oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of August 23, 2010

We lead this week's report with a groundbreaking new study from the UK Drug Policy Commission on the extreme social stigma suffered by addicts. It raises some fundamental questions about the nature of addiction and the extent to which it is seen as a moral, medical or social issue.
Charles Shaw
24 August 2010

The junk of society - dangerous, unpredictable and, crucially, only having themselves to blame is how society thinks of drug users and former users.  The extreme stigma attached to drug addiction represents a massive obstacle to rehabilitation and recovery; hindering access to treatment, securing work and housing and rejoining society, and lasting for very long periods of time - a new evidence review published today by the UK Drug Policy Commission reveals.

"Sinning & Sinned Against: The Stigmatisation of Problem Drug Users" by Charlie Lloyd is the first instalment of a four part research study, supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation with additional funding from the Scottish Drug Recovery Consortium, and led by Professor Colin Blakemore (Professor of Neuroscience, Oxford University and UKDPC Commissioner), that asks why so much stigma is attached to drug addiction, how it may prevent social reintegration and whether society is ready for a shift towards a more compassionate approach, geared more towards care than punishment?

The stigma project follows an earlier UKDPC study ‘working towards recovery’ that found that two thirds of employers said they would refuse to employ a former heroin or crack user, even if they were otherwise suitable for the job

This report aims to summarise what the research evidence has to tell us about the stigmatisation of problem drug users; to explore the nature of this stigmatisation, its impacts and why it happens. These considerations raise some fundamental issues about the nature of addiction and the extent to which it is seen as a moral, medical or social issue. They also raise important questions about autonomy and the blame attached to addiction.

The six month stigma review - drawing from international and UK evidence - found:

o Staff involved in treating drug users can be distrustful and judgmental in dealing with problem drug users. And how we talk about drug users may affect how they are treated – a study in the US showed that medical staff shown descriptions of a person that differed only in whether they were described as a substance user or substance abuser were more likely to suggest punitive actions towards the individual described as a substance abuser.

o Users report that stigmatising attitudes can have a profound impact on their lives, leading to feelings of low self-worth and the avoidance of contact with non-users.  The supervised consumption of methadone in pharmacies provides a unique context in which users’ status as ‘problem drug users’ are made public, with many feeling stigmatised by the attitudes of pharmacy staff and other customers.

o Attending a drug treatment agency can increase stigmatisation with some feeling that the very act of seeking treatment serves to cement an ‘addict’ or ‘junkie’ identity, leading to further rejection from family and friends.

o Street policing of problem drug users can be publicly humiliating and add to feelings of injustice, alienation and stigmatisation. For recovering users, the continued labelling of them as drug users makes moving on extremely difficult.

The study also highlights possible areas for action:

  • Service user and advocacy groups becoming more active in challenging media reporting of drug addiction
  • Education and information campaigns to help the public understand addiction problems
  •  Support for celebrities and iconic public figures to talk openly about their recovery from drug addiction
  •  Better training for professionals who come into contact with people with addiction problems
  •  Greater use of voluntary work placements schemes to get beyond the ‘junkie’ stereotypes and help people onto the employment ladder

Download report here

Media coverage

colin blakemore

Professor Colin Blakemore says: 'Such hostile attitudes only add to the barriers of escape from drug dependence.' (Source: Guardian UK.  Photograph: Andrew Stuart/AFP/Getty Images)

Calling drug users 'junkies' hinders recovery, says study

24/08/2010 - Guardian.co.uk

Extreme prejudice for drug addicts, charity warns

24/08/2010 - Telegraph.co.uk

Don't label heroin users as 'junkies' - Drug Commission

24/08/2010 - BBC News UK


 Vohryzek happens to owe his life to that very system and he has no problems admitting it; better to lose your twenties and to have purpose than wake up at 55 and realize you’ve been imprisoned your whole life, said Vohryzek.

After experiencing and witnessing the minutiae of federal prison, Vohryzek, 33, has dedicated himself to fighting for an overhaul of drug policy in America.

The eccentric, self-described “computer-geek” and uncommitted atheist/ agnostic is using his insight, edginess and audacity to irritate the wound surrounding American drug policy. Working as an office administrator and blogging for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Vohryzek uses whatever opportunities he can to further the public’s discussion and action towards systemic reform.

“The more language you put out there, the better because generating debate is of tremendous value to society,” said Vohryzek. “My personal belief is that the war on drugs is a continuation of reasoning that started with slavery, was adapted to Jim Crow

Source: Journalism 2.0. Continue reading.

Malakkar Vohryzek will appear in the upcoming Unheard Voices documentary project. A two-minute "teaser" will be released on September 30th, the day before I embark upon a seven week tour of the US and UK to film scores of other interviews. ~ CS

"Cary in the Sky with Diamonds"

Before Timothy Leary and the Beatles, LSD was largely unknown and unregulated. But in the 1950s, as many as 100 Hollywood luminaries—Cary Grant and Esther Williams among them—began taking the drug as part of psychotherapy. With LSD research beginning a comeback, the authors recount how two Beverly Hills doctors promoted a new “wonder drug,” at $100 a session, profoundly altering the lives of their glamorous patients

Source: Vanity Fair


Ed's note: I used ayahuasca as a therapeutic agent in healing from a  20-year long bout with addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is a powerful, and powerfully effective, medicine. Even though it has no abuse potential, it is not for recreational use, or the faint-hearted. They don't call DMT "the spirit molecule" for nothing. This is an entheogenic plant, allowing one to "see the Divine within." ~ CS

In The Amazon, Potion Offers 'Window Into The Soul'

Juan Tangoa, a shaman and medicine man at Yacu Puma Healing Center outside Iquitos in northeastern Peru, looks at the glass of ayahuasca, a potion with hallucinogenic properties made from jungle vines and considered sacred by Indians. Growing numbers of foreign tourists are trying ayahuasca, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, fear, paranoia and nightmares, in hopes of soothing anything from childhood trauma to depression.

Visitors are flocking to the Peruvian Amazon to sample ayahuasca, a potion with hallucinogenic properties made from jungle vines and considered sacred by indigenous tribes. Lodges catering to "ayahuasca tourism" are attracting travelers who hope the concoction will help soothe a range of woes.

The Peruvian Amazon attracts thousands of foreign tourists who come for the jungle tours. Increasingly, tourists also arrive for a ritual they say provides them with a window into the soul.

Source: NPR, "All Things Considered." Listen to the full story here



California, you have got to be kidding me.

The state's Republican governor — you know, that yahoo by the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger — has spent his entire governorship besieged by the state's budget crisis. And now, apparently bent on being remembered as the governator who terminated any chance of California ever returning to fiscal stability, Schwarzenegger just announced his intent to pour $65 million into a new pet project.

What could possibly justify adding to California's $19 billion (with a "B") budget deficit? Could he be worried about the decline of a once-premier state university system? Might the governor be interested in restoring state employees to, say, full-time status? Is it possible he's investing in California's deteriorating infrastructure?

No. Schwarzenegger is building a new death row

Forget about the fact that California already spends over $100 million annually on capital punishment. Even if you set aside the fact that the death sentence doesn't actually deter criminals — and that it's distributed in a racially discriminatory way — investing more in California's death penalty is utterly ridiculous. Considering that the state has only executed 13 people since 1976, even the most staunchly pro-death advocates have to be scratching their heads about Schwarzenegger's latest move.



The administration of THC reduces the tumor growth of metastatic breast cancer and "might constitute a new therapeutic tool for the treatment" of cancerous tumors, according to preclinical data published online in the journal Molecular Cancer.  

Investigators from Complutense University in Madrid assessed the anti-tumor potential of THC and JWH-133, a non-psychotropic CB2 receptor-selective agonist, in the treatment of ErbB2-positive breast tumors – a highly aggressive form of breast cancer that is typically unresponsive to standard therapies.  

Researchers reported, "[B]oth Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol ... and JWH-133 ...reduce tumor growth [and] tumor number [in mice]. ... [T]hese results provide a strong preclinical evidence for the use of cannabinoid-based therapies for the management of ErbB2-positive 
breast cancer."  

In 2007, investigators at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute reported that the administration of the cannabinoid CBD limited breast cancer metastasis in a manner that was superior to comparable synthesized agents. 

Previous preclinical studies assessing the anticancer properties of cannabinoids have shown that they inhibit the proliferation of a wide range of cancers, including brain cancer, prostate cancer, oral cancers, lung cancer, skin cancer, pancreatic cancer, biliary tract cancers, and lymphoma.  

Full text of the study:http://www.molecular-cancer.com/content/9/1/196

    Just over two months ago, a Las Vegas narc killed Trevon Cole in a drug raid in his own apartment. The official story grows smellier and smellier, and the cop has shot people controversially before. But observers are still predicting the police shooter will be cleared this week.
    When you gun down an old lady on a bogus warrant, then plant pot at the scene to cover your misdeeds, you're a bad cop indeed. Now, Atlanta is paying for some of its bad cops.


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