Global Commission on Drug Policy: Legalization, decriminalization, and the war on drugs

A commission made up of some big names, though not really any names of addiction or drug researchers I noticed, just released a report that’s making a lot of noise throughout every news channel including NPR (see here, and here for stories) and others (see CNN). They want the debate about the current state of drug regulation expanded, and since I’ve written on the issue before, I figured it’s time for another stab at this. Continue reading “Global Commission on Drug Policy: Legalization, decriminalization, and the war on drugs”

About Addiction: Drug Withdrawal in Newborns, Heroin, and Harm Reduction

There’s so much to learn about addiction nowadays – Psychological theories, new stories, neuroscience research, and more. At All About Addiction we try to make the information easy to digest, so when you need to sort of the latest information about addiction, come see us, we’ll help.

Harm reduction – Heroin and Injecting Drugs

Irish Examiner-After four individuals died from heroin overdoses in Ireland drug workers are issuing warnings to heroin users. The heroin that is being used is of better quality so it elevates the risk for overdose. Heroin has been off of the streets of Ireland for the past couple of months due to supplying issues but now heroin is back, and it is so pure that it is killing people. Another issue could be that the short absence of the drug has left people with less tolerance then before.

The Body– The International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) and HIV rights groups are urging the UN’s to legalize methadone in order to fight HIV/AIDS and heroin addiction In Russia. Russia is home to 1 million HIV-positive people (for comparison, the U.S> has about 500,000) and has one of the fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world. In addition to this Russia has 3 million heroin addicts.  Russia is refusing to employ harm reduction programs such as needle exchanges, or to legalize methadone to treat heroin addicts.  Many Russian officials such as Gennady Onishchenko feel that legalizing methadone will not help as it is “just another narcotic.” We’ve hear the same argument here, but perhaps the IHRA can convince Russia to use harm reduction problems in order to help individuals.

Harm Reduction Coalition– This “webinar” allow its viewers to gain cultural competency when it comes to learning about the injecting drug user. It asks questions like:  “Why is there a need for IDU cultural competency?” and “What is IDU Cultural Competency?”. Check out the webinar and see what it has to offer!

Mental Health and Prescription Drug Withdrawal in Newborns

Orlando SentinelPrescription drug abuse is already a problem in our society; in Florida alone prescription abuse is responsible for at least seven deaths a day. Prescription drug abuse is becoming even more problematic as it is now affecting newborns. In 2009 alone 1,000 babies were born and treated for drug-withdrawal syndrome.  In the past babies that were going through drug-withdrawal symptoms were most likely to suffer from crack cocaine addiction but now the babies are more likely to be addicted to prescription drugs.

Science Daily– A study was conducted and found that children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are two to three times more likely than children without the disorder to develop serious substance abuse problems in adolescence and adulthood. Kate Humphreys, a colleague of Dr. Jaffe’s and a graduate student at UCLA was a coauthor of the research.

Addiction Recovery- Peer support

Stop Medicine Abuse-Often times it is best for teens to get information from their peers in order for something to have an effect in their lives. This website approaches substance abuse prevention with that specific mentality. Check out the testimony on this website as well as other resources that can be used by teens to learn about drug abuse.

Harm reduction – Why the bad press for addiction treatment that works?!

condoms can help protect again STDs

How many of you think that giving a crystal meth user condoms will increase their drug use? Probably not many. What if instead the question had to do with giving that same user clean needles rather than having them share a dirty one? Or having him reduce his drug use instead of stopping completely? I bet there would be a little more disagreement there.

Some of you may have heard of the harm-reduction approach to drug abuse counseling and treatment, but many of you likely haven’t because the term itself is essentially taboo in the United States. The idea is to approach the patient (or client) without the shaming or expectations of abstinence that normally come with drug treatment. Instead, the counselors hope to reduce as much of the negative things associated with the drug use.

For example, almost all drug injecting users end up with hepatitis C due to dirty-needle sharing. As in the above example, harm reduction practitioners would seek to provide users with clean needles, thereby reducing needle sharing and the transmission of disease. Risky sexual behavior is often associated with methamphetamine, and crack use; instead of targeting the use itself, often, interventions attempt to reduce unprotected sex, reducing HIV transmission in the process.

hypodermic-needleHarm reduction has many supporters, but unfortunately, there are at least as many people who are against it. The claim is that harm reduction doesn’t stop drug use, and that we shouldn’t be in the business of making drug use easier. In fact, though they have no data to support it, some people argue that giving users clean needles is likely to exacerbate their drug use. My argument is that life as a drug user is pretty difficult as is, and if we can provide a way to show drug addicts that people actually care about their well-being, we might help some of them see the light.

Even more to the point, my thinking is that HIV, Hepatitis C, and other conditions often helped by harm-reduction, have to be considered as additional societal costs of drug abuse. If harm reduction helps us tackle those collateral costs, I’m all for it as an additional tool.

The bottom line is this: If we can use multiple tools to solve a problem, why limit ourselves unnecessarily to only one? If harm reduction helps, why not use it in conjunction with abstinence treatment?

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s time for us to stop resorting to ridiculous moral judgments and start focusing on solving the problem. If we can help an addict use less, use fewer drugs, or use more responsibly, I say we should go for it!!!

Black tar heroin – Pure Death

Back in the 70s, heroin was mostly filler, and the good stuff was 5% pure or so. Nowadays a new, more potent, version of the stuff is killing people all around the country with widely varying purities as high as 90%.

What makes black tar dangerous

When heroin was weak, shooting it was the best way to get high, which kept many people away from it. But this relatively new stuff (it’s been around California for a while), brought in from Mexico and known by the name Black Tar, is strong enough to make smoking, or snorting, it a viable option for a nice long high. It’s a much easier sell for the dealers too – no more ugly needles, they tell their customers you can “just smoke it like weed,” which is true until you get hooked.

Black Tar HeroinLike any other form of heroin, black tar will cause some serious changes in a user’s body and brain, messing with the body’s pain, digestion, and mood systems. The problem is that at these purity levels, the chance of a user overdosing are much higher too, and that’s where the body-count comes in.

The stuff is cheap, at least in relation to the old heroin that used to come in from the far-east, but the body count’s mounting and the problems only getting worse. Heroin overdose death rates have gone up at 20%-50% and they’re still going strong. Many of the people who are most concerned about this are hoping that heroin doesn’t bring about the same epidemic that crack did in the 80s.

Avoiding death by talking

As usual, I don’t believe in running away from a problem like this. Instead, this is exactly the kind of thing that education, information, and a good dose of harm reduction can fix. We need to make sure people know that the potency of this stuff can kill you. The only way to make sure that less people die from black-tar heroin is to let them know that they need to be careful with it because one mistake can mean death.

I’m hardly ever the “just say no” type and I think that in this situation, an approach like that will leave us in deeper and deeper trouble. The AP article I based this on talked about yearly seizures of heroin quadrupling to 86 kilograms across the U.S.-Mexico border last year. By comparison, cocaine seizures in 2008 totaled more than 8000 Kilos! I can tell you one thing, as someone with experience as a drug dealer, getting 86 kilos across the border isn’t that hard with the amount of Mexican corruption and “help” dealers can get. Where’s there’s money, there’s a way, and it seems that this heroin trend is offering up some money.

Calderon honoring dead in drug warIt’s that experience of mine that makes me believe we have to work towards understanding addiction and who develops it, and getting better at prevention, intervention, and treatment. Try as we might, solving this problem by the supply side isn’t going to work, I don’t care how hard Calderon is willing to fight.

Heroin Addiction and HIV infection – Dirty needles and a place for harm reduction

Co-authored by: Jamie Felzer

Many people today know about the dangers and risky behaviors (sharing needles, unsafe sex, and mother-to-child transmission) that can increase the risk for HIV/AIDS infection. The question lies in whether or not they are able to take appropriate actions to prevent contracting the disease themselves.

Heroin addiction, dirty needled, and HIV infection

Many heroin addicts, especially those that are homeless or extremely poor, will use whatever heroin they can get, regardless of the risk it puts them in.  A study done in a San Francisco park frequented by almost 3000 IV drug users found that in times of heroin withdrawals, addicts would use dirty  needles, sometimes with visible traces of blood still on them. The need to overcome their withdrawal was more important to them than worrying about the risk of contracting HIV or any of the other countless diseases that can be contracted from such use.

Many of the users surveyed were poor and sometimes didn’t even have enough money to buy their own supply of heroin so they often pooled together what they had with others. They all shared the heroin, cooker and needle to get a fix for the time being.

Regardless of the consequences of HIV contraction, users needed their heroin.

In this community many of the users knew about the risks of sharing needles and were well aware of recommendations that they not share needles or bleach them.  The users actually found health outreach workers slogans patronizing because although they would have  loved not to have to worry about sharing needles, often the more imminent need is getting that fix or suffer being extremely sick from withdrawals.  Given the relatively rare harm-reduction sources available, they were able to use the clean needles given out by some health organizations but at other times had to be resourceful and use what they had regardless of the possible consequences.

There are 1.2 million people living with HIV in the US right now out of a 33.2 million total in the world. 2.5 million people recently acquired the disease and 18% of those new infections were from injection drug users (IDU).  HIV/AIDS is a preventable disease. If we allow users to have easier access to clean needles, we can help decrease the number of IDU infections. If you aren’t sure what your status is, get tested! HIV Testing

Here’s a great resource for finding needle exchanges operating in the U.S. : NASEN

Citation:

Social Misery and the Sanctions of Substance Abuse: Confronting HIV Risk among Homeless Heroin Addicts in San Francisco. Philippe Bourgois; Mark Lettiere; James Quesada. Social Problems, Vol. 44, No. 2  (May, 1997), pp. 155-173. University of California Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.

UNAIDS Website

About addiction: Marijuana withdrawal, harm reduction, and drunk driving

Here we are again – Check out this week’s great contributions from around to blogosphere.

From Addiction InboxMarijuana withdrawal – Bring on the hate mail – Although I’m in support of the decriminalization of marijuana, I think it’s important that we are honest about its effects.

Harm Reduction Works – Check out this great UK site about an under utilized approach to helping addicts.

From Medical News Today – Some scary DUI stats among youth