exchange Supplies (click here)

Harm Reduction Meets Mental Health – creating a very useful publication

 

coming off psych meds

coming off psych drugs

A very interesting publication (also available in format you can print out and fold into booklet) called Harm Reduction and the Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs. Clearly utilising the principles of harm reduction such as ‘informed consent, accurate information to help you make better choices about the drugs you take, supporting alternatives and options to enable and empower you to take control of your drug use’ (in this case psych drugs).

The Icarus Project and Freedom Center‘s 40-page guide ….includes info on mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, risks, benefits, wellness tools, psychiatric drug withdrawal, information for people staying on their medications, detailed Resource section, and much more. A ‘harm reduction’ approach means not being pro- or anti-medication, but supporting people to make their own decisions balancing the risks and benefits involved. Written by Will Hall, with a 14-member health professional Advisory Board providing research assistance and 24 other collaborators involved in developing and editing. The guide has photographs and art throughout, and a beautiful original cover painting by Ashley McNamara”

It is also easy to use the printer version to print and fold into a booklet (instructions below) for yourself. You can also print multiple copies to distribute, or send to a print shop for color copies and stapling. (Low cost published copies with color covers are available by emailing orders(at)theicarusproject(dot)net, and you can also get multiple copies to distribute.)

Go to the Icarus Projects Website and download the publication. Also available in Spanish and German.

Also – on the same subject (coming off psych meds), its worth having a look at the new UK website

Introducing the Coming Off Psychiatric Meds website

This (new UK) website aims to give you up to date information about psychiatric medication, how it functions and the withdrawal process. It is put together by people who have been prescribed medication and withdrawn from it, and clinicians who have been involved in supporting this process.Research suggests doctors tend to know more about putting people on medication than the actual withdrawal process. It is important therefore to disseminate information about the ‘coming off’ process.

%d bloggers like this: