Posts Tagged ‘Heroin’

The Young Turks: US Senator Blames Heroin Addiction on Disability Benefits

December 27, 2015

Okay, this is another video from The Young Turks across the Pond. I’m reblogging it here, because the attitude of the Republican senator, who made this stupid speech is exactly the same as the Conservatives over here. It’s so similar that I wonder how long it’ll be before Ian Duncan Smith, Katie Hopkins, Louise Mensch or some other Tory rentagob makes precisely the same argument in parliament, or in the pages of the Sun or the Mail.

The Republican senator, Tom Cotton, gave a speech to the right-wing Heritage Foundation arguing that disability benefits should be abolished because they act as a disincentive for the disabled to get jobs. He stated that disability benefits encourage increasing numbers of people to stop working to go on them. Eventually there comes a point, according to Cotton, where the sheer number of people on disability benefits drives companies away from an area. Without the prospect of work, the people then turn to drugs like heroin.

The Turks’ Ana Kasparian points out that the heroin epidemic in America isn’t due to disability benefits. It’s due to the pharmaceutical companies putting pressure on doctors to overprescribe massively oxycotin. When this drug then becomes unavailable, those who have become addicted to it then try to self-medicate with heroin.

The Turks’ other anchor, Cenk Uygur, states he has some sympathy with Cotton, on the grounds that if benefits are paid at a rate above that of normal wages, most reasonable people will try to go on them instead. But he argues that isn’t the reason why Cotton has made this argument. Cotton is talking about the depressed communities in the Appalachians – the ‘Rust Belt’. These communities have been hard hit by the decline of the American manufacturing industry. Unlike Pittsburgh, the Appalachians haven’t been able to boost their economy with the introduction of new technology. So Cotton is attempting to divert attention from industry’s inability to create employment in the area by blaming the people themselves for their problems.

Uygur and Kasparian also start talking about the double standards the Repugs adopt when talking about drug addiction amongst White and Black communities. When it comes to White communities, they’re much less harsh and start to pretend to feel the pain of those communities suffering from it. ‘Cause those people aren’t Black. They also do so because many of the politicos’ own families are addicted to something unpleasant. To properly demonise something, they have to pretend it’s foreign. Uygur states that in the 1920s, when the US outlawed cannabis, they renamed it ‘marijuana’ in order to link it mentally with Mexicans. As for the corrosive effect of the pharmaceutical industry on American politics, the industry is the largest political donor.

The Tories share Cotton’s attitudes to disability. They too are determined to stop people claiming it, along with other benefits. As for the pharmaceutical industry, this is one of the problems that come with privatised medicine. So if the Tories get rid of the NHS, we’ll suffer the same phenomenon over here. And the Heritage Foundation has influenced British politics. Very many of the Tories on the extreme Right-wing of the party, like one Paul Staines aka Guido Fawkes, have been part of sections of the party, that have links to the Foundation and similar right-wing organisations. Cotton is saying what a fair number of Tories are thinking, and what they’d like to say if they could get away with it.

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The Young Turks on the Amphetamines Used by Fighters in Syria

November 23, 2015

A few days ago I posted about the report on the atheist news programme, Secular Talk, about the use of amphetamines by ISIS to keep their troops awake and fighting. The report originally came from one of the mainstream news agencies, based on statements made by ISIS’ opponents in Hizbollah. The Lebanese ‘Party of God’ stated that when they fought ISIS, the fearless warriors for the caliphate turned tail and ran. Later, when Hizbollah took their HQ, they found stacks of amphetamines used to strengthen the fighters’ resolve to maim and butcher for their sick theology.

I suggested in my post that, while the story is not incredible, it might be wise to take it with a pinch of salt. Hizbollah are also a militant Islamist group, who have shown themselves perfectly capable of using propaganda themselves. This might be more of it.

It seems in this respect, I was wrong and a bit too cautious. The drug certainly exists, and was the subject of an article by the Groaniad. The Young Turks discuss the Groan’s report in this video, describing the drug’s effects and the way it has been exported to other nations in the Middle East outside of Syria. The drug is Captagon. It’s a powerful amphetamine-based stimulant that keeps those on it up and awake for days. It makes them feel immensely powerful. They don’t feel they need to eat, and numbs them so they can carry on fighting.

It is highly addictive, and long term use results in psychosis and brain damage. Most of the victims of the drug aren’t in Syria, however, but elsewhere in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, where about 50,000 people a year go into rehab addicted to it.

The report states that it’s used by the fighters in Syria, and does not mention it as being exclusively used by ISIS. The impression is that everyone involved in the fighting’s using it.

Warning: Like a lot of people, The Young Turks are in favour of the legalisation of cannabis, and their pro-weed views come across in this report. I know a lot of people enjoy a toke, but it is an illegal drug and there is some medical evidence to suggest that it too can cause brain damage.

That caveat aside, the Turks make it extremely clear that they certainly do not endorse this drug, and warn people about how nasty it is. They aren’t clear on how available it is in the US, and on that score wonder how necessary their warnings about it are.

Regardless of its availability, it’s clear that this is an extremely unpleasant drug, not just for its addictive and medically harmful qualities, but for its effect fuelling the bloodshed in that region. The various groups using it are being funded partly through sales abroad of the drug.

Here’s the video.

My guess is that, sooner or later, this muck’s going to find its way onto the streets of the West. The Americans partly kept their allies in the Vietnam War and the Contras fighting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua going through getting the CIA to arrange to sell the drugs produced by them in the Land of the Free. In Vietnam, this was heroin. The Contras produced cocaine. And thanks to our invasion of Afghanistan, opium production there has also skyrocketed. This rubbish will probably end up here, to blight further of the poor and disadvantaged, while giving big profits to the butchers producing it.

Vox Political: Tories Suppressed Reasonable Drug Policy, Lib Dems Claim

December 29, 2014

Mike over at Vox Political has a piece on the departure of the Lib Dem minister, Norman Baker, from the Home Office. Baker threw in his job the department because he believed that it was blocking a genuinely reasonable and effective policy to combat drug addiction. The article’s title is Tories turned down ‘reasonable and practical’ drugs policy proposals – Baker, and it’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2014/12/27/tories-turned-down-reasonable-and-practical-drugs-policy-proposals-baker/. It begins

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat who quit his Home Office job earlier this year claiming it was “like walking through mud”, has released details of proposed drugs policy reforms that he says Home Secretary Theresa May suppressed.

When he left, he said the will “to take forward rational evidence-based policy” had been in “short supply”, referring in particular to a Home Office report published in October, which found “no obvious” link between tough penalties and levels of illegal drug use.

He has now outlined his backing for three suggestions which he said the Home Office had drawn up:
◾Treating addicts with prescribed heroin under clinical supervision
◾A “Portuguese model” in which those who commit minor drug offences are offered treatment rather than facing criminal charges
◾Medicinal use of cannabis for certain conditions.

This isn’t the first time the Lib Dems have criticised the government for its policy on drugs. There is a section of the Lib Dems that periodically calls for the legalisation of cannabis. This has been debated on and off since I was at school. It even had some support from senior police officers. I can remember when this was debated back in 1983 or so when Thatcher was the elected dictator a chief constable saying he didn’t object to its legalisation. He tried it, and all it made him do was giggle.

Dangers of Cannabis Use

Cannabis does have its dangers, just like nearly every other kind of drug. Unlike heroin, it is not physically addictive. Excessive use may cause ‘cannabis psychosis’, where the user is tipped over into a form of insanity, though I know some mental health workers, who dispute this. It can also cause sterility in boys, who smoke it before puberty.

Medical Benefits of Cannabis

It’s significant here that Baker has not called for its blanket legalisation, only for its medical use to be legalised. This is perfectly reasonable, as cannabis has been known to be an effective treatment for the pain from MS, certain forms of arthritis and some people have found that it helps reduce the nausea from chemotherapy for cancer. There is therefore quite a strong case for its use as a medical drug, under strict supervision.

Benefits of Heroin vs. Methadone for Addicts

As for treating heroin addicts with that drug, again under medical supervision, this sounds shocking but is actually also entirely reasonable. Years ago I attended a computer course at one of Bristol’s FE colleges. One week it was running a drugs education campaign, in which members of one of the anti-drugs organisations wandered around attempting to persuade the students not to get involved in it. I think they were former addicts. Certainly the one I spoke to was. He told me that he believed that the current treatment of heroin addiction with methadone should be discontinued, and replaced with heroin as methadone was more harmful and more addictive than the drug it was intended to treat. It takes longer to come off methadone than it does heroin. Methadone does more damage to the system than heroin, and actually makes the user feel physically sicker than heroin. So while the use of heroin instead of methadone to treat heroin addiction seems simply wrong, even, perhaps, something of a reward for getting on the drug in the first place, like the use of marijuana for medical purposes there is actually good evidence to support it.

Matthew Parris’ Criticism of Tory Drugs Policy

There is little doubt that the current drugs policy is a shambles. Surprisingly, there’s a large section of the Tory party that actually knows this and agrees. One of them is Margaret Thatcher’s former Personal Private Secretary, Matthew Parris. Parris had got the sack from that post, after he replied to a letter addressed by an elderly lady to the Leaderene. The letter writer had complained about the poverty she was experiencing due to Maggie’s policies. Parris responded by telling her to shut up and stop complaining. The news of this got to the Mirror, and Parris got the sack. He later appeared on Radio 4 saying that his dismissal wasn’t quite like it was reported in the press, as the lady’s letter was a general rant about a number of topics, including being disturbed, so he claimed, by the noise from the local Asian children.

Parris was, however, an opponent of the government’s attempts to stamp out drug use hard through tough legal penalties. He didn’t believe it worked, and wrote an article in the arch-Tory magazine, The Spectator, explaining why. The article appeared over a decade ago now. It’s immediate cause was unilateral declaration by Anne Widdecombe that if the Tories entered government, they would come down even harder on drug use. This alarmed many others in her party, who didn’t share her opinions. There was, no doubt, a utilitarian aspect to this, as some of them may have been alarmed at the prospect of losing support from the Libertarians, who generally support drug liberalisation. Several very senior Tories came out to criticise the woman, who’s been dubbed ‘Doris Karloff’. A number even said that they’d tried cannabis themselves, and it had done them no harm. One had even smoked it in his pipe at Uni. This last revelation shocked Parris, who said that he couldn’t care less what the Conservative gentleman smoked – it could have been cowpats for all he cared. What he found shocking was that the man had smoked a pipe.

Treat Addiction as Disease, not Crime

The furore coincided with a general debate on the government’s drugs policy. It’s interesting that Baker points to the Portuguese system as a successful model for treating drug addiction. At that time in the early Noughties, the country that was held up as a suitable model for a successful drugs policy was either Switzerland or Austria. The approach, however, appears similar in that drug use and addiction is treated as a medical problem, rather than a crime. The result has been that those countries that have taken such an approach have a much lower incidence of drug addiction than Britain. Parris’ article pointed this out, and explained the reason for it. Basically, it’s the old one that if you make something a crime, then it becomes glamorous and seductive. It becomes ‘forbidden fruit’, and so some at least are drawn to it, simply because it is forbidden. If you make it a disease, which needs treatment on the other hand, it becomes much less attractive. No-one really likes being sick.

This approach was not, however, pioneered in Portugal, Austria or Switzerland. What is not mentioned in these reports, but was in Parris’ article, is that it was the system used in Britain under Ted Heath and Jim Callaghan. And according to Parris, it was beginning to pay off, with the number of addicts falling. In fact, according to Parris, the government may even have felt that they had beaten the drugs problem.

Then Maggie came along, and reversed it.

Why?

Reagan and the War on Drugs

According to Parris, Thatcher was forced to due to pressure from the Americans. Reagan had just entered the White House, and launched his ‘War on Drugs’. This was the renewed offensive against drugs, which domestically saw children encouraged to inform on their parents for smoking the weed. Internationally, it saw American troops launched into Latin American countries, like Colombia, to destroy the drug trade and the international gangs that deal in it at source. The result has been a bitter devastating war that has cost tens of thousands of lives in countries like Mexico, Nicaragua and Guatemala, and which shows no signs of stopping. The drug gangs in those countries are deeply unpleasant and responsible for truly horrific crimes and atrocities. They need and deserve to be stamped out. Military force, however, is not sufficient for this. A new approach is needed, which acts against the trade and the gangs that support it by reducing consumption in the affluent global north and west. One way of doing this is simply by reducing its attractiveness.

Conclusion: Make Drugs Less Attractive by Showing Them as Disease

Instead of looking at drugs as part of a rock ‘n ‘roll lifestyle, where young, hip rebels live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse, the view should be that the reality is that drugs will leave you poor, sick and dead. And due to the ravages of the chemical disease, you definitely won’t be beautiful.

From what I understand, the approach Norman Baker recommended isn’t a case of being ‘soft’ on drugs. In Portugal, Switzerland and the other countries that have adopted it, drugs are still illegal and their medical use tightly controlled. It really is a case of simply moving from treating it as a crime to a disease, which needs to be cured. This was, after all, the British policy, before Reagan decided that the troops needed to be sent in, and Maggie obediently complied.

Coventry Tories Attack Food Banks and the People Who Need Them

June 29, 2014

Lady Godiva posted this video as a comment to the post I reblogged from Unemployed in Tyne and Weare about one of the Tory councillors for Coventry, Lepoidevin, blaming the people using food banks for their own predicament. She claimed that some of the people forced to turn to them did so because they chose to indulge their own selfish desires for drugs and alcohol over paying the rent and feeding their children. This video shows her actually saying that. It begins, however, with her colleague, Councillor Blundell, claiming that the rise in food banks is due to the ambition of the Trussell Trust to have a food bank in every town. Blundell then says they’re going to ‘thwart’ the Trust’s ambition, partly by ‘growing the economy’. Here’s the video:

Now, as Untyneweare’s article made clear, some of the people referred to the food banks do come from an agency dealing with those issues. However, the person, who has to spend his or her rent or money for food on alcohol and/or drugs, has gone way beyond using them for pleasure. They’re addicted. There’s a lot you can say about alcoholism and drug addiction. One of the most important is that it’s not a pleasure, it’s a clinical illness. The countries that have the best recovery rates for these diseases, like Switzerland, treat it as such. And part of the reason they succeed, is that while some people might find defying the law for forbidden and dangerous pleasures attractive, no-one really wants to be sick.

And we are dealing with severe sickness here. A friend of mine once told me he knew people, who were hooked on heroin. They once literally sold the clothes off their backs for a fix. No-one ever goes through that stage of addiction voluntarily. Somebody that does clearly needs help.

As for doing it for pleasure, the impression I had from the people, who spoke at the Uni about a project the archaeology department did in Bristol with the homeless, is that many of those on the streets, who have alcohol and drug problems, have severe psychological problems. In the case of the children and young people, they’re quite often fleeing violent and abusive home. In psychological parlance, they’re ‘self-medicating’. They’ve started using drugs and alcohol as a way of escaping from some of the inner, mental torment. They’re sick on all number of levels. Councillor Lepoidevin is basically kicking people who are severely ill, based on nothing more than the folk wisdom and morality peddled by the Daily Mail and the Express.

Just before Blair won the 1997 election, Channel 4 showed a programme ‘The Dinner Party’. This consisted of very middle class types simply talking round the dinner table about, well, Life, the Universe, and Everything. But with precious little of the late Douglas Adams’ wit, humour or intelligence. Instead, it showed them as a bunch of profoundly ignorant, sneering misanthropic snobs with a complete contempt for their social inferiors and an absolute complacency about their own status in society. The picture was so revolting, that several TV reviewers joked that Channel 4 had deliberately screened it to boost Blair’s campaign by showing how utterly disgusting the Tories were.

It’s precisely the reaction I have to the crew in this video. One of the contributors to Lobster once asked one of his friends, what the global financial elite were after the friend attended a high level banking conference. The friend said simply, ‘Worse than you can ever possibly imagine’. This shows them without the mask. And it’s ugly. Very ugly.