Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: People Take Drugs

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  • Rich Lock,

    what the hell is the DEA doing in Afghanistan???

    90% of the world's poppies for heroin production are grown there, so under the current mindset of western governments, it's logical for them to be there - a key (but extremely ill-thought out) plank of the current UK intervention there was to eradicate opium poppy production and stop the flow of heroin into British cities.

    However, for a snapshot of exactly how pointlessly destructive that particular mindset can be, I recommend James Fergusson's 'A million bullets'.

    The British army's attempts to eradicate what was effectively the sole livelihood of farmers in Helmand province ends more or less exactly how you would expect it to end.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Leopold,

    Ol’ “Me too!!” again…

    Ugh. It’s not even that – I’m actually pretty easy if National and Labour aren’t really that far off the middle-line, and substantively agree on a hell of a lot. But what grinds my gears about Phil Goff and John Key is that I think my Gran had a point when she said this – When you try to be all things to all people, you just end up being nothing to nobody. There’s a real and worthy distinction between being pragmatic and not knowing when it’s time to lead.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Meanwhile, tripme.co.nz (actual website) goes to town in Close up rants cluelessly about legal pot alternatives.

    I don’t think it’s quite as innocuous as they say there – a tiny R18 sign on the packet is not the same thing as a formal age restriction that suppliers have to obey under penalty of law.

    But Pat Buckley, Close Up’s expert, is one of a group of people who get a lot of attention – and charitable funding – in the drug harm field while they cheerlead some pretty ropey solutions. Basically, the guy who spent 18 years addicted to IV drugs might not actually be your best call here.

    They use the discredited “shock and awe” Montana Meth material.

    And this is one of the signs of marijuana use, according to their website:

    Acting silly for no apparent reason.

    I do that stone cold sober, and I’m not even a teenager.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18970 posts Report Reply

  • Rex Widerstrom, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It looks like being a non-useful exercise in stunt broadcasting.

    I'm a bit ambiguous about such things... TV always dives straight for the bottom of the barrel (present company excepted, of course) but having seen the same exercise undertaken for alcohol occasionally I'd have to say that if it's done well it can serve an educative function.

    I can even cite a personal instance, albeit a "backwards" one in terms of this topic: Mythbusters did an episode comparing drink driving and talking on a mobile while driving. Sure it was "fun" seeing the team get drunk but the eventual message -- that talking on a mobile (something I'd done regularly) is almost as dangerous as driving drunk (something I was proud of having never done, even in my yoof) -- actually did serve to educate me in a way no amount of heavy-handed "road safety" commercials would ever do.

    If Channel 4's effort makes people aware that after x amount of drugs it's not a good idea to do y because you're actually much more impaired than you thought, it could do far more good than harm. Especially when young people have begun losing their lives to planking, an activity I can't imagine undertaking unless you're at least a little farked up.

    Perth, Western Australia • Since Nov 2006 • 157 posts Report Reply

  • vangam, in reply to Rich Lock,

    Thanks for that Mr Lock. The futility of that policy is illustrated by the NZ experience: when you stop the flow of heroin something even uglier takes its place, ie.'P'.

    Rangiora • Since Jun 2007 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Acting silly for no apparent reason.

    Can't resist pointing out I'm doing an improv show in Auckland this week.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1096 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to vangam,

    Thanks for that Mr Lock. The futility of that policy is illustrated by the NZ experience: when you stop the flow of heroin something even uglier takes its place, ie.'P'.

    Do they actually appeal to the same people? They have practically opposite effects. Mind you there's no law that says you can't mix uppers with downers. They just have to be coffee and booze, is all.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Also worth reading: The New Zealand Alcohol and Drug Use Survey.

    The interesting figure for me is the question about why subjects stopped using marijuana. The most common answer (36% in 2007-2008) was “didn’t like it”.

    Even though people were free to give multiple reasons, only 8% of respondents cited fear of the police or the law. It’s basically the same every time they do the survey: the criminal law does not play a significant role in encouraging people not to desist from using cannabis.

    But thinking about their personal heath does.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18970 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Do they actually appeal to the same people? They have practically opposite effects.

    Oh yes. I saw a few long-term junkies jump ship to P -- and then proceed to lose their previous ability to manage their lifestyles.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18970 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to BenWilson,

    Do they actually appeal to the same people?

    People like to get their consciousness altered. Some more than others, and some to the point of harm to themselves and those around them, either directly or indirectly. I don't think it really matters how. It's like wack-a-mole - choke off one illegal high, and another one will pop up.

    I certainly knew a lot of people back in the day who would happily switch or even mix stuff that would take you up with stuff meant to take you down.

    Nothing productive will happen in the way of policy until those in charge actually acknowledge the very simple fact that people like to get fucked up.

    Edit: and, I will add, get very, very inventive about how they do it. No amount of legislation will change that.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Leopold,

    Thomas Pynchon's Vineland ring a bell, anyone?

    Since Jan 2007 • 147 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Leopold,

    Thomas Pynchon’s Vineland ring a bell, anyone?

    Not for me personally, but I love how you make us look good by bringing it into the conversation.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18970 posts Report Reply

  • Rex Widerstrom, in reply to Rich Lock,

    People like to get their consciousness altered... I don't think it really matters how.

    Perhaps not (though the junkies I've worked with tell me it does, if they have any sort of choice at all), but it certainly matters when you want to rid yourself of the monkey on your back and you -- addicted as you are to stimulants -- find that the only legal option on offer is methadone, a depressant.

    Even for those addicted to opiates there are cleaner alternatives (morphine, even prescription heroin) but, having got methadone past the wowsers, it seems no one in charge of drug policy wants to risk suggesting that perhaps doctors need more than a single tool in their kits lest it result in knees jerking against the use of anything at all.

    Perth, Western Australia • Since Nov 2006 • 157 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Rich Lock,

    90% of the world’s poppies for heroin production are grown there, so under the current mindset of western governments, it’s logical for them to be there

    Someone did a study that showed a very nice inverse correlation between grain prices and opium production. Essentially if the Afghani growers can get a decent price for grain they will switch from poppies to grain.

    Logically a trade subsidy for grain from Afghanistan would seriously damage opium production and be much cheaper than using guns.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3420 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    So the compelling thing for me is that we've been treating drug users as criminals for several decades and it hasn't stopped people using drugs. Worse it hasn't stopped people being harmed.

    So can we please stop doing something that doesn't work and try doing something different. It's pretty much the definition of stupidity to keep repeating the same actions year after year and expecting a different outcome.

    There are no guarantees that trying something new like legalisation and education to try and avoid harm from drugs. But we know beyond any shadow of a doubt that our current approach fails.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3420 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Oh yes. I saw a few long-term junkies jump ship to P -- and then proceed to lose their previous ability to manage their lifestyles.

    Yes, P is much more insidious, precisely because you can function well on it, and overdosing sounds almost impossible.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

  • vangam, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    So the compelling thing for me is that we've been treating drug users as criminals for several decades and it hasn't stopped people using drugs

    But according to the laughable Pauline Gardner, we have been trying the harm minimisation approach for the last 20 years! It is true, in a manner of speaking; harm minimisation has been permitted in some small measure, but overall the policy is still dictated by the 'war-on-drugs' approach.

    Rangiora • Since Jun 2007 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Yes, P is much more insidious, precisely because you can function well on it, and overdosing sounds almost impossible.

    Right up until you haven't slept for a week and your friends don't want you coming around.

    The very large majority of users, it should be noted, never get to that place. But P does seem to have a higher attrition rate than anything else I've seen.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18970 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    So can we please stop doing something that doesn't work and try doing something different. It's pretty much the definition of stupidity to keep repeating the same actions year after year and expecting a different outcome.

    Like Neo-liberalism, the response to that is to say "Yeah, we know it doesn't work in practise but sticking to the theory is more important."

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 424 posts Report Reply

  • vangam, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But P does seem to have a higher attrition rate than anything else I've seen.

    God knows why. It was the most underwhelming experience I'd ever had (which, I might add, is not inconsiderable) with drugs.

    Rangiora • Since Jun 2007 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Hogan,

    As they say...follow the money. Who benefits by having prohibition on some substances, and not others? Clearly some widely available (alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, sugar to name a few), have proven toxicity and can elicit behaviour (along with associated health costs) much more harmful to society?

    What we put in our bodies is our own business, not any governments. Our behaviour, and our health care costs passed on to others as a result of what we have put in it, is what the real problem for society is...prohibition never stopped anybody from using anything. Idiots will be idiots regardless of what is legally available. Prohibit them, not the substances they may use.

    Waiheke Island • Since Nov 2006 • 31 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Thomas Pynchon’s Vineland
    ring a bell, anyone?

    'token" literary reference?
    ; - )
    I prefer Inherent Vice myself

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5062 posts Report Reply

  • Rex Widerstrom,

    I'm still not sure if I should post this, but here goes...

    I feel one of the major obstacles to harm minimisation efforts as discussed here are the organisations who follow the "12 Step" method of recovery. Their very firm belief is that total abstinence is the only way forward and many of those involved are highly antipathetic toward harm minimisation strategies.

    I'm loathe to point this out because many of those people are individuals I admire and to whom I owe countless debts of gratitude for the help they have given to others at my behest. And because, for many people, abstinence does work. Just not everyone; or just not right away... sometimes it needs to be approached via reduction, substitution and other techniques.

    The other barrier to change these organisations represent is, paradoxically, their anonymity. An addict can of course choose to "out" themselves, but it's frowned on by many. Thus getting someone whose life experience would be both useful and inspirational to engage publicly in debate on these issues is often impossible. There are vast resources of knowledge and experience locked up behind the door marked "_______ Anonymous", unavailable to you unless you attend. And to do so unless you're an addict yourself would be a gross breach of trust and protocol.

    I know, for instance, a man of formidable intellect and courage who worked alongside Timothy Leary. The journalist part of me wants to sit him down in front of a camera; the justice policy advocate part of me wants to do the same thing for different reasons; he, however, maintains his anonymity as he is part of Narcotics Anonymous and I of course respect that.

    But the educational value of a man who was there at the birth of the "counter culture" talking about those times and his experience with addiction... it quite literally pains me to see that insight unable to be more widely shared -- with policy-makers, borderline addicts, those thinking of indulging, and the wider public.

    Perth, Western Australia • Since Nov 2006 • 157 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to vangam,

    But P does seem to have a higher attrition rate than anything else I've seen.

    I'd say it's more that it becomes extremely noticeable when someone is abusing it. Hard to ignore people having psychotic episodes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rex Widerstrom,

    I feel one of the major obstacles to harm minimisation efforts as discussed here are the organisations who follow the "12 Step" method of recovery.

    Any group who is dogmatic about treatment is going to do some harm. I can see why abstinence is a popular program, though. For starters, for some people it works. Also, it's the one treatment that will be approved of by all prohibitionists, who could easily say that other treatments are not treatments at all.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

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