August 31st, 2012


Huh. Timely.

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?