Wednesday, 27 July 2011

2500 plants, 13 bears, a dog, a pig and a raccoon (video)

A Russian news-reader has trouble keeping a straight-face in this video which shows the sometimes bizarre nature of drug prohibition.

Add SSDP UK on twitter

Monday, 25 July 2011

Russell Brand on Amy Winehouse and the Nature of Addiction

An extract from Russell Brand's blogpost about the recent, tragic death of jazz singer Amy Winehouse.

..."When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call. There will be a phone call. The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you they’ve had enough, that they’re ready to stop, ready to try something new. Of course though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you it’s too late, she’s gone.

Frustratingly it’s not a call you can ever make it must be received. It is impossible to intervene...

...Not all addicts have Amy’s incredible talent. Or Kurt’s or Jimi’s or Janis’s, some people just get the affliction. All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition, not as a crime or a romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill. We need to review the way society treats addicts, not as criminals but as sick people in need of care. We need to look at the way our government funds rehabilitation. It is cheaper to rehabilitate an addict than to send them to prison, so criminalisation doesn’t even make economic sense. Not all of us know someone with the incredible talent that Amy had but we all know drunks and junkies and they all need help and the help is out there. All they have to do is pick up the phone and make the call. Or not. Either way, there will be a phone call."...

Rest In Peace, Amy.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Other Side of the Coin: MS and Medical Cannabis

Clark French from Action4MS talks about his experiences with medical cannabis.

For the majority, the letters M and S next to each other has no other connotations than to remind them of a not-so-unknown British high street shop. For me, however, things couldn't be more different. I was diagnosed with MS in August 2010. My mother and late step-father both suffer/ed from the disease so I was aware of MS and its effects on people from a very early age. "But what does this have to do with SSDP?", I hear you proclaim! Well, Drug Policy Reform is of course what brought me to the table, my efforts are focused on cannabis because it is my medicine. I work with Clear - a UK political party dedicated to ending the prohibition of cannabis, I also help out with SSDP and I run my own small charity Action4MS.

Being diagnosed with MS at 24 years old was a bit of a kick in the face. At the time of my most serious relapse - the one which I was diagnosed from, I was in my final year of my degree in Ancient History and Archaeology at Reading University. It really felt like my future had been taken from me, and to an extent it had. I have always been a cannabis smoker, preferring to relax with my friends than go out and get drunk, a fact confirmed with a record two nights out to the Students' Union in my whole time at University - it just wasn't my thing! Being an MS patient - I have no choice but to ingest cannabis on a regular basis, the problems with the police in this country make my life much harder to lead. Imagine if you faced being arrested, just for wanting to feel better. Cannabis gives me a life where MS took it from me.

Never have I really thought about the problems and issues I face on a daily basis more than I did on a recent trip to California. As many of you will know, in 1996 Proposition 215 was passed, giving patients with a doctor's recommendation the ability to purchase, consume and even grown their own cannabis all legally. I was instantly struck with the difference, cannabis is everywhere in California. If I was a resident I would have no problem obtaining a doctor's recommendation, and therefore would not face potential prosecution for using a plant to treat my symptoms. The British Government fobs people with chronic conditions off with the ruse which is Sativex. Make no mistake, the cannabis in Sativex is real and is grown in this country, yet our government continues with the lies that cannabis has "no known medical benefits". Meeting people involved with SSDP across the pond was a great experience, I got to share some of the horror stories printed in the Daily Mail with them. They couldn't believe the headlines such as "Cannabis kills 30,000 a Year". During my stay in California I got to visit a number of dispensaries and see the ins and outs of how this new, booming industry works.

Although it is far from perfect, the system in California means that people with serious illnesses like myself have access to the medicine we need. Cannabis prohibition on all levels is wrong, but I think medical cannabis is the first step along the road to the end of prohibition, a spear-head if you will. For me, cannabis means life, I feel morally obliged to try and spread the truth about its medical benefits and I hope that you will read this and just take a look at the amount of illness's that cannabis is proven to help with. It is unlikely that you, the person reading this, will get MS, especially if you have no family history of it, however in our lives it is almost certain that as we age we will start to develop problems, and it is also likely that some of those problems will be alleviated by using cannabis medicinally.

We need to stand together, and use every weapon at our disposal, talk about medical cannabis with people you know are "anti drugs" - you will be surprised just how many will agree once it has been explained properly!

See also: Canadian Drug User Activist on Self-medication, Harm Minimization and Pleasure Maximisation

Add SSDP UK on twitter

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Hilarious look at anti-drug advertising (video)

"InfoMania," a program on American Current TV, does a funny and informative piece about the US government's "anti-drug" ad campaign which costs $100 million per year. This piece has been found via our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy (US), click here for more information about their advertising campaign.

Add SSDP UK on twitter

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

European Commission Recommends Regulated Sale for "Legal Highs"

Duncan Scott of Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform examines European Commission's recent statement on drug policy in this guest post.

Here's a statement from a press release from the European Commission (emphasis mine):
The Commission is considering various ways to make the EU rules more effective, such as alternative options to criminal sanctions, new ways of monitoring substances that cause concern, and aligning drugs control measures with those for food and product safety. In the autumn, the Commission will present a series of options in this respect.
These words are music to this drug policy reformer's ears. What is being actively considered here is a legal framework for the supply of new recreational drugs.

The problem of 'legal highs' is growing, with 115 new substances being identified in the EU over the last 5 years. Our hopeless drug laws can't keep up with criminalising more and more chemical compounds at an ever increasing rate. The drugs are typically sold as 'not for human consumption', even though they are produced with human consumption in mind. Clearly the current legislation is farcical.

No one denies that drugs can be dangerous, and each drug brings its own unique set of challenges for the health of the user and the wider effect on society. When talking of 'food safety' regulations, I hope the EC mean tighter rules than those covering, say, tinned tomatoes. The regulations should be modelled on those covering alcohol and tobacco as a bare minimum, to reflect the dangers of a drug.

The EC report also fails to consider what is causing the big increase in new pschoactive substances entering the market. The demand for legal highs is created by the illegality of more 'traditional' recreational drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine. The scientific understanding of traditional drugs is also stronger, at least when compared to a brand new 'legal highs'. We therefore could have a situation where there is a proper legal framework for supplying less well understood recreational drugs, whilst well-known drugs remain criminalised. It would be more successful if legislation were designed to fit around the best understood recreational drugs.

If the EC successfully produces legal high supply regulations, I would expect that some of the first drugs to make use of the regulations will see a reasonable number of users, which could steal the recreational drug market away from both criminal dealers and the unregulated 'legal high' traders.

It is also interesting to note the language used by the EC in its press release. It promotes a non-criminal justice approach with the familiar rhetoric of populist drug policy: "tougher action", "protect our children", "rules must be strengthened", "make sure young people do not fall into the trap" etc. The communications staff at the EC may well have figured that the "tough" rhetoric will be needed to sell what is actually a pragmatic policy approach which faces up to the reality of a demand for recreational drugs. As long as the legislative outcomes are to be a success, I'm happy for the politicians to sell it to the press and public however they can.

Finally, it must be said that there's a long way to go with this yet. This is a highly emotive topic, and the EC has many political hurdles to jump. I can imagine the Daily Mail having kittens over this - EU SECRET PLOT TO PEDAL KILLER DRUGS TO OUR CHILDREN seems an inevitability. Nevertheless, we are seeing pragmatic, non-dogmatic drug policy being actively considered by governments at all levels. Reformers are slowly winning the War on Drugs Policy.

Read Duncan Stott's regular blog here
Add SSDP UK on twitter

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Steven Levitt: Why do Crack Dealers live with their Moms? (video)

Freakonomics author Steven Levitt presents new data on the finances of drug dealing. Contrary to popular myth, he says, being a street-corner crack dealer isnt lucrative: It pays below minimum wage. And your boss can kill you.

Add SSDP UK on twitter

See also: The impacts of prohibition on young people (video)

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Drug Interactions - Are patients being put at risk?

Doctors are used to providing information on the risks and side effects of the medications they prescribe, but often patients are not informed of the interactions between their prescribed medication and any recreational drugs they are taking. Greta Friedlander and Jess Bradley investigate.

According to the 2005/06 British Crime Survey, just over a third of adults admit to using illicit drugs at somepoint in their lifetime, this figure increasing when considering just young people. Despite this, pharmaceutical companies and doctors often fail to provide information on the interactions of prescription drugs with illicit recreational drugs, where it is commonplace for information to be provided on a drugs interactions with alcohol.

We spoke to one student, Anne, who has been prescribed with a low dosage of Nortriptyline, a triclyclic anti-depressant. Anne is an occasional user of recreational drugs, and had not had any negative drug experiences prior to starting on her medication. Recently she decided to take some space cakes with a few friends and discovered an unexpected interaction with Nortriptyline, which had not been explained by her GP or within the information leaflet the medication came with. Anne describes her experiences below:

I suffered nearly 24 hours of vivid hallucinations, which were far more intense than I have previously experienced on much stronger hallucinogenic drugs. I had vivid flashbacks, synaesthesia and paranoia, none of which I have never experienced on any other drugs. I spent the entire trip being terrified, the whole world became reduced to pixels of colour and I felt like the walls were moving in to crush me. At the start of my trip I watched TV for a while and believed all of the people on screen were people who I knew and were talking directly to me. I saw my own reflection and shadow trying to murder me. I had eaten space cakes a few times before, in similar quantities, and never experienced anything like this.

“It hadn't occurred to me that my prescription drugs might interact with cannabis, although I had been avoiding alcohol on the GP's advice. I am now angry that I was not provided the information I needed by my doctor to make an informed decision about my drug use.”

Websites such as Erowid, which act as a depository for information on the interactions between different drugs and our bodies, have been created to meet the need of providing information on drug interactions in the absence of a coherent, unbiased information service by health professionals - a service which is lacking due to the drugs legal status. Many of these websites provide "trip reports", collections of experiences from drug users, which act as useful resources even though they are anecdotal in nature.

The lack of information provided to patients on the interactions between prescribed and illicit drugs is just one of many unintentional negative consequences of the drug prohibition - and one that particularly effects the most vulnerable patients.

Follow SSDP UK on twitter and subscribe to our blog on the right.

See also: Harm Minimisation, Self-Medication and Pleasure Maximisation (video)