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Huh. Timely. - Tactical Ninja

Aug. 31st, 2012

08:34 am - Huh. Timely.

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This morning I found myself sitting in bed crying as I read this article. There's nothing particularly heart-rending about the article - it's a piece in the New Internationalist making the argument for legalising all drugs. It covers all the standard arguments I'm familiar with, but when it got to the parts about the damage done due to the war on drugs, I cracked.

Punitive policies are fuelling the AIDS pandemic in the US, Thailand, China and especially the former soviet states. In Russia violent police attacks on drug users are commonplace, opiate substitutes are outlawed, and needle exchange programmes non-existent."

Maybe it was a first-thing-in-the-morning thing, but it seems these days that when I see stuff like this it makes me a lot more emotional than it used to. It seems I no longer think about this sort of thing in the abstract. Those drug users being violently attacked are people, not a statistic. And they are being treated as less than people because of their drug use, while people choosing other drugs can do it freely and with society's sanction - because of some arbitrary decisions made 100 years ago based in xenophobia and economic protectionism. I hate it.

Anyway, something else stood out to me in that article - a drug I'd never heard of, common in Russia, known as krokodil. It's actually desomorphine, an opiate that can be manufactured from codeine in a similar process to meth cooking. It's easier to get in Russia than heroin and is so named because of the heinous skin lesions that appear in long term users (seriously, do not google this unless you have a strong stomach). It's apparently a bit of an epidemic over there. I struggle a bit with my knowledge of media hype - if I were to go read a few articles about bath salts, for example, without any prior knowledge, I'd get an extremely inaccurate picture of it. So I'm not sure my quick googling around is giving me an accurate idea of what's up with desomorphine in Russia - but according to what I've read, what we have is a completely punitive environment in which opiate addicts are given no help whatsoever, and in which this extremely dangerous opiate is easier to access than heroin. Some would say heroin's extremely dangerous too, right? Heroin can suppress your breathing until you die, yes. And the lifestyle surrounding it is extremely dangerous - but only because it's illegal. It won't make your skin fall off and taking a controlled dose of it on a daily basis is less likely to do your body damage than taking a controlled dose of alcohol. And I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that all those people in Russia using desomorphine would be better off using heroin - especially if they could get it safely and cheaply in a known purity from a clinic that provided facilities for them to use it cleanly.

But no, they are drug users and must be punished for their moral depravity*, or deserve whatever they get, or something. That's why I cry. It's just So.Bloody.Wrong.

Anyway, the other thing that stood out for me in that article is Sanho Tree, who's a nob in drug policy in the US, saying that the key to changing things is now in public education. This ties in with a conversation I had last night about which way to go after I graduate. Y'see there's the policy direction, and the public education direction. If you read that article (long but worth it for a succinct rundown of the current state of affairs), you'll note that many people on the policy end are already starting to see the need for change. But to actually implement progressive drug policy in the environment where we've all grown up being fed propaganda about drugs, is political suicide. Even kiwis, who are apparently the biggest caners in the world, would not be likely to vote for legalisation of drugs should it go to referendum. So clearly there's a need for some public education in this area, to counter all the misinformation that's been fed to people in the last 40 years.

Do I want to go into public education? How do I do that anyway? I mean, apart from ranting into the void on LJ about it on a semi-regular basis and talking to people I know directly about it?

No clue. But I am serious about this, and every time I read about a new case of prohibition killing people I get more serious.

* While we enjoy our glass of wine with dinner every evening, of course. Because we are not depraved, only those drug users, right?

Comments:

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From:pixiebelle
Date:August 30th, 2012 08:57 pm (UTC)
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What bothers me is how people perceive drug abuse and addiction. They get punished, locked behind bars and then thrown back out to do it all over again until they die or get help. And help isn't easy to come by. Most people make comments about them deserving it. What if that were your daughter or nephew or cousin, huh?

I come from a family of drug addicts (meth, prescription pills, you name it). I've dated drug addicts. I've dabbled in drugs in my youth (never addicted so I can't know for sure how they feel). It's an addiction. They're harming only themselves if it wasn't for the illegal lifestyle built around it. They get treated like murderers and criminals when it's very different. It's an addiction and it's sad because even if they no longer want to be addicted because they see what it's doing to them... They're treated like lesser human beings.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 30th, 2012 09:00 pm (UTC)
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And all this continues against overwhelming evidence that punishing drug users makes any problems they have worse, and that problematic drug use is a small percentage of total drug use.

It makes no sense.
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From:ms_hecubus
Date:August 31st, 2012 03:07 am (UTC)
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Man, I know nothing about drugs. I have no idea what drugs are popular outside of the US, and I hardly know what's popular here.
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From:helianthas
Date:August 31st, 2012 04:25 am (UTC)
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1. I'd never heard the term "caners" before. Thanks! Now to google the etiology...</p>

2. In terms of public education, the buzzword I think you're looking for, at least in terms of social services and health education in the US, is "harm reduction model".

3. I agree, the system is so broken. Myself as an example: hydrocodone (an opiod, ie synthetic codeine) is one of the few things that helped my depression*. I never, ever abused it. I couldn't get anyone in CA to prescribe it, and my NY doc wasn't comfortable prescribing it from so far away & across state lines, since it's a "class 3.". I asked doctor after doctor, telling my whole story, at the same time saying "Under no circumstances give me benzos [ativan/lorazapam, valium/diazepam, xanax/alazapam, etc]". Yet I can get a benzo scrip in 2 seconds flat -- which do nothing dor me but cause, dependence, exacerbate my depression, risk addiction and heartache --- but can't get the med that helps me because doctors are too afraid of repercussions and/or that I'm an addict** to prescribe it to me.

*supposedly depression and fibromyalgia can both be caused by faulty/overactive pain receptors. Opiates work on those receptors and help alleviate the physical and existential pain. I got nauseated from the hydrocodone so never was tempted to abuse it; the relief I got was more in terms of the next day/ongoing uplift in mood as opposed to a "high", so abuse potential was low.

** never mind that I tell them I have a tendency to abuse benzos. They're not on the "watch" list so it doesn't matter.

Grrrr frustrating.

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From:tatjna
Date:August 31st, 2012 09:24 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, the harm reduction model is about the only one that's palatable at this point - I don't think the world's ready to accept that recreational substance use has benefits yet - but what I'm wondering, is what is the best vehicle for me personally to get out there in public education?

I've been contemplating a piece of PhD type research, which might get published and cited in academia and potentially affect policy. But that's not exactly public education. I'm talking about reaching your average Joe Blow about the topic - people who've never heard the term 'harm reduction' and who haven't yet grasped that alcohol is just another drug. I'm unsure what's the best way to educate those people.

And yeah - benzos scare the crap out of me. When they gave them to Mum* I freaked. She was really careful with them but she still ended up crashing her car because of them. And I've heard so many horror stories, but they still seem to dish them out like lollies.

* She ended up with morphine pills too and never abused them.
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From:lizardphunk
Date:August 31st, 2012 06:23 am (UTC)
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You're talking about Krokodil, which contains desomorphine but it highly contaminated. Desomorphine itself is a safe but strong opiate.

It's the other shit in the home made drug that will lead to necrosis of the tissue around the injection site. :/

What you've read about the Russian attitude seems about right though.

Some sources say that Krokodil is coming over the border to Norway. We have a serious problem with heroin in Norway and I really hope Krokodil won't catch on.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 31st, 2012 09:26 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, that's the impression I got - it's not so much the drug itself, it's the leftover contaminants from the cheapo cooking process. Realistically, black tar heroin isn't exactly clean either - and I lay the blame for the fact that people are injecting this crap on the extreme prejudice against supposedly supporting addiction by making pure heroin available to addicts.

It bothers me a lot that the appearance of stern disapproval of drug use seems more important to governments than the reality of people's safety.

Edited at 2012-08-31 09:27 pm (UTC)
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From:thatgirljj
Date:September 2nd, 2012 03:59 am (UTC)
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When I was younger I knew people who got into tar because it was sold to them as unpurified opium... thus safer and less addictive than china white. Uh, no, sorry, it just has more contaminants.
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From:thatgirljj
Date:September 2nd, 2012 03:57 am (UTC)
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I have heard similar things about krokodil, and have been keeping my eye out for anyone who might have halfway decent knowledge. As far as I can understand though, it is genuinely problematic... it is likely that you see the worst case scenarios when you google, but the same could be said of the American meth epidemic and I can tell you first hand that meth is a very serious problem (at least, I believe it's more dangerous than heroin for many reasons).

Side note: Personally I've got a raft of reasons ready why I'm going to march into my son's public school and ask him to be exempted from what passes for drug education in the US. Parents are allowed to exempt them from sex ed, I'm going to see if I can make that happen for drug ed.
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