Safe Injecting: Denmark Says Yes, Canada Under Cloud
Denmark has opened its first medically supervised injecting clinic. Equipped to serve 120 of Copenhagen’s heroin users, the clinic distributes free prescribed heroin to voluntary applicants who have been referred from methadone centres for treatment.
Meanwhile, the Canadian federal government is appealing to the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling allowing Canada’s only safe-injecting centre to remain open.
Insite, a Vancouver-based site that opened in 2003, remains North America’s only supervised injecting centre. In Jaunary, the British
Columbia Court of Appeal dismissed the government’s attempt to close it, stating that sections of Canada’s hard-line drug laws are unconstitutional.
Sources: AFP, Vancouver Sun, ABC
Calls for NSPs in Prison
Two reports published in Australia and Canada have called for the urgent introduction of needle andsyringe programs in prisons.
In a report published last month, Australia’s Journal of Health, Safety and Environment has confirmed the obvious: drugs and needles are widely available in prisons, and unsafe injecting is rife, leading to widespread hepatitis C infection.
The report, focussed on staff safety rather than inmate health, says that the current ban on NSPs is a breach of occupational health and safety regulations. Research indicates seven per cent of prison officers “may suffer needle-stick injury”.
In Canada, the HIV/AIDS Legal Network has urged the government to follow the lead of 60 prisons in Europe and Asia, and introduce NSPs. In its report released in February, the Network states that HIV and hepatitis C infection rates are 10 to 20 times higher in Canadian prisons than in the general population.
Sources: Rouse Hill Times, CBC
Methedrone to Be Made Illegal in UK
The United Kingtom is about to ban the use of the drug mephedrone, a stimulant synthesised from the East African/Arabian plant khat. The forthcoming ban follows a series of deaths in England and Scotland which are alleged by British media outlets to be linked to use of the drug.
Known on the street as m-cat or ’drone, and in the UK tabloids as meow-meow, mephedrone has been sold in the UK via the internet or “headshops”, often marketed as plant food. Its effects have been described as similar both to MDMA and cocaine. Its source, khat, has been used legally in the Arabian Peninsula for centuries.
Thanks to supply shortages of MDMA in Australia over the last six months, m-cat has been sporadically sold in New South Wales and Queensland, sometimes masquerading as ecstasy. The drug is illegal in Australia, and has recently been banned in Israel and parts of Scandinavia.
Sources: The Times, The Guardian, SMH
Define “Safe”, Mr Conroy
Internet company Yahoo has warned that websites promoting harm reduction and safer injecting (such as this website) could be blocked if the proposed internet censorship legislation is introduced.
In one of 174 submissions to the government about the proposed legislation, Yahoo points to a recent University of NSW report that warns of “knee jerk regulatory reactions to ‘controversial’ content… entirely out of step with broader public opinion”. Yahoo’s concerns have been echoed by the majority of other submissions.
The proposed legislation, overseen by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, would block ISP access to “illegal and prohibited content”.
Liver Transplant Recipient Dies
West Australian mother of two Claire Murray has died in Singapore from complications after a liver transplant operation.
Ms Murray was the target of media attacks after she was provided with a WA Government loan to have the transplant operation.
The operation, Ms Murray’s second, was required after a rare genetic disorder caused her body to reject her first transplanted liver. Several media outlets, including the Sydney Morning Herald, incorrectly reported the rejection as being due to “drug use”.
Ms Murray, 24, had contracted acute liver failure after several years of injecting heroin and amphetamines.
Sources: SMH, channelnewsasia.com
More Signs of the Turning Tide in Washington and at the UN
A number of recent encouraging signs indicate that both the United States and the United Nations are shifting ground in their approach
to illicit drugs.
In March, the US delegation at the 53rd UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs departed for the first time from the “crime” model of tackling illicit drug use, endorsing a UN resolution promoting access to controlled drugs for medicinal purposes, and co-sponsoring new initiatives to help HIV patients that include harm reduction strategies.
While the Obama Administration’s official line is still opposed to harm reduction, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske has deliberately turned down anti-harm reduction rhetoric in recent speeches, and delegates for the first time appeared receptive to ideas outside the “War on Drugs” hard line.
During the same conference, Antonio Mario Costa, the controversial executive director of the UNODC, brought to light the plight of millions of drug users around the world who face poverty, imprisonment and lack of medical attention. Costa stated that his department and the World Health Organisation are working together to achieve universal access to drug treatment.
In February, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced the creation of a new Cambodian national drug treatment centre, to be opened by 2015, after a Human Rights Watch report condemned the country’s existing “boot camp” drug rehabilitation centres for human rights abuses.
Source: The Colorado Independent
No Help: HIV Rates Soar Without Harm Reduction
According to an Australian report published in prestigious medical journal The Lancet, over 90 per cent of the 16 million injecting drug
users worldwide are offered no help to avoid contracting HIV.
Although there is a growing international embrace of harm reduction strategies like providing needles, implementation is slow, with only
8 per cent of users accessing such programs in the last year.
Countries such as Russia, China, Malaysia and Thailand are facing a huge and growing crisis of HIV infection, with a million injecting drug users in Russia alone infected with the virus.
Gerry Stimson, director of the International Harm Reduction Association, described the reluctance of certain governments to embrace harm reduction as “playing politics with people’s lives”.
Drugs Act Breaks Human Rights, Court Finds
The Victorian Court of Appeal has ruled that Victoria’s Drugs Act contradicts the state’s human rights charter.
The Drugs Act, introduced in Victoria in 1981, states that drugs found in someone’s home are deemed to be in that person’s possession.
Melbourne lawyer Vera Momcilovic was conviced of methamphetamine trafficking in July 2008 after police found a stash of meth in the freezer of her city apartment. She insists she knew nothing about the ice, and that it was the property of her partner Velimir Markovski, who pled guilty to drug trafficking charges in 2007.
At the end of Ms Momcilovic’s appeal, the court issued a “declaration of incompatibility” between the Act and the Charter.
The Charter on Human Rights, enacted in 2006, states that an accused person is presumed innocent of a crime until he or she is proven guilty in a court of law. This presumption is a fundamental part of Australian and international law.
Source: The Age
Every Breath You Toke: Sting Supports Marijiana Legalisation
Singer-songwriter Sting has declared that “the ‘War on Drugs’ has failed’ and that marijuana should be legalised.
On his blog, the former Police frontman supported lobby group the Drug Policy Alliance in its calls for the release of non-violent drug offenders from prison.
The LAPD-linked anti-drug education program DARE has criticised Sting’s remarks. A spokesman for the program said, “We do not need pop stars coming out and making irresponsible statements like that.”
I am writing in response to the prison stories in User’s News No. 59. I could not agree more with the writers of these stories.
In March last year my son lost his father, I lost my soul mate and his parents’ lost their son after my partner of 10 years was sentenced to six weeks in prison for fraud after using other people’s Medicare cards and stealing script pads from doctors in order to obtain S8 drugs such as Valium and OxyContin.
Jap refused to even consider going on the methadone program and was never forced to while in prison. Before he was sentenced he asked the judge if it was possible to send him to an in-patient drug rehab program, for any period of time the judge wished. Unfortunately
his pleas fell on deaf ears and from the moment he was released he went straight back to his old ways, but this time also using speed and heroin. In prison they gave him two Valium a day and Panadeine Forte. He requested counselling but was only once assessed by a psychologist. The rest of the time he ate, slept, read books and watched TV.
The first thing he did after being released was go to a doctor, even before he went to Centrelink. Tragically he died four days later from an overdose of OxyContin and Valium. I tried to revive him and so did the ambos, but without success. He died in the kitchen of the home our son and I still share. Worst of all, our son, aged two and a half at the time, saw the whole thing.
I agree the prison system doesn’t work for chronic drug users. Jap asked for help while in prison but received none. Instead he was simply released on parole without learning a thing. He committed the same crimes with the same “borrowed” Medicare cards, and it killed him. Jap was treated as just another drug addict and got chewed up and spat out by the revolving door system. Now his son and daughters have no father, his parents and sisters have no son or brother, and I lost my best friend. Yes, he committed a crime and should do the time; it’s not the police or the court’s fault he was addicted to drugs. But still, they let him down.
Jap asked for help, both inside prison and out. He never received it and now he’s dead. What we need is rehabilitation not incarceration. Jap was no angel; he was a drug addict and he knew that. What gets to me is that he reached out for help and was kicked in the face. He knew he had to do his time but he wanted to use that time to get on the road to recovery, yet he was not allowed. The prison system failed.
In loving memory of Jap, 1966 to 2009. May you finally rest in peace.
Nat and your loving children
Say No to Manslaughter
I assume most readers of User’s News have heard about the 22-year-old woman described as a “massage parlour worker” who’s been charged with the manslaughter of the ex-Socceroo player Ian “Iggy” Gray for helping him with his shot at his home in Elizabeth Bay in Sydney.
Surely like me you’ve heard of other people going to jail for this so-called manslaughter? For doing something they’ve probably done over 100 times - helping a friend have a shot and through no fault of theirs the person fatally overdoses.
I understand that people, especially parents and family, want to feel justice has been carried out - justice usually meaning revenge. But this sort of manslaughter is unique. The person who was injected was a ready and willing participant. And the pain of a friend dying is surely enough of a sentence in itself.
Last year on the news I saw a young man being released from prison after doing a few years for the same reason. He’d hit up a friend who dropped. A journalist was questioning him how he felt about the girl who had died.
When I saw that I thought: what has been achieved by locking this young man up? There’s a very great chance he’ll become institutionalised like so many others, which can take years to overcome. Or maybe he went in with no diseases and came out hepatitis C positive or even with HIV.
I’m sure many readers of User’s News have shot up other people and we all know to be careful.
But sometimes you don’t know all the facts. I recall one time when a friend of mine, Jean, went to a mutual friend’s place. Her name was Katie and she’d phoned Jean begging for a shot. Katie told Jean she used a half weight per hit, which I knew was rubbish: a $50 deal
suited her fine. But I wasn’t there. As luck would have it Jean didn’t have that much gear on her and apologising, she shot Katie up with just $100 worth. Immediately Katie’s eyeballs rolled back in her head before her head rested on her chest. A pretty freaked out Jean slapped her face and started walking Katie around, trying to revive her. Ultimately Katie was fine, but what if she’d dropped dead? Should Jean have been charged with manslaughter? I think not.
The straight society may not understand the politics or the morals of shooting up. But in Jean and Katie’s case it was one of a greedy pig taking advantage of a generous and caring woman. Even if the worst had happened, manslaughter is not the answer.
A Career in Drug and Alcohol
I recently began my nursing career and one of my placements was at a drug and alcohol and methadone unit in Sydney. During the couple of months I was there I gained a lot of experience and knowledge from our clients, who gave me great insight into their lives. Although it was both mentally and emotionally draining at times, I realised that this field of nursing isn’t so bad after all. My duty was not only to provide care for our clients but to promote harm reduction, and I established a great rapport with most of them.
After I finished with the clinic and went to ward nursing for my next rotation, I realised that the drug and alcohol field of nursing is where I would like to develop my career. I want to further enhance my skills and promote harm reduction and make a difference towards the lives of people who use drugs. Although a lot of people in society write off people who use and think the worst of them, I have had positive experiences with the clients I have met and can see the potential in them all.
Opinion: The Urgent Need for Prison Release Programs
I’m a 28-year-old drug user. I started smoking pot at 15 and soon afterwards started using amphetamines with gusto. From there I’ve used nearly every drug that’s available, although I’ve always preferred good quality amphetamines. I’ve been in and out of prison for the past 10 years in Queensland and New South Wales, all because I needed to earn money to score. My habit continued to get bigger until I was shooting $300 per shot, three times a day, and I became completely out of control.
Anyone who uses a lot of gear or meth and says they’re in control of their drug use is fooling themselves. We all know that one shot is never enough and in most cases the more we get the better. The old saying, “the harder you go, the harder you fall”, is very accurate. Each time I’ve gone to prison has been due to supporting my drug habit. And the worst thing is, even if you’re ready to pull the pin on using after you’re released, it’s damned near impossible when, like myself, there’s no support once you’re out. When a prisoner gets out of jail they get a $200 debit card and if they’re lucky half a fortnightly payment. Nothing else, just that. Well how’s a person meant to survive on $400 upon getting out of prison? It’s impossible. You can hardly get accommodation for that much these days, never mind paying for food and getting some clothes and shoes. Like I say, it’s impossible.
There are no programs or courses in prison that really help inmates when getting out. The government sends people to jail to do the time for their crime, and more importantly to come out rehabilitated. Well, in 90 per cent of cases the “crims” come out worse off than when they went in. When we come out we’re no longer getting three meals a day and have no bed to sleep in at night. We have to find a roof over our head, reasonably priced meals and clothing, and that’s just the start. The money we receive is nowhere near enough and the resulting stress pushes us into “survival mode”, and that, of course, is crime. There starts the revolving cycle of coming out and getting caught up in the same old scene, beginning to use again and committing more crime to get on. This sucks, especially for people who genuinely want to stop using and make a life for themselves off drugs.
The government should at least inject some serious money into putting programs together for people coming out of jail who have nowhere to go and seriously want to go through life without using illicit drugs. I truly hope this happens one day. We need support when we are released to help us get on our feet. I have so many friends who have lost everything prior to being incarcerated and leave prison with no house or flat to go to. They have to start from scratch and before they know it are back in jail. I ask them what happened, and every time it’s the same thing: they lose hope because they have no money after paying the first week’s rent and they use again and straight away they’re back in that circle, doing nearly anything to get on.
It’s a huge problem. People like myself should get a chance to at least have a go at life without crime. I can only hope that one day the government will open their eyes to this problem and put programs in place to fix it.